Inside the Capitol

Saturday, July 03, 2010

7-7 New Hope for Park Service Treasure

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- There may be new hope for the fabled National Park Service building on Old Santa Fe Trail in our capital city.
The building originally was designed as the NPS regional headquarters -- the only NPS building in the nation ever specifically designed for that purpose.
It was constructed out of adobes made from the earth where the building was to sit. Civilian Conservation Corps workers performed the back-breaking labor.
As soon as the walls were up and the roof on, craftsmen from the Works Progress Administration moved in and started making the furniture. Once the building was finished, other WPA artists added the murals and paintings.
A significant body of artwork and furniture created in the Old Santa Fe Trail Building for display and use remains there.
It is a magnificent structure. The largest adobe office building in the nation. But in the early 2000s, cost cutting and revenue producing measures threatened much of the Park Service.
New proposed regulations allowed all-terrain vehicles into parks along with commercial ventures such as chain stores and amusement parks adjacent to national parks. There were even plans to sell some national parks to commercial interests for development.
The Santa Fe regional headquarters was moved to Denver, Colorado. All National Park Service personnel remaining in Santa Fe were scheduled to be shoehorned into the Santa Fe building.
The number of personnel scheduled for the move appeared as though they would turn the building into a typical office cubicle farm. Quick action by National Park Service retirees managed to reverse those decisions.
Now, a more permanent solution is being proposed. Jerry Rogers, a former Park Service regional manager here, is asking New Mexico's congressional delegation to introduce legislation establishing the building as a CCC and WPA National Historic Site.
Rogers argues that the generation of CCC and WPA veterans is now passing from the nation's collective memory without being properly acknowledges and commemorated.
And where better to honor them than this masterpiece of architecture which both agencies cooperatively produced? It was relatively unusual for the CCC and WPA to work on the same project. This building was conceived and designed with its exterior and interior a single artistic entity.
The CCC and WPA were very important to New Mexico. Kathryn Flynn, of the New Deal Preservation Association estimates that New Deal programs employed over half of all New Mexicans by the mid-1930s and that over 1,000 New Deal-funded works of art are scattered throughout New Mexico.
With the beginning of World War II, the CCC became even more important to our nation. The hard work, discipline and education the CCC provided produced a cadre of extraordinary young men who quickly became superior soldiers in defense of our nation.
The Old Santa Fe Trail building is currently designated as a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior. An act of Congress is required to upgrade it to a National Historic Site.
Rogers is gaining considerable support for his proposal from throughout the state. It is very appropriate to recognize and honor the CCC and WPA. And it is a great way to assure that the building continues to be used in the manner for which it was created.
* * *
For those interested in visiting some of Billy the Kid's territory this summer, an extensive travelogue of every New Mexico location connected with the Kid will soon be on the state Tourism Department's Web site at Click on "Billy the Kid."
An abbreviated travel guide already is on the site but the complete one will knock your socks off with its comprehensive treatment of everything Billy in New Mexico, from Silver City to Stinking Spring to Santa Fe. The site also contains a listing of over 100 of the Kid's "friends, enemies and hanger-ons."
WED, 7-07-10

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



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