By Spencer Taylor, For the Sun-News 6:53 p.m. MDT May 21, 2016
LAS CRUCES – Early Saturday morning, a caravan of environmentally-conscious volunteers departed from Milagro Coffee on University, to Kilbourne Hole, part of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. The caravan made its way through congested traffic due to a campaign stop from presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, then continued on to open range, where the volunteers spent four hours cleaning graffiti and removing trash.
Ben Gabriel, executive director of Friends of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, noted the wide range of trash found at the site. “The volunteers worked on graffiti removal and picking up illegal dumping,” Gabriel said. “Everything from bullet casings to pieces of cars.”
The cleanup was in part a celebration marking the two-year anniversary of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks’ designation as a national monument. The cleanup was done by the Friends of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, Cruceño Cleanup, Southern New Mexico Trails Alliance and the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance.
Jim William and Winifred Jahnke get a little cleanupBuy Photo
Jim William and Winifred Jahnke get a little cleanup help from Neko as volunteers gather to hear instructions. (Photo: Polo Orta/For the Sun-News)
Abbey Carver, founder and organizer of Cruceño Cleanup, said, “It’s good to keep track of how long it’s been around and how long it’s going to be around. Two years is a good landmark to be a part of.”
Carver viewed the project as something that could be incorporated into the organizations’ normally scheduled cleanups. “Every Thursday we do a trash cleanup, then we do one-hour cleanups once a month on BLM land, and quarterly we do a three-hour cleanup,” Carver said. “Today was our quarterly, long cleanup.”
According to Gabriel, Friends of Organ Mountains-Desert peaks, is no stranger to teaming up with other organizations. Gabriel said, “We partner with other organizations throughout the year. We try to do it once or twice a month.”
Volunteers expressed interest in maintaining the value of one of southern New Mexico’s more recognizable monuments. Gabriel said, “The monument is good for recreation. It’s a place to find solitude and adventure.”
As the monument gains recognition, visitor traffic is expected to increase. Carver indicated that the image of the monument sends an important message to visitors. “We should cleanup here more often because it’s a tourist attraction, and we can make it look better to visitors,” Carver said. “If people see trash they may not feel as bad when they litter. They may think their trash will blend in.”
The cleanup included a wide variety of volunteers. “It was amazing to see the variety of groups represented,” Gabriel said. “It’s great to see new volunteers and new faces participating.” Carver added, “It’s fun to have all ages at an event doing volunteer work.”
Volunteer organizers emphasized the beauty of the monument as the key component to its future. “I envision it getting better in terms of signage telling people not to litter and to pick up their shells when shooting,” Carver said. “We’re such a beautiful state. We need this in New Mexico.”
At the conclusion of the event, volunteers loaded several trash bags, in large piles, into the backs of vehicles for disposal. The volunteers hard work was visually evident.