Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

8-11 Lincoln National Historic Park

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- It is impossible that any state could have as rich a history as New Mexico.
To begin with, we had a head start. The first human presence in this hemisphere dates as far back as 25,000 years to Sandia Man. We also had the first permanent European settlement in 1598.
But three events in the past year make that claim even stronger. The first came last November when the Camino Real International Heritage Center, between Socorro and Truth or Consequences, opened.
The museum is a joint federal-state project, designed to give visitors a feel of the arduous trek from Chihuahua to Santa Fe in the 1600s, across the Jornada del Muerto, the Journey of Death.
The second event was the visit by a team from the National Park Service to New Mexico sites associated with the Manhattan Project. New Mexico, of course, would be the focal point of any national park commemorating development of the first atomic bombs.
Later this year, the National Park Service team will forward its recommendations to Congress. Regardless of what one thinks about the development and use of those bombs, the Manhattan Project was voted the top news story of the 20th century. It happened here and should be recognized.
The third event took place during Old Lincoln Days, this past weekend, when Robert Utley, the world's leading Billy the Kid authority, delivered a lecture on the significance of the Lincoln County War.
Utley contends that the Lincoln County War was the most significant example of frontier violence. And he believes that frontier violence is likely what shaped America's violent nature. We are a society that still honors the Code of the West in which vengeance is sought and men do not back down.
The other unique feature of the Lincoln County War was the emergence of Billy the Kid, who captured the public's imagination like no other frontier figure.
And it was the Code of the West that Billy put into action. Upon the death of his boss and father figure, John Tunstall, at the hands of a large posse, Billy vowed to not rest until every man in that posse paid the same price as Tunstall.
Billy's short, tragic life became a symbol of the western frontier that has been captured in countless books and movies. He was portrayed by many of the leading actors in Hollywood for decades.
Utley had many kind words for DeeAnn Kessler and her Lincoln State Monument staff, who now handle the town's 11 state buildings. And Utley sees even bigger things in Lincoln's future.
He wants to see it become a National Historic Park, managed jointly with the state Monuments Division, similar to the Camino Real International Heritage Center.
Utley wants to see all sites related to the Lincoln County War brought under that umbrella, similar to what is being studied for the Manhattan Project National Historic Park.
That will involve federal legislation. Sen. Jeff Bingaman accomplished that task for the Camino Real International Heritage Center and the Manhattan Project National Park. He is the ranking Democrat on the Senate committee that oversees national parks and Pete Domenici is the chairman of that committee.
It would be a good place to start with simple legislation requesting the National Park Service to study the possibility of a national historic park similar to what it is doing with the Manhattan Project.
An even better place to start would be with Rep. Steve Pearce, in whose district the national park would be located. Pearce would be a natural, since his is chairman of the House National Parks Subcommittee.
From an historical perspective, it is something that should be done. And the tourism prospects are especially exciting.
Gov. Bill Richardson has indicated an interest in expanding state monuments. It would be great to see all of our leaders get together on this one.
FRI, 8-11-06

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



Post a Comment

<< Home