After eight years of providing programs at the Ortiz Mountains Educational Preserve, the Santa Fe Botanical Garden’s Board of Directors has voted to discontinue their hikes on wilderness property owned by Santa Fe County. In announcing this change, CEO Clayton Bass noted, “Our mission of educational programming has grown ten-fold over the last few years and we are placing our staffing and efforts where we have the greatest impact for children and adults of the region. Since opening the Garden on Museum Hill in July 2013, we have served over 45,000 visitors and over 4,000 school children at the Museum Hill and Leonora Curtin sites. The Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve in La Cienega provides a unique wetland experience for school fieldtrips and adult visitors.”
The Santa Fe Botanical Garden, a 28-year-old private non-profit, provides exceptional programming for all ages in the areas of botany, science, water conservation and environmental education. Under the leadership of Education Director Mollie Parsons, the programs have filled to capacity at both sites, with additional programs offered in collaboration with the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum at the O’Keeffe garden in Abiquiu.
The 1,350 acre Ortiz site was originally deeded to Santa Fe Botanical Garden in 2001 by LAC Minerals. In 2007 an agreement was reached between the Botanical Garden and Santa Fe County whereby the County purchased the site from the Garden as part of its open spaces acquisition program. SFBG has offered docent led hikes there since 2007. There have been growing concerns, however, about safe access for the public, docents and SFBG staff, alike. The site’s narrow and rocky two-mile road can only be traversed seasonally by high-clearance four-wheel drive vehicles, and hikers then walk the remaining four miles roundtrip for a moderate to advanced hike to the summit of Placer Peak. After careful consideration of the risks and alignment with its educational mission, the Garden’s Board unanimously voted to refocus the organization’s resources to the programs offered at its Museum Hill and Leonora Curtin sites only.
The Santa Fe Botanical Garden appreciates its long standing partnership with Santa Fe County and the dedicated volunteers at the Ortiz Preserve. Looking forward, Santa Fe County will determine the best use for the Ortiz Mountains Educational Preserve site and may possibly identify other partners to offer programs there.