September has always been my favorite month in southern New Mexico. The weather starts to cool down and you start to feel fall in the air. This year I have an even better reason to love September — the third annual Monuments to Main Street.
If you were to ask members of our community why the monument we all love matters to them, the responses would vary, whether it’s hiking, biking, culture, birding or camping. But there’s no arguing the beauty of this place is the common theme, and the very reason to fight to protect this land.
By reviewing the calendar of events for this month, you’ll notice a reflection of the many different ways we choose to celebrate our monument, from hikes to aerial tours, and everything in between. There is something for everyone. Much like the uniqueness of our mountains, you will encounter something very unique in how we celebrate public lands in September.
The Friends of the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks has always strived to ensure the voices of the community matter, especially when we talk about our monument.
More importantly, the Friends has three core values: protect, restore, and educate. Education is critical to our work, and this summer we took close to 300 area youth out for trips to many of our public lands. Activities ranged from fishing, hiking, and floating down the Rio Bravo, to name a few. Many of those who joined us had never been to many of these places. On one trip to the City of Rocks, I chatted with one of those kids who came along. He was new to the area and enjoyed seeing all the cool places in southern New Mexico. One thing he said to me stood out: “We have so many monuments here.” Sometimes it takes a new set of eyes for even someone like me to appreciate all that we have here.
As executive director of Friends, my own story is unique in that I have found myself outdoors much more often. My 10-year-old daughter can attest to that, our dog often joins us as well. That’s because having grown up in Michigan, my time spent outdoors meant canoeing, horseback riding or swimming in our many lakes. Moving to southern New Mexico over a decade ago was quite the adjustment.
Upon arrival, the desert was a scary place — full of prickly plants, and stinging wildlife. But as time passes, and I spend more time outdoors, I’ve come to appreciate how lucky we are to live here, and why it’s important to protect our public lands. Without sharing a long list of all our monument has to offer, I will say I learn something new each time I’m out there, falling more in love with this place every time.
We must always strive to break down barriers to spending time in the outdoors. It reflects the spirit of a monument born from a community which worked tirelessly for it and continues to advocate on its behalf. To mark Monuments to Main Street, the Friends will be featuring a series of guest columns from various and diverse voices in our community. They will tell us why the monument matters to them, and why they believe it matters to our community. We will hear from the creative drive behind the Monumental Loop, a local business owner, and a DREAMer. Each has a story that needs to be told and acknowledged.
While we all have our own story to tell about why we value our monument, one theme is consistent: when we’re out there, we learn how to treat our land better and it shows us how to be kinder to one another. In this day and age that matters quite a bit.