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Management Planning for the Old Spanish Trail Now Under Way

Old Spanish National Historic Trail

National Park News

Management Planning for Old Spanish Trail Now Under Way

The Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service are seeking public input in developing a comprehensive management plan for the Old Spanish National Historic Trail. Designated as part of the National Trails System in 2002, the trail route crosses six western states?New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and California?and links some of the West?s oldest communities from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to Los Angeles, California.

Twenty public meetings will be held along the trail route, beginning in New Mexico and Colorado communities in February, and continuing in Arizona, Nevada, Utah and California through mid-May. Everyone with an interest in the trail and its history, possibilities for recreation and heritage preservation, or resources and opportunities along the route are encouraged to attend one or more of the scoping meetings.

Some of the more remote sections of the Old Spanish Trail still can be walked, ridden on horseback or bicycle, or followed by wagon or jeep. Other parts of the route are now beneath or along side some of our busiest highways. The comprehensive management plan will describe how the surviving elements of the Old Spanish Trail?the route, the landscape, and the historic places?will be developed to preserve trail resources, provide access to trail sites, and tell the story of the trail and its role in American history. More information about the planning process, the trail, public participation and opportunities, and the meeting schedule is posted at www.nps.gov/olsp and at www.nm.blm.gov.

The public meeting schedule for late February and early starts in Santa Fe, NM, February 21 at the Genoveva Chavez Community Center, Classroom 1, 3221 Rodeo Road, 5:30 p.m. ? 7:30 p.m., and continues in Taos, NM, February 22, at the Taos Convention Center, Coronado Hall, El Alcalde Room, 120 Civic Plaza Drive, 5:30 - 7:30 p.m.; in Aztec, NM, February 27, at the Aztec City Hall, City Commission Room, 201 West Chaco, 5:30 - 7:30 p.m.; in Durango, CO, February 28, at the La Plata County Fairgrounds, Extension Building, Animas Room, 5:30 - 7:30 p.m.; in Alamosa, CO, March 1, at the Alamosa County Services Center, 8900 Independence Way, 5:30 - 7:30 p.m.; and in Gunnison, CO, March 2, at the Fred R. Field Heritage Center, 275 South Spruce Street, 5:30 - 7:30 p.m.

The public is also invited to submit comments in writing, by email or through a webpage, http://parkplanning.gov, at any time through May 17, 2006. Written comments and email should be addressed to Sarah Schlanger, New Mexico State Office, Bureau of Land Management, PO Box 27115, Santa Fe, NM 87502, Sarah_Schlanger@blm.gov, or to Aaron Mahr, National Park Service, P.O. Box 728, Santa Fe, NM 87504, aaron_mahr@nps.gov.

The Most Ornery Pack Trail The Old Spanish Trail, once thought to be the shortest path to riches between Los Angeles and Santa Fe, took traders and loaded-down mules on a six-week trek across some of the toughest country on the continent. From 1829, when the first pack trains set out from northern New Mexico, to1848, when the traders stopped making annual trips, a lucky few made their fortune by swapping New Mexico?s woolen goods for the horses and pack stock raised on California?s ranchos. All who took the trail?frontiersmen and young boys with a winter to spare, a handful of hardy families moving West, military expeditions, Indian guides and conscripts?shared the adventure of a lifetime in the Southwest?s rugged back country.

The trail has been called the ?longest, crookedest, most ornery pack trail in the history of the United States.? The 2,700 miles of trail route that wind their way from Santa Fe to Los Angeles pushed pack mules to the limit. In the first week on the trail alone, the mules scrambled, swam, or dragged their handlers through more than a dozen river crossings. By the time the pack trains reached Los Angeles, they had crossed dunefields in California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado, found their way around the Grand Canyon, skirted the continent?s harshest deserts at Death Valley, and slaked their thirst at Stinking Springs, Salt Creek, Alkali Canyon, Bitter Spring, and the Inconsistent River.

It?s Not Old, It?s Not Spanish, and It?s Hardly a Trail The trail takes its name from the old Spanish colonies in northern New Mexico and southern California that were tied together by the rugged route. Although explorers from Spain?s early years in the New World tried to find a land passage between her colonies in the interior of New Mexico and the California coast, the Old Spanish Trail itself was forged by Mexican and American traders in 1820s. Only a few traces of trail can be seen today where hundreds of fast-trotting mules and their tired muleteers once traversed the high country of New Mexico and Colorado on their way to California?s fertile trading fields.

Old Spanish Trail Routes between Santa Fe, NM and Los Angeles, CA



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