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  Around Town

Kyle Unale gets a helping hand on the mobile rock-climbing wall from Spec. George La Jeunesse during Cops in the Park in Bernalillo. La Jeunesse is a member of the New Mexico Army National Guard 1-200th Infantry Battalion.
Photo credit: —Bill Diven

Cops in the park

—Bill Diven

For a few hours on a recent Friday, there was no place safer for children than Rotary Park in Bernalillo.

Yet, security wasn’t the point of the town’s annual Cops in the Park event. Instead, the annual gathering brought together parents, youngsters, other residents, and multiple law enforcement agencies ranging from town police to the FBI.

A few businesses joined in, as did town staff, medical providers and programs like Head Start and the Sandoval County DWI Program.

“We’re showing support for the kids in the community but also providing information for adults on services that are available,” Bernalillo Police Chief Tom Romero said. “The community is generous in supporting events like this.”

The atmosphere was more like a carnival with face painting, games, food, a climbing wall staffed by the Army National Guard, and officers taking turns in the dunk tank, perhaps the best duty on the nearly one-hundred-degree day. PHI Air Medical landed one of its helicopter ambulances across the street.

For Charlie Gardner of Rio Rancho, it was a chance to sit on a New Mexico State Police motorcycle with its emergency lights flashing. His mother, Bernalillo native Suzanne Gardner, saw a broader message within the fun.  “We just need to raise our children in an environment where they know police are safe,” she said.

Cops in the Park came barely a week after a gunman killed five Dallas police officers during an otherwise peaceful protest over police shootings of civilians. Two days after the Bernalillo event, another gunman ambushed police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, killing three.

“People dropped by the office to express support, and we appreciate that,” Romero said. “It’s not something we take for granted. We work for it.”

That work engaging with town residents and the services provided by other town departments have not gone unnoticed by Milton Martinez, who attended Cops in the Park with his daughter and grandson. “The mayor seems to be doing a good job,” he said. “Bernalillo is getting better.”

The event drew law enforcement agencies from around the region including Corrales, Rio Rancho, Bernalillo, and Sandoval counties, state police and Corrections Department, the FBI and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In addition to the Army National Guard, Army recruiters also attended.

“What we try to get out of it is letting the community know law enforcement and emergency services want to work with them,” Romero said. “We’re here to serve them.”

Cops in the Park also gives residents a chance to meet officers and get to know them on a more personal basis, he added.

Las Placitas Association hosts native plant hike

The Las Placitas Association will be hosting a plant hike, led by Michael Crofoot, a local plant expert. Crofoot moved to Placitas more than twenty years ago and worked in the botany and soil microbiology fields for many years. He loves the enchanting northern Sandia foothills. He has compiled a 160-species Herbarium, soon to find a home on the LPA newly designed website.

The Native Plant hike will head into the 560-acre Open Space on August 13. This easy hike will start at 9:00 a.m. and last two hours. Crofoot will try to identify every plant species come across, and share some stories of each.

There will be time to take photographs and for short discussions along the way. Wear a good hat, rugged shoes, and bring plenty of liquids. Be prepared for a relatively easy hike with a bunch of nature lovers.

Meet at 8:45 a.m. at the western Open Space gate. Access to the gate is found by taking Camino de Las Huertas road to Llano del Norte. Take Llano del Norte to the left and follow it until it turns west at Toad Road. Stay on Llano Del Norte until it dead-ends at the Open Space west gate. There will be signs marking the route.

Las Fiestas de San Lorenzo in Bernalillo

Las Fiestas de San Lorenzo is an integral part of Bernalillo’s rich cultural calendar. Las Fiestas is accented with many festivities, including a parade, rodeo, car show, and entertainment at Rotary Park and celebrated in honor of Bernalillo’s patron, San Lorenzo. From August 9-11, Bernalillo will focus on the ritual dance drama known as Los Matachines. Known throughout the region as the original and largest Matachines dance, this tradition has become a crucial component of Bernalillo’s identity. For more information on the Bernalillo Matachines tradition and Las  Fiestas de San Lorenzo, visit or call 867-3311.

County Fair romps in Cuba

From August 1 to August 7, the town of Cuba, New Mexico, will be hosting the annual Sandoval County Fair with multiple animal events, arts and crafts, a parade, and a rodeo. The full 2016 schedule of events is available online at

Admission changes at New Mexico Historic Sites and Museums

—Matthew J. Barbour, Manager, Jemez Historic Site

The New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs has changed admission fees and exemptions for New Mexico Historic Sites and Museums. For instance, as of July 1, Jemez Historic Site has switched from $3 to $5 per adult and the New Mexico Culture Pass, which provides admission to 15 museums and historic sites throughout New Mexico, has changed from $25 to $30.

All historic sites and museums have also modified their admission policies from being free every Sunday for New Mexico residents to being free the first Sunday of every month for New Mexico residents.

At Jemez Historic Site, Jemez Pueblo tribal members will remain free, as will children. Also, the policy that allows New Mexico seniors free admission on Wednesdays will continue. These changes reflect fluctuations in the state budget and went into effect on July 1.

Jemez Historic Site is located at 18160 Highway 4 in Jemez Springs and is open five days a week, Wednesday through Sunday, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For more information, call 575-829-3530 or go to

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