Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Up Front

Placitas Holiday Sale
Placitas Holiday Sale November 21 & 22
See Sandoval Arts, this Signpost, for details

Volunteer trail builders create a new section of trail to help mountain bikers
avoid trespassing into designated wilderness.
Photo credit: —Ty Belknap

Trails Projects in the works

—Ty Belknap

The long-awaited Placitas Trails Project has finally begun. Karl Malcolm, Acting District Ranger of the Sandia Ranger District, issued a decision memo on September 30 announcing his approval of the project, effective immediately.

This is good news to most hikers, equestrians, mountain bikers, and runners whose numbers have risen steadily over recent decades, with increasing residential development and greater awareness of the beauty and recreational opportunities in the area. Not all users of the area known to some as “the loop” are happy about the mixed use of the popular trail system, but the United States Forest Service (USFS) mandates these mixed uses and plans improved management of the trails to “provide for dispersed, non-motorized recreational opportunities, while protecting natural, cultural, and wilderness resources.”

The project area includes approximately eleven miles åof single track within or adjacent to the Bernalillo Research Natural Area (1,100 acres), as well as 625 acres of the Sandia Mountain Wilderness. Access to the area is off State Route 165 in Placitas via trailheads off of Forest Road 445. According to the memo, “Approximately nine miles of trail to be designated presently exist as unauthorized user-created routes that generally adhere to USFS trail specifications. The remaining two miles to be designated is comprised of relocations of existing user-created routes for improving sustainable, connectivity, and removal from designated wilderness [Bikes are not allowed in the wilderness]. Trail segments to be closed will be rehabilitated to discourage further use and minimize erosion.”

The project also includes improvements to the southern end of the Piedra Lisa Trail which extends from a parking lot/trailhead on the Placitas side to a trailhead off Tramway and connects with La Luz Trail.

Kerry Wood, Wilderness and Trail Program Manager, told the Signpost that almost all work on the trails would be done with hand tools by volunteers coordinated by the Placitas Area Trail Association (PATA) and the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance (NMWA). Wood said that trail users will see progress over the next couple of months. The project has evolved over several years and has included several public meetings and comment periods prior to the decision to go ahead with the initial work on the trails. Individuals or organizations that submitted comments have a right to appeal this decision. The initial stages of the project do not require an environmental impact statement or environmental assessment because the USFS has determined that “there are no extraordinary circumstances potentially having effects which may significantly affect the environment.”

According to Wood, a designated system of properly designed trails will eliminate some of the conflict that occasionally arises between user groups, particularly near collisions that sometimes occur at blind corners and sudden grade changes. The design should keep the bike riding fun, yet less threatening to hikers. Wood went on to say that rules of the trail are based on communication, common sense, and courtesy. Don’t spook the horses. Step aside or dismount if it helps the flow of traffic. Keep dogs on a leash. Maintain a reasonable speed to stop as necessary.

Recreationists who are offended by the increased traffic can avoid conflicts by visiting the area on weekdays when they will rarely encounter anyone at all—especially in the wilderness. Wood pointed out that those who are fortunate enough to live nearby, even if they have used the trails for decades, have no exclusive claim to these public lands.

There are occasional instances of booby trapping trails with broken cactus and rocks, apparently targeting mountain bikers. Woods said that the USFS is aware of this dangerous activity, which is a felony, and would pursue the maximum state and federal penalties against offenders. (Several years ago an offender did hard time in prison for booby trapping these trails.) All user groups can help by reporting and photographing suspicious activity. For the common good of paws, hoofs, bike tires, and flip flop wearers, they can take a minute to clear debris from the trail.

Tisha Brozak, Associate Director of the NMWA, pulaski tool in hand, told the Signpost, “The Wilderness Alliance likes to work on projects like this. Trail building and maintenance helps people to enjoy public lands and protects the wilderness.”

About 25 volunteers from PATA and NMWA began work on the trails on the weekend of October 24 and 25. The first steps included rerouting the straight and badly eroded trail that bisects the watershed inside the forest road loop. The volunteers also built a new section of trail at one of the places that dips into designated wilderness. This will provide mountain bikers with a fun and legal way to avoid these places, as well as giving all user groups  properly constructed access. For more information or to volunteer, contact Kerry Wood at or 505-281-3304 ext. 107, or email or

Deputies nab Albuquerque suspects in Placitas

Signpost Staff

Two teen boys suspected of a middle-of-the-night home invasion in Albuquerque made good on their escape but only got as far as Placitas, the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office reports.

The crime happened about 3:00 a.m., on October 2, and about an hour later one of the suspects knocked on a door in Placitas West and asked for jumper cables. The resident called the regional dispatch center to report suspicious activity.

Not too much later, a second resident out riding a bicycle reported encountering both suspects and described them as acting suspiciously.

Deputies responding to the calls soon found one of the teens who promptly fled into the darkness. A foot chase followed, and he was caught just after daylight walking near State Route 165.

Meanwhile the sheriff’s Tactical Tracking Team mobilized and began following the second suspect’s footprints from the car the pair abandoned. The car had been stolen during the Albuquerque crime, according to the sheriff’s office.

The footprints led to a vacant home on Ridge Road where the teen had taken shelter after forcing his way in through a window. Officers arrested him there without incident.

The suspects, both 17 and residents of Albuquerque, were arrested, and the car containing items stolen in the break-in were recovered. The sheriff’s office is working in conjunction with the Albuquerque Police Department on the case.

Investigators have not said why the pair ended up in Placitas.

Among those working on economic development during the Sandoval County Collaboration Summit were county Commissioner Don Chapman (center), Bernalillo Councilor Marian Jaramillo (right) and Commissioner Glenn Walters (on Jaramillo's left).
Photo credit: —Bill Diven

Leaders collaborate in countywide summit

—Bill Diven

More than eighty municipal, county, community, and tribal leaders gathered recently in a first-of-its-kind meeting aimed at increasing cooperation and unified action for progress across Sandoval County.

Now the hard part begins. “That was the opener,” county Commissioner Don Chapman said the next day. “Where we go from here, we’ll have to see… It’s not just about building relationships. It’s about building trust.”

Chapman began pushing for what became the Sandoval County Collaboration Summit a year ago. He cited the joint effort of the county and Rio Rancho in forming the Sandoval Economic Alliance as a positive result of cooperation bringing jobs to the county.

But he also endured initial resistance over concerns he simply wanted to partner with Rio Rancho to the exclusion of the rest of the county, something he said was not his intention.

So, on October 14, elected officials, including state legislators and U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, government managers, staff people, and members of nonprofits met at Club Rio Rancho. Fifteen county communities were represented.

“We do a reasonably good job of telling our stories to the Legislature and others, but we do it individually,” Commissioner Glenn Walters said before those assembled split into smaller discussion groups. “What are those issues that are common to us, and where do we want to make our voices heard?”

The five breakout groups, led by a team from management consultant EnFrente Inc. of Rio Rancho, focused on economic development, community health and senior services, transportation, infrastructure, criminal justice, and public safety.

In the economic-development group, Chapman advocated leveraging assets, that is the unique properties of the various jurisdictions. “We are the driver. All this other stuff can happen if we do economic development,” he said.

But Jemez Springs Mayor Bob Wilson expressed concerns over the changing demographics of his small town.

“Our main issue, and I’m not sure if it’s a cause or effect, is a declining population and an aging population,” he said. “It seems like every time I see kids waiting for a school bus, there are fewer of them.”

Rio Rancho City Councilor Cheryl Everett joined the health- and senior-services group, she said, because of her continuing interest in community mental health and the lack of a safety net. Those issues create a further problem by leaving first responders to deal with many of the problems. “Every time a spotlight is shown on that area, it raises awareness and takes the stigma out,” she said.

The size and mix of turnout for the summit revealed the importance of ongoing collaborations, Everett added. “I think it shows how hungry we all are for resources and secondly for opportunities to get together and network, which is where you have to start,” she said.

The next step is EnFrente compiling responses from the five groups into a report expected sometime this month. The county paid EnFrente $17,190, from the county manager’s budget, to stage and manage the event.

Fire destroys home, resident rescued by off-duty firefighter

—Jessica Duron-Martinez, Fire Inspector, Rio Rancho Fire/Rescue

On July 21, Rio Rancho Fire Rescue was dispatched to a reported house fire just after 6:30 p.m. Firefighters arrived on scene within minutes and found flames and heavy smoke coming from the front of the home. They quickly discovered that one of the residents had received minor smoke inhalation. The resident, who had gone back into the house in an attempt to find two dogs, was escorted from the home by a neighbor who is also a firefighter with the Albuquerque Fire Department. Donovan Jacks said that he saw the resident reenter the home, so he went into the home to bring the resident back out due to the heavy fire conditions. He said that they were able to locate both of the dogs. The resident was transported for medical evaluation.

Due to the intense heat and heavy smoke, the garage of the home, as well as a vehicle, were destroyed. The remainder of the home received smoke and heat damage. Firefighters were able to knock down the flames within minutes, however, they searched for hot spots and smoldering areas for about an hour. Fire investigators from RRFR were on scene to determine the cause of the blaze which is still under investigation. Two residents of the home were displaced.

Jemez Historic Site stabilization report

—Matthew J. Barbour, Manager, Jemez Historic Site

Jemez Historic Site protects and interprets the archaeological remains of Giusewa Pueblo and San José de los Jemez Mission. This summer season, Jemez Historic Site continued to improve upon its grounds and facilities through its recurrent partnership with the Pueblo of Jemez Natural Resources Department. Thanks in large part to a generous $25,000 dollar Capital Outlay contribution from State Senator Bennie Shendo Jr., an all Jemez Tribal Member work crew completed significant repairs throughout the Spanish Mission and Pueblo Village. This work included the re-flooring of the kiva, repairs to the Franciscan’s kitchen window, the restoration of a small room along the north wall of the mission, painting inside the Visitor Center, and the stabilization of four Sixteenth-century Pueblo rooms adjacent to Highway 4.

The latter of these projects began back in 2014 and represents a portion of the ruins excavated in the 1930s. After archaeological investigations were completed, this section of the site was not targeted for preservation. Walls quickly collapsed after several years of neglect and had been left in state of disrepair for roughly eighty years.

In 2014 and 2015, crews worked hard to remove the rubble from these rooms and to identify all intact wall stubs. From there, piece-by-piece, they reassembled the lower third of the walls using the fallen stone, along with an adobe and stucco mix. The addition of stucco, while not a traditional material, gives the walls added stability and protection against weathering. The result is that visitors can now see these rooms in a similar state to their condition when Edgar L. Hewitt first excavated them nearly a century earlier.

A big thank you goes out from Jemez Historic Site and the Natural Resources Department to State Senator Benny Shendo Jr. for helping fund the project and to the stabilization crew: Christopher Toya (Jemez Tribal Historic Preservation Officer/Project Manager), Herbert Tsosie (foreman), Santano Zieu Toya (foreman), Mario Chosa, Regina Gachupin, D’yanna Seonia, Alex Tosa, Manual Tosa, and Tristan Toya. They did an amazing job. Come and see for yourself. For more information, call 575-829-3530 or go to

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