Visiting Hueco Tanks gets less restrictive

Alex Mares, right, a park ranger at Hueco Tanks State Historical Park, led park visitors Dan Moore, left, and Wes Carlson to a hiking trail Thursday.
Park relaxes some rules, adds others
By Cindy Rarmirez-Cadena
El Paso Times

its public-use rules, though the modified plan is still drawing controversy.

Park officials and conservationists argue that the restrictions are needed to reduce vandalism and preserve ancient pictographs and archaeological sites. Opponents to the rules say that while preservation is necessary, the park should be more open to recreation and public use.

"The changes seem quite arbitrary and minimal,"

said Jason Spier, a member of the El Paso Climber's Club. Spier said he believed the parks commission was merely "throwing a bone" to recreation enthusiasts to hush their cries over access to the park.

But Karen Harry, director of the Cultural Resources Program at the state parks commission, said the changes were made "in good spirits" and with the

said Rob McCorkle, a spokesman with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.

The revised rules for public use come after almost two years of restrictions park officials said were aimed at preserving the historic area. The 860-acre park 32 miles east of El Paso is regarded as one of the area's treasures and opened as a state park in 1969.

Public outcry, drove the parks commission to relax

Overnight camping, pets and bicycles will be allowed at Hueco Tanks State Historical Park starting in two weeks, but rock climbing will be restricted in two more areas, state park officials announced Thursday.

"We're trying to be conscious of the public's recreation needs, but at the same time, we have to continue to consider preservation;"

Alex Mares, right, park ranger at Hueco Tanks State Historical Park, talked about the park's history Thursday with Becky and
Michael Lapp of Pauling, N.Y., left; park intern Mark Wessinger, center; and Yoli and Doug Hartman of Holt Summit, Mo.
Hueco Tanks guidelines

involvement of many groups.
Rock climbing, Harry said, has
"heavily devegetated areas that
really need time to get healed."
Snappy Tom and Five Bimbos,
two popular rock-climbing spots
in the park's Dragon's Den area,
have been added to the closed list
because of the damage that heavy
foot traffic has caused, Harry
Other changes in the 21-page
Public Use Plan 2000, to be released
in its entirety today, in-

clude reopening overnigit camping,
though stays will be limited to
and six people per campsite.

The number of visitors allowed
in Hueco Tanks at any given time
will increase by 20 to 230, and cy-
cling and pets will be allowed
with some restrictions. Other
changes include moving the
month of April into the winter
season, when the park opens and
closes an hour earlier than in the
summer season.

"We've loosened up the con-
trols and are allowing more peo-
ple into the park," Park Manager
John Moses said. "Our main em-
phasis with visitors is to educate
them about why the park is im-
portant ... and why they should
do their part to protect the park."
The park averaged 70,000 visitors
in the year before the restrictions
were imposed two years ago. The

Hueco Tanks State Historical Park, 32 miles east of El Paso, has new public-use guidelines, effective in two weeks. The revised rules were released by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission on Thursday. They include:

* Overnight camping is now al-
lowed, but it is limited to three
nights and six people per camp
site. Also, a camp host must be
* Pets are allowed but must be
kept on a leash and are restricted
to camping and picnic areas.
* Cycling is allowed on
designated paved roadways.
* The maximum number of vis-

itors at any given time will be in
creased to 230 from 210 and to
70 from 50 people . on North
* Reservations will be taken
from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday
through Friday only.
* Rock climbing will be closed
in the Snappy Tom and Five Bim-
bos areas of Dragon's Den.
* Park hours are now from 8
a.m. to 6 p:m. Oct. 1 to April 30;
7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday through
Sunday May 1 to Sept. 30; and 8
a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through
Thursday May 1 to Sept. 30.
* Information: 857-1135.

number decreased to about
17,000 in 1999.
Moses said he attributes the de-
cline to fewer rock climbers vis-
iting the park, and to the incor-
rect belief by many people that
the park was closed entirely.
The public-use plan makes no
mention of a plan the Tigua Indi
an tribe submitted to the state re
questing to take over its manage
Harry said the Tiguas submit-
ted their plan late into the rules
revision period. and the plan
wasn't considered for the public
use plan released today.
Tribe spokesman Marc
Schwartz said the Tiguas will
continue to pursue their plan
with the state.
The tribe is still very, very
committed in wanting to manage

the park," he said.
The park is run by a staff of five - seven during the summer - and a handful of volunteers. It has a budget of about $215,000 a year.

Many see that as the problem,
saying recreation and preservation could be better achieved if the park had more money and
more staff.

"We love to go out there and
walk and tour and relax," said Nancy Alarcon, whose family plans annual outings to Hueco Tanks.
"But with that little money and
such a short-handed staff, it's understandable why they have to cut it off to visitors rather than work to weed off the ones with
cruel intentions," she said. "The rest of us just want to enjoy the treasure, the history"