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The Planet

The Plight of the Petroglyphs

"Would you build a road through a cathedral?" asked Ike Eastvold, Club issue chair for Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque, N.M.

The answer seems obvious. Unfortunately, for the 19 Pueblo Indian tribes of New Mexico whose sacred site of worship is threatened by urban encroachment, the obvious doesn't seem to apply. The National Park Service is pushing for large-scale park development, while local developers want to build a highway through it.

The 7,200-acre monument is home to more than 15,000 ancient Indian religious rock drawings dating back nearly 700 years.

When the monument was established in 1990, Congress ordered rapid preparation of a General Management Plan to protect the area from urbanization and vandalism.

Five years later the Park Service has issued a draft plan with four alternatives, "all of which fail dangerously to protect the area as Congress ordered," said Eastvold.

With a $22 million price tag, the Park Service's preferred alternative would introduce large-scale urban recreation on more than 18 miles of trails.

"The 8-foot-wide recreation trails would cost over $1.7 million to construct," said Eastvold. "And, despite heartbreaking vandalism to the petroglyphs in 1994 due to uncontrolled access, the park service's preferred plan would create 11 largely uncontrolled neighborhood access and parking entrances, virtually guaranteeing fresh blooms of graffiti -- which endure as long as the petroglyphs."

Pueblo Indians agree that such development is out of the question, but say they would support the agency's alternative plan no. 2, which has more carefully controlled access and is limited to pedestrian trails. They also emphasize the need to educate non-Indian visitors to the monument, to awaken a deeper appreciation and respect for their culture.

But advocates for the monument's integrity face an even greater challenge. City officials, local developers and some area residents want to extend a six-lane highway through Petroglyph to ease traffic in the urban area abutting the monument's boundaries. Eastvold said the mayor of Albuquerque is urging Congress to hand over management of the monument to the city, thereby ensuring the road's construction.

The city and developers want to transform a small general aviation airport on the monument's western border into "the busiest airport in the state" with 300,000 flights per year.

"Part of the big push to ram a highway through Petroglyphs is to provide a northern access road for the airport's expansion," said Eastvold.

To take action: The Park Service comment period ends Nov. 6. Input is urgently needed before the Park Service decides on a management plan. Send letters by Nov. 6 supporting alternative plan no. 2 -- which calls for controlled access and pedestrian trails -- to:

Superintendent to Petroglyph National Monument, 
4735 Unser Blvd., NW,
Albuquerque, NM 87120

For more information: Contact Ike Eastvold at (505) 255-7679.

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