By Bill Knief
Over the years, Rocky Mountain Youth Corps has built miles of multi-use, non-motorized trail infrastructure around Taos and the Holy Cross Hospital area. They’ve built the Dos Arroyos and Weimer-Maestas trails that link those communities with downtown. They’ve built walking paths, bicycle paths and stroller paths to help people get out of their cars and use alternative transportation whenever they can, and maybe get a little exercise while they’re doing it.
At the same time they have been building career paths for their students—helping them to construct a work ethic and learn skill sets that will give them an edge as they enter the job market, and give them the tools they need to lead productive lives. So it’s all the more appropriate that RMYC crews are showing up on July 14 at UNM-Taos to build a recreational walking trail on the Klauer campus.
“It’s called the Kids’ Campus Loop and it’s going to originate right at the back door of the Early Learning Center,” explained UNM-Taos Resource Manager Mario Suazo. “It’s a great opportunity for the Rocky Mountain kids to come out to the campus and work on something that will be used by our students, staff and faculty. But it’s also open to anyone who wants to come out here and take a walk and enjoy the views and be a part of campus life. We’re thinking about putting up ramada-style sitting areas with picnic tables along the trail. It’s going to be a great addition to the campus that we can all enjoy.”
The mile long loop includes a 500 foot wheelchair accessible section, and is scheduled for completion in August. It starts with a steady uphill climb through sagebrush, not steep but enough to make your lungs pay closer attention, and when it levels out you are facing a magnificent view of Klauer campus and the three and a half acre solar array that powers it. In the distance, seeming to go on forever, is Taos Valley and the Sangre de Cristo range. Then on the return trip the path cuts down between two hills where several arroyos have carved out a modest ecosystem of grasses.
Ben Thomas, field program director for RMYC, and David Gilroy, field coordinator, see it as a great program for the field crews because corps members, performing national service under the AmeriCorp program, make an important contribution to their community in building something tangible that they can look back on with pride.
A different type of path, but one also essential to community health, is the uphill climb to November when the voters of New Mexico will decide the fate of the 155 million dollar General Obligation Bond for education. These G.O. bonds, crucial to education throughout the state, generally pass with a comfortable margin. But this year, with the state’s economy in disarray, it’s not certain whether it will pass or not. For our community college alone, this would mean the loss of two million dollars toward the Library Learning Center which will be the heart of the college and the completion of initial campus expansion.
Some would say that education is not a high priority in northern New Mexico. They are wrong. In 2008 Taos County voted 71.8 percent in favor of General Obligation Bond D—out of 33 New Mexico counties, the highest turnout in the entire state. What we decide here matters. Taos, once again, can be a leader in building that road to higher education.