Steve Ramirez, Las Cruces Sun-News 7:40 p.m. MDT September 1, 2016
LAS CRUCES – With three national monuments just a short drive from Las Cruces, a month’s worth of events are scheduled to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service.
Monuments to Main Street, showcasing events and tours in Doña Ana and Otero counties kicked off Thursday. The first of at least 21 events began Thursday, with a stargazing tour of Leasburg State Park in Radium Springs. The monthlong celebration continues Friday with the Las Cruces Corks and Kegs Wine and Beer Festival, at Burn Lake, off of west Amador Avenue, and a Billy the Kid historical sites tour on Saturday.
Other events during September include guided nature tours of sites in the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument; a yoga and massage health and wellness event in the shadows of the Organs, according to a Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce news release; two moonlight walks at White Sands National Monument; aerial helicopter tours of the Apollo Astronaut Crater, at Killbourne Hole, and World War II bombing target sites, in the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument; the Hatch Chile Festival and Las Cruces Comic-Con.
“There will be quite a lot going on, which is fantastic,” said Carrie Hamblen, chief executive officer and president of the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce, one of the celebration’s organizers. “The whole idea is to celebrate the national monuments. With three of them all within a short distance of Las Cruces, we’re in a truly unique situation of being within an hour of any of those destinations.
“It’s a great situation for Las Crucens to be able to participate in as many of these events as they want. And, it will also benefit any visitors who come to Las Cruces and want to be a part of the celebration.”
Organ Mountain-Desert Peaks and the Prehistoric Trackways national monuments are within minutes of Las Cruces, and White Sands National Monument is about an hour’s drive, on U.S. Highway 70, east of the city.
As the three monuments provide wide public appeal, so will the events to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service.
“It’s awesome the amount of diversity all the events have,” said Ben Gabriel. executive director of Friends of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, a nonprofit organization that advocates conservation and restoration of the national monument. “This diversity of events shows the amount of groups willing to work together to build on the successes of the monuments. … These events will show more energy, more support, and, hopefully, the abilities to capitalize on that.”
Gabriel added U.S. Bureau of Land Management data has shown a 30 percent increase in attendance at locations within the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument where admission fees are collected. That has happened since Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks was declared a national monument on May 21, 2014.
Monuments to Main Street will coincide with recently introduced legislation into Congress that could increase protection to some of the lands within the boundaries of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks. The legislation is co-sponsored by Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, New Mexico Democrats.
Of the 21 events to celebrate the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary, at least four will be free to the public. All others will include fees ranging from $5 per person, per event, to as much as $149 for the helicopter tours. Details and information about each event can be found at monuments2mainstreet.com.