The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989


El rinconcito español

En la boca del mentiroso lo cierto se hace dudoso.=
In the mouth of a liar, the truth becomes doubtful.

No porque hay lodo hay que atascarse.=

Just because there’s mud you don’t have to get stuck.

Si el mozo supiera y el viejo pudiera, ¿qué se les resistiera?=

If the young man knew how and the old man could, who would resist them?

Submitted by SOS-panyol, Placitas—Spanish instruction that
focuses on oral communication skills,

Legislature considers bill to study Jemez water systems

The first flood of bills in the 2006 Legislature includes the first step toward a regional water and sewer system in the Jemez Valley.

House Bill 46, sponsored by Representative Jeannette Wallace (R-Los Alamos) with Representative James Roger Madalena (D-Jemez Pueblo) as a cosponsor, would provide $150,000 to inventory water systems and resources. The study also would explore combining existing water systems into a regional and self-supporting water-and-sewer district for the area from San Ysidro to La Cueva.

“This would identify the parties and individuals that would participate in regionalization,” said Gayland Bryant, county public affairs office and legislative lobbyist. “We want to get information about everyone’s organizational structure, water rights, rates, water- and wastewater-use levels.”

The bill was scheduled for its first committee hearing as the Signpost went to press. The session ends February 16; Governor Bill Richardson then has until March 8 to sign or veto legislation.

Sandoval County composting supervisor John Lovato

Sandoval County composting supervisor John Lovato monitors the manure and wood chips mixed and now being ejected by an auger in the back of his specially designed truck. The mixture next is placed in composting bins to create a natural fertilizer.

County compost project making headway

Don’t call it a dump, and even the term “landfill” is becoming quaint, as Sandoval County looks for more ways to bury less trash.

“We’re sitting here burying money, you know,” said Mike Foster, assistant public works director for solid waste. “We’ve got so many ideas and are wanting to do so many things.”

While a county recycling program still is several months away, Foster said the pilot phase of the composting project already is showing results. During 2005, the landfill diverted about thirteen thousand cubic yards of trees and other green wastes from the burial cell, ran it through chippers, and mixed it with manure from racetracks and other sources.

The result: extended life for the landfill and a high-quality compost that can be used as a natural fertilizer or mulch.

The composting occurs in five 250-cubic-yard digesters, sealed steel boxes similar to shipping containers, located on two acres near the landfill entrance, on Iris Road at Idalia, in northeast Rio Rancho. Filtering eliminates odors, and computers monitor composting temperature and humidity, which can be adjusted by changing the airflow through the bins.

Composting reduces the volume of ingredients by about 90 percent, and Foster said the county has stockpiled about a thousand cubic yards of compost. The rest has been used on county projects or given to other governments for fertilizer and erosion control.

Commercial sales are possible in the future as the project moves into its next phase, expansion to twenty-five digesters. With that expansion, the landfill will be able to compost biosolids and sludge from wastewater plants and could include construction debris if contractors can be convinced to separate wood from other materials, Foster said.

Pallets may be accepted as well, since the wood chipper has a magnet to separate nails from chips, he added.

The landfill itself is growing under a twenty-year state permit received last year which allowed the county to expand the 114-acre site to 177 acres. The permit included permission to accept biosolids.

A new ten-acre burial cell is nearing completion, after landfill crews, aided by the road department, converted a former borrow pit at Iris and the future Paseo del Volcan and prepared it for lining. Foster estimated having county crews do the work saved about $2 million.

The county is about to solicit bids to put the cell into operation by building a new entrance road, which will keep traffic from backing up onto Iris, plus a new pay station and truck scales. The old entrance then will become the recycling drop-off location, and that’s at least six months away, Foster said.

Ultimately the recycling program could grow to include large items like household appliances.

The county program is not expected to affect the Placitas Recycling Center, which last year collected 98.82 tons of recyclables, according to center secretary-treasurer Fran Stephens. Center volunteers have counted as many as 212 cars passing through their NM 165 location on one Saturday during regular 8-11:00 a.m. hours, she added.

“The more entities that recycle, the better it’s going to be for the planet,” Stephens said. “We can no longer keep pouring things into the landfill.”

Tunnel Springs Road

The long and winding Tunnel Springs Road climbs up the mountainside to a trailhead and spring.

Tunnel Springs Road remembered

In an article in last month’s Signpost the Placitas Community Library History Project wrote about General Kenner Hertford and the area around Tunnel Springs in Placitas. Placitas residents Chuck Scott and Katy Kallestad talked of their friendship with the General and of his love of the area.

As some of the Friends of the Placitas Community Library were going through back issues of the Signpost recently donated to the library by the current publishers, they came across the January 1995 edition. On its front page is the article "Tunnel Springs Road," by Katherine Kallestad. Katy, who has lived in Placitas since 1972, chronicles the goings-on along the road from the early 1900s. Archaic hunters, Puebloan farmers, land grantees, miners, and developers—all traveled the road. Disputes and disagreements, commerce and dreams have all moved along its path.

In 1994 final easement rights were granted to the forest service by the residents along the road. Under their agreement the road will remain as we see it today: "a country dirt road ... a link to the present and the past ...."



Tunnel Springs Road

If you have traveled Tunnel Springs Road in Placitas, perhaps you will have less trouble believing it is a very old road than it is a road at all. Of course, it has a variety of signs proclaiming it a road, but in the dark or during a heavy rain, it sheds its civilized labels as easily as it sheds large quantities of sand and gravel. The road’s long history is one of just enough—just enough people have passed to and from the steep canyons of the north-facing Sandias to leave a track. That track has changed character and course over time, even as the people using it have changed, but just enough to link the present with the past.

In the summer of 1909, the road was just the lower section of an ambitious mining access into the Cibola National Forest. Miners working the San José Lode hit high-pressure water instead of high-grade ore. As their tunnel filled with icy cold water and their dreams sank, they probably cared little how important their “strike” would be down the road, so to speak. The San José Lode Tunnel Spring gave the road its name, and its waters would provide a different type of wealth.

In 1921, the road was traveled by determined miners, foresters administering the wildlife refuge, and a few pioneers contributing to a different kind of wildlife by tending stills hidden in abandoned mines.

A small hatchery was given a special-use permit and the cold underground waters housed trout raised by the Sandia Fish and Fur Company. The road was used increasingly by hikers and picnickers, as well as the farmers who battled the cobbled limestone to work small farms in the San Antonio de Las Huertas Grant. The old mine had been posted and was called the K.O.P.—”Keep Out, Please.” The road was known then as the “Hatchery Road” and later on as the “Old Hatchery Road” and then as just the “Springs Road,” as the special-use permits for water became as important as the permits on mining claims.

In 1927, Johanna Kleinworth, the daughter of Emil whose interest in silver had netted water, and Andres Armijo, whose special ties to the land had come to him with a parcel in the Las Huertas Grant, applied for a special-use permit for a portion of the combined waters of Tunnel Spring and Pomezano Spring. By 1932, the old mine entrance was choked with vines and rampant growths of wild roses. It still seeped water but the main volume now reached the surface through a pipe further down slope. The water crossed the Springs Road, passed through old hatchery ponds and along the Klienworth Ditch to irrigate beans, fruit trees, and fill a swimming hole on Grant land before starting its long journey north toward Las Huertas Creek.

Throughout the forties and fifties, the number of people using the Springs Road continued to grow. Those who settled often built their homes alongside the grass covered mounds of early Pueblo dwellings. They gardened in the rich soil collected in terraces and acequias that had watered fields harvested before Columbus was born. Though the post-war technology of the fifties brought them some advantages, the new settlers along Tunnel Springs Road found the difficulties imposed by the rugged land to be just as daunting as those working 600 years earlier. The following excerpts are from the correspondence of a family who first owned land immediately west of the Springs in 1949.

An estimate on the cost of a phone and power line hookup:
New Mexico Public Service Company—1955, “... 6,000 feet of line ... 15 poles ... $2,880.47.”

Letter to the U.S. Soil Conservation Service, 1957:
“I will certainly be grateful for any advice you can give along the lines of soil conservation.”

Letter to friends, December 1958:
“...the snow storm deposited some twenty inches of snow up at my place near Placitas ... I do not know how long it will take me to retrieve my car ...”

In the early sixties, Tunnel Springs was the center of a controversy which demonstrates the changing values of the time and the way in which the people regarded the resources as wealth. The road to the springs was gated and the waters diverted by an enterprising developer who listed his work as merely improvements on a mining claim. Somehow his clearing of land for home sites didn’t settle well with the local landowners, many of whom had been or still were in the mining business. This is what a few of them had to say:

Letter to District Forest Ranger, 1960:
“... it is considered that this old fish hatchery with its ... springs ... should be retained as a public recreation area. It is hoped that the mineral survey of the government geologist will expose this scheme for what it actually is and the land could then properly be withdrawn from this and future mining claims ...”

Letter to an attorney, 1961:
“... the crisis yesterday had to do with a bulldozer running across the land ... was coming from assessment work in the mountains. Sorry you were bothered but you know how women sometimes get excited.”

The Forest Service disallowed the mining claim cum development and the road to the Springs was freed of gates. In 1978 all possibility of mining was eliminated as the Tunnel Springs and the steep canyons of Orno and Agua Sarca were included in the Sandia Wilderness. The old mine tunnels, debris slopes and camps were captured by second growth vegetation and settled to add another layer to the history of the area. The two local landowners who wrote the letters were retired generals, one head of the aerospace medicine program at Lovelace Clinic, the other in charge of coordinating the research of Los Alamos Labs and Sandia Base weapons facility. Neither were the type to be intimidated by paperwork, bureaucracy, or bulldozers. The woman excited by the bulldozer was an ethnologist who had traveled the world doing research for the Carnegie Institute. She had chosen to retire in a home built along the old terraces, knowing full well their special value. These new comers often allied themselves with the embattled Grant holders who had weathered cycles of drought, bust and boom mining, and generations of new comers. Their common concern was the preservation of the road and land.

Into the eighties and nineties, the road continued to carry a tonnage of trucks which the early miners could only have seen in their wildest dreams; bulldozers, back hoes, and cement trucks going to build homes. The road that had survived because there was just enough ore to mine so as not to build a refinery, just enough wood to burn but not to lumber, and just enough water to irrigate beans, was being eroded by another generation of new comers. These people were just as zealous about owning land as the miners had been about finding gold. They didn’t need the mountain’s resources in the way the Archaic hunters or Pueblo farmers did. They didn’t crave the view in the way renegade Apaches or refugees from the conquistadors did. They weren’t running from law and order so much as looking for a place to step aside. This stepping aside was practiced in a variety of ways, not the least of which was walking along the road. The road when approached at slow speed began to share experiences with them in its own eccentric way. The heavy traffic had lowered the road into the past, allowing it to spit out black on red lead glazed pottery as well as iron gate hinges, along with bottle caps and nails. This had an amazing effect. People who had lived along the road for only a few years felt as if they had been adopted into a very old family. The road improved their perspective as well as offering them a majestic view. They realized that the road which tore up vehicles daily, but loved foot traffic, was itself quite fragile. They also realized that the quick fix of paving would merely reduce the road to one more by-way of the type they had come to the mountain to avoid. The situation along the road became increasingly complicated as large tracts of land were subdivided and sold as smaller units. The road which had a character all its own due to the terrain it crossed, now came under the ownership of a wide variety of individuals, each possessive or protective of the road in their own way. Some lived on the road, some had never even seen it. Some were mandated to post signs on the road, some were compelled to remove them. Finally, just as the landowners of the fifties and sixties had petitioned the Forest Service to preserve the Springs, the homeowners of the eighties and nineties turned to the Forest Service to preserve the road. The limitations on the easement granted by the diverse owners underline those qualities of Tunnel Springs Road that allow it to link the present and the past and hopefully survive in the future. Ironically, if the Forest Service will agree not to change the general character or width of the road or make any “improvements” that would elevate the road’s status above that of a country dirt road, they may receive a complete right-of-way access to the Springs; something that has been on their collective agenda since 1908. But then, time moves slowly along Tunnel Springs Road. It spins and eddies and follows its own course.

Placitas group seeks state funds for recreational facilities

A group of residents is seeking state funding for the construction of recreational facilities in Placitas. The short-term goal is to secure an appropriation of $180,000 for four tennis courts located on sixteen acres of county land next to the fire station. Minimal oversight of the courts would be done in conjunction with the community library, which has already received state and federal funding.

Longer-term goals include a playground, skateboard park, basketball courts, baseball and soccer fields, and a swimming pool.

In a letter to Senator Kent Cravens, Placitan John Wills wrote, “The community has grown dramatically over the past ten years and yet there are no recreational facilities. Currently, some residents have to drive over twenty-five minutes to reach county recreational facilities.”

Senator Cravens expressed his willingness to support the project. Representative Kathy McCoy said that state funding would not come in 2006, but added, “I'm very supportive of a recreational center in Placitas, especially since there are no facilities at this time. There will probably have to be an agreement with Sandoval County, which would act as the holder of the funding, and we'll also need a business plan in order to add this to capital-outlay requests for the 2007 session.”

County commissioner Bill Sapien told the Signpost that he had not discussed the proposed facilities with either Placitas residents or state legislators. He said that the county expects to close soon on the purchase of sixteen acres in Placitas, and then a master plan would be developed for building a community library and meeting center. “The land has high potential for a number of uses like recreational facilities, an amphitheater—it could be a focal point for the community,” Sapien explained. He also said that a survey conducted by the county several years ago reflected community support for such developments. If funds are allocated by the legislature, the county would act as fiscal agent and residents and local government would have three years to decide how to spend the money.

Placitas Community Library welcomes new board members

We want to welcome new board members Gail Della Pelle, Karin Foster, and Judy Labovitz. Gail's background includes working on a building committee for her church including finance, architect selection, building design, and building requirements. Karin is a lawyer and a dedicated mom. She is the founder of the Chatham Partner, Inc. law firm and currently works as a lobbyist in the state legislature. Judy is a retired head librarian for a medical library, volunteers at the V.A. library, and has designed libraries, worked with computer systems, budget, and finance. We are grateful for the incredible amount of talent and expertise these ladies will provide for the library in the years ahead.

Madeline Randle, Martin Bradshaw, and I were reelected as board members for another three-year term. Madeline is a retired science teacher, and Martin says he's retired from teaching electrical engineering at UNM, but not really, since he continues to teach one class using the textbook he wrote. Together, Madeline and Martin give the board meetings a lift with their encouragement, guidance, and sense of humor.

The current officers were retained in their positions. Anne Frost continues as vice president, in charge of operations; Judy Gajkowski continues as secretary-treasurer, who heads up Friends of the Placitas Library; and I will follow through as president. If there is anyone out there who can help with the treasurer position or is interested in working with fund-raising, we can sure use your help. Please contact me at 867-0026.

Another gal who has volunteered her time, energy, and talent and is the contact liaison for the county, the building liaison committee, and the library board is Ninfa Agnello-Harrington. Ninfa is a retired principal with experience in overseeing the building of a library in her school and in fund-raising. She is committed to attending county board meetings, working with legislators, testifying in Santa Fe, as well as writing letters to federal and state agencies for funding and applying for grants.

The library would also like to offer a long-overdue thank-you to Jennifer Chadwell-Feld for her donation of several historical articles and books about Placitas. Jennifer was pleased to find a home for her twenty-year collection of material on Placitas’s colorful history.

The next board meeting will held be on February 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the library. Our library is recognized by the New Mexico State Library as a public library, and our meetings are open for you to bring your questions, suggestions, and comments.

Responses to questions raised in last month's Letters to the Editor section of the Signpost can be found at the library's Web site,, or at the library during regular hours, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Complete Signpost archives at library

The Sandoval Signpost has donated a complete archive of its publication thanks to the help of Placitas resident Chris Huber and the family of the late Mary Ramsay. The collection begins with copies of the Placitas Signpost, founded by Candy Frizzell in 1988 and published monthly as a newsletter format. It includes editions up to the most recent multipage printed issues crafted by Barb and Ty Belknap since 1993. The Signpost, in its various formats, has recorded the personalities, events, and history of Placitas, Bernalillo, and greater Sandoval County. The archives will be known as the Mary Ramsay Memorial Signpost Collection and will be available in the reference section of the Placitas Community Library. Articles from back issues of the Signpost can also be found on the Signpost Web site at

Intel donates to Corrales Recreation Center

Corrales Rec., Inc. is pleased to announce a donation of $30,000 from Intel Corporation for a skate park, tennis courts, and basketball court at the Corrales Recreation Center.

“This generous donation is a great example of Intel's commitment to fitness and health, the village of Corrales and Sandoval County as a whole,” says Cathleen Kane, president of Corrales Rec.

A much anticipated skate park, tennis courts, and outdoor basketball court are slated for construction in spring of 2006. Total anticipated costs for the project are $500,000, with $270,000 already in hand or pledged.

Intel public affairs manager Jami Grindatto said, “Intel has enjoyed being part of the Corrales community for many years.”
Intel has recommended that part of its donation be used to fund recycle bins at the center and on the playing fields to enhance awareness of our responsibility to the environment.

White Mesa now open to mountain bikes, volunteer help needed
In an agreement with the Bureau of Land Management, Friends of Otero Mountain Bike Club has adopted the White Mesa area near San Ysidro. For the last few months, the organization has been working with the BLM to open the area to mountain bikes and now they are requesting your help.

Volunteers are needed to help build and maintain trails, build signs, etc., in the White Mesa area.

Here are some more details:
• FooMTB, BLM and the International Mountain Bicycling Association(IMBA) have met and identified tentative plans to maintain existing trails and build new trails. This includes connecting the White Mesa trail system to the Red Mesa trail system, which includes the San Ysidro Trials area.
• There are people volunteering time and effort to the project, but many more volunteers will be needed to get it working.
• Volunteers will receive trail-building training from IMBA.
White Mesa is a beautiful riding and hiking opportunity that is unmatched in New Mexico. To help develop this area so that it will always be open for recreationists, contact The next meeting of FooMTB is on Wednesday, February 22, at 7:00 p.m., in the Albuquerque REI store's community room.

New Sandoval County guide provides helpful information

An updated edition of popular Sandoval County resident's guide has been mailed to mailboxes across the county.

The colorful twenty-four-page guide includes information on the wide variety of programs and services available to all Sandoval County residents. The booklet includes information on all aspects of county government, from how the county commission enacts ordinances to ways residents can dispose of household trash.

The guide provides practical information that residents can use in day-to-day dealings with county government. Included are e-mail addresses and telephone numbers for county offices and other governmental agencies throughout the county.

Inside the booklet is information on how to get in touch with programs for senior residents, who to contact about road issues, and how to get an address for a new home. Other sections provide information on vacation tips for visiting friends or family, and who to call for help in getting to a medical appointment. There are sections of helpful information from the office of the assessor, treasurer, clerk, probate judge, and sheriff.

The guide, first published in 1997, was revised in 2001. It is distributed to residential addresses in Sandoval County, and is available at county offices, including the Visitors Center Bureau in Bernalillo. It also is given to individuals and businesses considering relocating in Sandoval County. Information contained in the guide is available on the county's Web site,

copyright Rudi Klimpert, Caveman Band

Sandia Man Cave will be explored in lecture, slide show

Bradley F. Bowman will present a lecture and slide show, “The Re-examination of Early Archaeology at Sandia Cave,” at Coronado State Monument on Sunday, February 19, at 2:00 p.m.

Sandia Cave was excavated between 1936 and 1940 by the University of New Mexico, under the direction of Dr. Frank Hibben. Bowman, founder and director of the Museum of Archaeology and Material Culture in Cedar Crest, New Mexico, has interviewed some of the participants in the original excavation and will discuss the archaeology and the controversies associated with Sandia Cave.

Reservations are required, as space is limited. You may call Gordon, at 771-3464, or e-mail your reservation to Admission is $5 per person or free to members of Friends of Coronado State Monument.
Coronado State Monument is off I-25, Exit 242, west of the town of Bernalillo.

Archivist to speak at historical society program

Carlos Vasquez, archivist of the Hispanic Cultural Center, will present a thought-provoking talk, “We All Came on Different Ships, but We Are in the Same Boat,” for the Sandoval County Historical Society program on February 5 at 2:00 p.m. The free program is open to the public and will be held at Delavy House Museum, off Highway 550, between Coronado State Monument and the Star Casino. Refreshments will be served.

Women’s investment club forms in Placitas

A new investment club for women has formed in Placitas. The group meets once a month and makes investments based on research done by members. The main purpose of the club is education, but the members plan to have fun and make money as well.

If you are interested in becoming a member or would like more information, e-mail






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