New Mexico state parks requests public comments on Blackwater Draw partnership feasibility study

New Mexico State Parks invites public comment on a draft feasibility study evaluating possible long-term partnerships between Eastern New Mexico University and New Mexico State Parks at the Blackwater Draw site. Senate Memorial 42, passed by the Legislature in 2007, requested State Parks to complete a feasibility study to consider long-term partnerships, including the possible designation of Blackwater Draw as a state park.

“Blackwater Draw is a tremendously significant cultural and educational resource,” said State Parks Director David Simon. “The site is worthy of our respect and protection and some form of long-term partnership seems feasible and appropriate.”

The Blackwater Draw site is an internationally-significant prehistoric site that currently is owned and managed by Eastern New Mexico University. While the University does open the facility to visitors, the University is limited in their ability to provide educational and interpretive opportunities, as well as to manage tourists and other visitors.

The draft study lays out four alternatives:

• Alternative 1 is for no action. Eastern New Mexico University would continue to operate the site without assistance from State Parks;

• Alternative 2 is for State Parks to provide an interpretive ranger and educational assistance at the site;

• Alternative 3 is for State Parks to upgrade the existing facilities, including the visitor center, trails, and interpretive signs;

• Alternative 4 is a combination of Alternatives 2 and 3, formally establishing a state park at the site and incorporating all the actions under Alternatives 2 and 3.

In all of the alternatives, Eastern New Mexico University would retain direct involvement and responsibilities for research.

The feasibility study concludes that Blackwater Draw does meet the criteria as a state park laid out in state law. Those criteria are: (1) the park should contain a diversity of resources of scientific, aesthetic, geologic, natural or historic value; (2) the park should provide recreation opportunities to assure visitation; and (3) the park is required to conform to the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan, or SCORP.

New Mexico State Parks and Eastern New Mexico University will host a public meeting about the study at 6 p.m. Feb. 26 in the Sandia Room of the Campus Union Building in Portales. Staff will be available to answer questions and accept comments on the study.

The feasibility study will be available for public review and comment for 30 days. The study is available at www.nmparks.com or the State Parks Division main office, located at 1220 S. St. Francis Drive, Santa Fe or by calling 505-476-3355. Copies also are available at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, 575-562-1011; Lea Hall Anthropology and Applied Archaeology office, 575-562-2206; the Blackwater Draw site on Highway 467 and the Blackwater Draw Museum on Highway 70; and at Oasis State Park, 575-356-5331.

Public documents can be provided in various accessible formats. Individuals requiring additional assistance may also contact New Mexico voice relay at 800-659-1779 or TTD 800-659-8331.

Public comments on the study will be accepted until 5:00 p.m. on March 2. All comments must be submitted by mail, fax, or e-mail to: New Mexico State Parks, P.O. Box 1147, Santa Fe, NM 87504-1147; Fax: 505-476-3361; e-mail: nmparks@state.nm.us.