At press time, deeds for land that includes the Red River Cemetery and Mallette Park were on their way to the US Forest Service — the final step in a land conveyance the town has awaited for some time.
Red River Mayor Linda Calhoun was almost giddy when she announced to council during the Tuesday (Oct. 25) regular meeting, “These are the deeds for the land conveyance. We have to sign them and get them to the Forest Service, then they sign them.”
The Columbine Hondo Wilderness Act — a part of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), signed into law Dec. 19, 2014, by President Barack Obama — included a provision conveying to the town land, about 40 acres, that has been used through a special-use permit with Carson National Forest for an annual fee: Mallette Park, the Red River Cemetery, the sewage treatment plant and a small section of Pioneer Road.
In the past, Calhoun noted, the land use cannot change. “The land has to be used in the existing manner. So no condos!”
The town cemetery, located on Hwy. 38 on the west side of town, includes graves from town fathers and key figures in its history: Brandenburg, Gallagher, Janney, Mallette, Odell, Patterson, Roemer, Simion, Williams, Young… and other residents.
Mallette Park, created not long after the town incorporated, is popular for disc golf, skateboarding, basketball, tennis, hiking and climbing.
The part of Pioneer Road being conveyed to the town leads to Red River Ski & Summer Area.
In a 2014 interview with The Chronicle, Calhoun said the town will be able to manage its newly conveyed properties more efficiently. In the past, any time the town wanted to make any changes in the use of the land they had to inform the Forest Service and then go through any processes the Forest Service determined were appropriate and necessary. The Town and the Forest Service have had a good working relationship, so, other than delays, the processes have not been an undue burden.
Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act Summary
According to the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act Summary, found online here, the act establishes the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness, modifies the boundary of the Wheeler Peak Wilderness, and conveys some National Forest System land to the Town of Red River and Village of Taos Ski Valley.
The 45,001.7-acre Columbine-Hondo area was designated as a Wilderness Study Area by the New Mexico Wilderness Act of 1980 (P.L. 96-550).
In addition, the bill amends the boundary of the Wheeler Peak Wilderness in order to encompass additional sensitive lands including Middle Fork Lake while establishing a more easily identifiable boundary adjacent to existing roads and trails. The modifications increase the overall size of the Wheeler Peak Wilderness by about 650 acres for a total of about 19,550 acres. The modified boundary also completes a popular mountain biking route from West Fork to East Fork by opening 1,000 acres in the Wheeler Peak Wilderness for bike trails — good news for fat-tire enthusiasts.
Title II of the bill directs the conveyance of certain National Forest System land without consideration to the Town of Red River and Village of Taos Ski Valley. In addition, title II authorizes the Forest Service to sell for full fair market value two parcels of developed land within and adjacent to the Town of Red River. The purpose of these sales is to correct a trespass on National Forest System land that was discovered during an updated survey and to reduce the Forest Service’s responsibility to manage non-forestry related lands.
The Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act, S. 2468, was introduced by Senators Bingaman and Tom Udall in the 112th Congress on April 26, 2012, and reintroduced by Senator Udall, Senator Martin Heinrich, and Representative Ben Ray Luján in 2013.
The Columbine-Hondo was designated a wilderness study area in 1980.