August 5, 2011 at 3:00 PM

Hike the Galisteo Basin Preserve

"There are currently 14 miles of public trails which ramble over ridges, through arroyos and over old ranch roads..."

By Karen Denison

At Home Outdoors

Karen Denison is owner of Outspire Hiking and Snowshoeing guide service, a former biologist, and a shameless admirer of the outdoors.

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What's the Galisteo Basin Preserve?  Answer:  Wide, open spaces.

The old Thornton Ranch was nearly 20 square miles of open ranch land off the road to Lamy, New Mexico, about a dozen miles southeast of Santa Fe.  In 2003, the property came up for sale and was in danger of becoming a whole valley of ranchettes.

Instead, the non-profit Commonweal Conservancy formed to try something different. They established the Galisteo Basin Preserve with the idea that a limited number of homes could be built, that more than 90% of the property could be put into permanent conservation easement to protect it from future development, and that much of that easement would be public open space. According to Commonweal, "regenerative development is a practice which utilizes the financial and technical capabilities of the real estate industry to reclaim and renew the ecological and hydrological health of sensitive landscapes such as the Galisteo Basin."

That means protection for some important archaeological and ecological sites, open space for critters, and trails for us!

The property is being purchased in five phases and developed in partnership with the Santa Fe Conservation Trust, Quivera Coalition, Earthworks Institute, and many others.  Open space trails and ecological restoration are being financed through public and private sources including benefit events and donations to Friends of the Preserve.  Those of us who care about preserving landscapes can help by supporting this sort of bright idea!

There are currently 14 miles of public trails which ramble over ridges, through arroyos and over old ranch roads.  Eventually, a 50-mile trail system for hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians is planned.  And no, it's not just for nearby homeowners. Public means we're all invited.

Since the terrain doesn't offer much shade, plan to visit the trails this month early in the day before the heat (and afternoon thunderstorms--yea!).  Or check their website for events like Trails+Telescopes with the Capitol City Astronomy Club, photography workshops, and other fun excuses to visit.

For more information, including maps:  http://www.galisteobasinpreserve.com/index.php

Photos courtesy of Nevada Wier and Commonweal Conservancy

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