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Road endorsed across ancient rock art site.

An advisory commission to the Albuquerque, New Mexico, city council is recommending construction of a six-lane highway across Petroglyph National Monument.

The decision, which now goes to the city council, is another chapter in the long story of struggle for the park. Petroglyph preserves between 15,000 and 17,000 ancient rock carvings, etched along a 17-mile escarpment on the city's west side. Since its establishment in 1990, the monument has faced a variety of development proposals in and around its borders. "This is a tragedy in the making, that one of our newest National Park System units is being shot down before it is even fully airborne," said Russ Butcher, NPCA Pacific Southwest regional director.

The Environmental Planning Commission, appointed by Mayor Louis Saavedra, voted 8-0 in April in favor of building the six-lane Paseo del Norte through the park. Albuquerque is searching for a way to extend its road network to areas slated for housing development west and northwest of the city. The commission rejected alternatives that would divert traffic around the park, including one proposed by the National Park Service.

The city's favored route cuts through the Piedras Marcadas area, one of the least disturbed parts of the monument. "There are approximately 1,000 superb petroglyphs that would have their environmental setting and historical character degraded" by the road, said Ike Eastvold, president of Friends of the Albuquerque Petroglyphs.

Local Pueblo Indians strongly oppose the road project and have spoken out against it. They consider the petroglyph area sacred and make use of sites within the monument for prayer.

The Paseo del Norte would also increase access to a small airport west of the park. The city hopes to turn the Double Eagle II airport into a jet maintenance facility and to expand its hangars and runways to allow it to accept large commercial planes. The result could be heavy air traffic over the park.

Albuquerque is already moving ahead with plans to build another four-lane road, Unser Boulevard, cutting through the monument and bordering it for much of its length. NPCA and Friends of the Albuquerque Petroglyphs filed suit in 1991 in an unsuccessful attempt to block the highway plans.

One-half mile from the southern boundary of the park, developers hope to build a 20,000-capacity open-air amphitheater for concerts. Eastvold's group and two neighborhood associations have gone to court saying that noise and traffic from the amphitheater would seriously disrupt the area.

NPCA is also concerned about Park Service management of Petroglyph. This spring officials released proposals for development and management of the park. Two of the three options emphasized horseback riding and mountain biking. "This kind of intensive recreation should not be the emphasis of a park set aside to protect ancient and fragile sites, a place that is an outdoor church for the Pueblo Indians," Butcher said. NPCA opposes in particular one Park Service proposal for a road running north to south through the length of the monument.

A major concern about road-building in the park is that easy public access would jeopardize survival of the petroglyphs. Vandalism is already a serious problem at the park. Petroglyphs have been found marked with bullet holes, spray painted, or smashed with rocks.
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Title Annotation:Petroglyph National Monument, New Mexico
Publication:National Parks
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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