Rio Grande hiking trail open again

The riverine trail starts at the east end of Otero Street and goes all the way to the north flood control channel, what’s known as the Confluence Park.

Members of the Save Our Bosque Task Force (SOBTF) were out in force Friday morning to take on the task of picking up trash along the hiking trail adjacent to the Rio Grande, something they do every spring and fall.

The reason is simple. “We want people to come down here and enjoy it,” said Doug Boykin, who is also Chair of the Save Our Bosque Task Force. “The trail’s opened up again.”

Boykin also serves as the Socorro District Forester covering the seven counties of Socorro, Sierra, Catron, Grant, Hidalgo, Luna and Dona Ana Counties in southwestern New Mexico.

“People can park up here at the parking lot, and go down to the trail where it weaves through the trees,” he said. “It gets a lot of use. We see a lot of bike tracks, a lot of foot traffic, and some horse traffic, too.”

The riverine trail starts at the east end of Otero Street and goes all the way to the north flood control channel, what’s known as the Confluence Park.

“It’s the big flood control ditch that comes across the north part of town – where that empties into the river – that’s where the trail ends,” Boykin said.

He said the SOBTF wants to have people enjoy the riverine’s natural beauty.

“That’s why we spent all this money with all the picnic areas, and clean up all the salt cedar so you can see the river while you’re walking the trail,” Boykin said. “We want people down here to enjoy it. It’s a nice resource, so close to town.”

SOBTF board member Gina Dello Russo looks at this section of the river as one of Socorro’s natural treasures.

“You know, I think our river segment is really unique in the whole Rio Grande system,” Dello Russo said. “In that it’s rural, that it’s pretty darn natural, and that it’s got private land on the east side; land that can be protected from development. Those people care about their properties. And then we’ve got the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District on this side. Lots of great stewards.”

The Spring Clean Up on Friday did not take as long as expected.

“It seems like people are coming down here and utilizing it, but they’re cleaning up when they leave. And that’s good,” he said. “Felipi Baca, the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy’s Conservation Ranger, just told me this is the least amount of trash he’s seen in several years.”

The Save Our Bosque Task Force normally focuses on the riverine area at Socorro, “where all the riverine parks are and where we’ve done all the mastication the last couple years,” Boykin said.

The clearing of tress is done by a masticator, which does what its name infers; chews.

“It’s a big machine that basically grinds the tree,” he said. “It grinds up the salt cedar, and then in the fall we’ll come back through and treat the sprouts so the salt cedar won’t grow back up. And doesn’t hurt the site.”

But apparently the Task Force is not the only group improving the area. Someone has been slowly re-establishing the trail.

“We have a mystery going on down here. Somebody has gone back and re-established the walking trail. In a couple places where the masticator went through last year and cleaned up a lot of salt cedar, and put a lot of chips on the ground,” he said. “The trail used to be kind of out in the open, but now they’ve re-established it where the trail is weaving in and around the trees and making it really better. So we have a mystery trail worker down here. We don’t know who it is, but all I can say is thank you. It’s really cool.”

Camping is allowed in certain areas, Boykin said. “A lot of hikers and cyclers who do the cross-country treks, usually. They check in with the Conservancy Ranger and stay a couple days or a week and move on.”

Dello Russo, SOBTF’s acting secretary, said the volunteer group is looking for grant money to help fund new initiatives.

“We’ve applied for an assistance grant with the National Park Service to help us do outreach, and plan a trail system that would connect Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge to Bosque del Apache,” she said. “It’s the first stages of just getting people together and getting their ideas, and then hopefully having spurs that take you up to San Lorenzo Canyon; that take you into Socorro; that take you to San Antonio. Things like that.”

“I think it would be wonderful for our valley,” Dello Russo said. “We’re hoping to work with the Middle Rio Grande Economic Development Association, Friends of Bosque del Apache, Amigos de la Sevilleta, Striders and Riders...groups that do non-profit things and can do activities along the river.”

Helping on the trash pickup on Friday were James Mishow, Filipi Baca and Tim Townsend from the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District; Matt Lackey of New Mexico Game & Fish; Dello Russo, Olaf Heintz, and Lisa Hertz of the Save Our Bosque Task Force; Boykin, Gerald O’Connell and Aaron Julian from New Mexico State Forestry; Carlos Vega and Ken Wolf from Socorro County; and NMSU Extension Agent John Allen.

“Although the river’s low and there’s not a lot of fishing, people still like to get down here and enjoy the river, even when it is low,” Boykin said.

The Save Our Bosque Task Force was formed as a nonprofit corporation in 1994 by citizens of Socorro County concerned about degradation of the ecosystem along the Rio Grande bosque due to dumping of trash, off-road vehicle use, illegal fuelwood cutting, and wildfire.

Following its beginnings with the Socorro Nature Area were the development of a series of riverine parks along the Rio Grande from San Acacia to San Marcial. These parks provide access to the river at specific sites while limiting off-road vehicular traffic in the bosque. The parks have tables and fire rings where people can go down to the bosque and enjoy themselves without stumbling through dumps of tires and other trash.