Extreme drought conditions gripping most of New Mexico, rising temperatures and heavy gusts that continue to batter the state are not just raising the risk of another raging wildfire but also are putting the squeeze on outdoor recreation.
The city of Santa Fe announced it would close its hiking trails Saturday, the latest in a long list of public spaces to be put off-limits to the public ahead of the Memorial Day weekend.
“We’re dealing with an extraordinary situation,” Mayor Alan Webber said Wednesday at a City Council meeting about the emergency closures. “Not just from the fires that already are surrounding us, but the inadvertent activity that could spark a fire within the city.”
Webber said the council will convene for a special meeting Tuesday to extend a proclamation ordering the closures, which align with recently announced state, federal and county shutdowns of forests and open spaces that are a draw for hikers, mountain bikers, campers and other outdoor enthusiasts — especially over a long holiday weekend.
“My summer hiking in New Mexico may have, for the most part, come to an end,” said Brian Garrity, board president of the New Mexico Mountain Club. “I would say that’s true for a lot of people.”
Trail closures throughout New Mexico have interfered with recent activities planned by the group’s more than 800 members, he said.
While he supports the trail closures, Garrity said, they are likely going to push local hikers, bikers and climbers to Utah and Colorado.
The city closures include the Dale Ball Trails, accessed from Hyde Park, Cerro Gordo and Upper Canyon roads and Camino de Cruz Blanca. The Sun Mountain Trail and La Tierra Trails also will close, along with the BMX trails at La Tierra and the Municipal Recreation Complex.
City trailheads will be marked with closed signs and, in some places, rope, according to a news release. Those who violate the rules will receive warnings followed by citations with penalties of up to $500.
It’s the first time in recent memory the city has decided on such extensive measures to reduce wildfire risks, fire Chief Brian Moya said. He noted an increase in brush fires over the last week within city limits, compared to the last several months.
A tree ignited Wednesday …….