The Valles Caldera’s New Managers Want to Meet You

Did you know that one of Sandoval County’s biggest playgrounds is about to become a National Park?

The Valles Caldera National Preserve is one of seven sites across the country that Congress designated as new National Parks last December. For the past 15 years, the 89,000-acre preserve—which was carved out of the ground by a volcanic explosion more than 1 million years ago—has been managed by a board of trustees appointed by the president.

So, what does National Park status mean for this popular recreational area that the Yahoo! Travel website says is “practically made for the adventure traveler?”

To find out, you can attend one of three “listening sessions” the Park Service is hosting Monday through Wednesday, May 11 – 13 in Albuquerque, Jemez Springs and Los Alamos.

The listening sessions will include a brief presentation with a time for questions, followed by multiple small group discussion circles, each assisted by a Park Service facilitator to help guide the conversation and ensure all points of view are received and heard. Circle participants may include partners of the Park Service and the Caldera Trust as well as members of the general public and various “stakeholders,” from local governments and businesses to recreation and conservation interests.

The conversations will be recorded for use in planning for future management of the preserve, according to park service officials. In recent years, the preserve has become a year-round destination for visitors throughout New Mexico and beyond. In the winter, cross-country skiers take over the preserve, with beginners having access to miles of professionally groomed trails, and advanced skiers taking advantage of more than 5,000 acres of virtual wilderness.

In summer, hikers and mountain bikers take over. Experienced hikers especially relish the 16-mile Redondito Hike that offers magnificent views of the volcano’s north rim. Fishing, another major another major summer activity, continues into the fall, which also when is the area’s vibrant Elk herds start to become visible.

The listening sessions are “a great opportunity for significant public involvement as we move forward in the transition of this great resource,” said Charles Strickfaden, National Park Service interim superintendent for Valles Caldera.

The meeting dates, times and locations are:

Monday, May 11 — Albuquerque
6-8:30 p.m. MDT
Albuquerque International Balloon Museum
9201 Balloon Museum NE
Albuquerque, NM 87113
Balloon Museum Map

Tuesday, May 12 — Jemez Springs
6-8:30 p.m. MDT
Valles Caldera National Preserve administrative headquarters
90 Villa Louis Martin
Jemez Springs, NM  87025

•Wednesday, May 13 — Los Alamos
6-8:30 p.m. MDT
Betty Ehart Senior Center
1101 Bathtub Row
Los Alamos, NM 87544

For more information about the Valles Caldera, visit its website.