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  The Gauntlet

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letters, opinions, editorials

re: a letter to the community from Las Placitas Association

Las Placitas Association has come under criticism from some in the community for not taking steps to protect the Placitas Open Space from free-range horses and invasive species (Russian Olive and Siberian Elm). We feel a need to respond, since this criticism is unwarranted, and remind folks of what we have been working on in the last year. It is also important to remember that while LPA takes an active role in working with the Placitas Open Space management, we have no authority over the open space. Suggesting otherwise would be like saying that because the Garden Club has adopted a mile of Highway 165, they are responsible for filling the potholes and painting the yellow lines down the center.  LPA is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization. It is not a public agency with administrative authority.

LPA endorsed an initiative to obtain funding for fencing the Open Space and followed up with a complete survey of the fencing needs, providing Albuquerque Open Space management with an assessment, including GPS coordinates. Senator John Sapien obtained funding through the City of Albuquerque. The City is only a little over one month into its new fiscal year, the funding has only now become available, and OS management has decided they cannot do this project themselves but will hire a contractor to do the fencing. No RFP has been issued, however, so like most things involving government, this project will not be completed anytime soon.

Some suggest LPA’s twice-yearly trail-building activities are trivial given the condition of the Open Space, but these activities are actually a requirement of the agreement between the BLM and the City of Albuquerque. Despite the criticisms, the trail-building, re-routing, and closure work we do reduce erosion on the Placitas Open Space.

It was suggested a few months ago that LPA undertake a project to remove invasive species from the Open Space. Again, a scientific assessment was done (yes, we also have smart people with degrees in various types of watershed, wildlife, and range management). Recommendations were made to Open Space management about “selective thinning and removal” of the Siberian Elm and Russian Olive in specific areas along with the appropriate methodology. OS management rejected our recommendation, stating that unless these species were also removed from all the surrounding land, the effort was a waste of resources. It is worth mentioning that a recent walk through of the area revealed that someone has been through with a chain saw and cut down a number of Siberian Elm. This action was probably not only illegal (cutting trees on someone else’s property) but was unwise as these trees will now sprout in many directions and be even more difficult to remove should removal become a priority at some time in the future.

Other LPA efforts include:

  • LPA spent hundreds of hours responding to the BLM’s Resource Management Plan—trying to protect Placitas from fracking and additional gravel mining.
  • LPA has just filed a protest to the BLM’s fast tracking of expansion of the oil and gas pipelines through Placitas.
  • An LPA member organized school children from the surrounding Pueblos to make and distribute one thousand seed balls (containing native grass seed) on the Open Space. These seed balls have done just what they were intended to do—lie dormant until we received rain and then begin to sprout. This was also an effort to introduce children to the Open Space.
  • LPA has continued its efforts to accomplish transfer of the Crest of Montezuma from the BLM to the Forest Service. Unfortunately, a previous bill, which passed the House unanimously, died in the Senate and must begin from scratch.

None of us asked for the current drought or the sudden mass exodus of horses coming in to our area from the north. Criticism comes easily, but solutions to complicated problems take a lot of work.

We welcome the negative voices in the community to join our efforts and see firsthand how hard we work for the community. It’s not that we are afraid of criticism—no one is perfect—but this is a group that gives up a great deal of their personal time on a volunteer basis and frankly, the words “stupid,” “incompetent,” and worse wear a little thin.

—Board of Directors, Las Placitas Association

Photo credit: —Gary W. Priester

re: the stars and strips

I am confident that the person who attached a small United States flag at the top of a Juniper tree in Ranchos de Placitas did so with every good intention of demonstrating his or her patriotism. I believe the same person mounted a small solar powered light to illuminate the stars and stripes in the blackness of the La Mesa nights.

But the stars and stripes have become the stars and strips as the flag is completely in tatters. This is no longer patriotic, but a flagrant sign of disrespect for our nation’s flag. If you care for this country in which we live, and if you respect the symbol of our proud nation, then I implore you, replace this flag at once, or have the decency take it down.

—Gary W. Priester, Placitas

Photo credit: —Michael Milone

re: wild apple tree

Attached is a photo of an apple blossom that I took yesterday. The source of the blossom is a wild apple tree growing a few hundred yards beyond the S-curves on the way to Placitas. This little tree has barely survived the last few droughty years, and to see it pop these blossoms so late in the year is inspiring. A photo of the tree is also attached.

I love everything about this tree, from its simple beauty to its determination. The next time you drive toward the village, you might pause and take a look at it. Don’t look while you are driving. Pull over, enjoy the tree, and don’t endanger your life or anyone else’s, especially mine, because I run along the road.

—Michael Milone, Placitas

re: putting it aside

Dear Friends Back East,

As you know from past visits, my home has neither attic nor basement, and my stored possessions are consigned to an empty garage bay. Well, that formless body of stored matter has inched its way into space intended to be utilized by my 2000 Saturn wagon. The expanding mass is leisurely metastasizing like a large, benign neoplasm of boxes and bins.

I am now forced to scrutinize all this materiality in order to perform triage. Which of these items are to be destroyed, donated, or sold? Which will remain in their current and comfortable encampment? Which will receive the treatment needed to survive? I have embarked on this process with reluctance.

One of the first things I unboxed was a small rectangular coffee table with a glass top that I made in my eighth-grade “industrial arts” class in 1954. How can I throw it away?! It’s one of the only things I’ve ever actually made that wasn’t a sandwich, popcorn, Jello instant pudding, whoopee, or an ass of myself. So, I put it aside for a decision.

I found a plastic bin containing a collection of New Mexico artifacts that I purchased early in my retirement—a hot pink, one-size-fits-all sponge rubber cowboy hat; a large, sexually explicit prickly pear cactus plant protruding from the trousers of a happy, smiling, unshaven ceramic he-man; a burro-shaped piñata; an unopened bag of piñon nuts; a bolo tie. What to do? What to do? I put this delightful collection of memorabilia aside for the moment.

I was very happy to uncover a forgotten oil painting my sister did of me in 1961. Her rendition made me look like the actor Robert Stack during his time with the TV series, “The Untouchables.” This is a keeper. I will have numbered prints made in case the original is ever stolen for sale on the black art market. I need additional security. What a lovely painting.

I found a framed poster from the 1968 presidential election campaign showing a cartoonish, smiling Richard Nixon, arms raised above his head in jubilation, backed by red, white, and blue swirls and with a caption reading, “He Kept Our Boys Out of Northern Ireland.” Great history. I will keep this in the event space over the mantle ever opens up. There are so many boxes of old family items—dozens of photographs of American pioneers and their sons and daughters. They are my forebears—happy and smiling, serious and proud.

I have a wonderful find in a classic, L.L. Bean wool flannel shirt from the early 1960s. My father wore it instead of his usual suit and tie near the end of his life, when terminal illness had caused him to downsize to a medium 15 – 15 ½ inch collar. My mother gave it to me after his death, and I also wore it in winter months until I gained a size and could no longer do so. There it is—all cleaned and pressed. I may well wear it again in the not too distant future. It’s a keeper.

As you can probably detect, I need help with this task. Perhaps you can pay me a visit soon and assist me with needed decisions and the occasional morale boost.

As it is, I sit on the floor with Patrick Cat amidst empty containers and fond souvenirs, meeting his quizzical yellow-eyed stare with what is hopefully an encouraging look of my own. “Don’t fret, old Patrick. You’re definitely a keeper.”

—Your Friend, Herb, Placitas

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