Morning Word

Santa Fe Outdoor Shelters Project Unveiled

Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands among worst national parks for air quality

Outdoor shelters pilot almost ready

Approximately one year since the Santa Fe City Council signed off on the idea, the first Safe Outdoor Space community is close to fruition, with officials, the media and others taking a peek yesterday at a one-year pop-up shelter pilot project. Christ Lutheran Church is hosting the 10 pallet shelters, which can house up to two people at a time, along with their pets, and include electricity, heating and cooling. Paris Rubio, the SOS site coordinator for The Life Link, which will provide case management for residents, tells SFR eight individuals and two couples, with ages ranging from 22 to 70, will move in on a staggered basis tentatively starting April 1. Five dogs will also join the group. “We’re almost there. I’m just really excited for the clients to move in and build a sense of community,” Rubio says. The city approved a plan in March 2023 to purchase 25 pallet homes for the program, using up to $1 million from the American Rescue Plan Act. The church was the only bidder to be a host site during the first request for proposal process. Christ Lutheran Church Pastor Joene Herr says she hopes more people will step up to help. “We are hoping to be a catalyst. We’re hoping that people will say, ‘Oh, my goodness, that’s just a small church with a handful of old members and look what they did,’” Herr says. “We’re already looking at, ‘OK, this is long term.’ It’s a one-year pilot, but I tell people, this is going to be here as long as there’s a need.” The outdoor shelter program follows the unveiling last week of a new mobile hygiene unit to serve unhoused people in the city.

Group ranks Carlsbad, White Sands in top 10 for “polluted parks”

Two national parks in New Mexico often recommended to travelers for their natural beauty also have ranked in the top 10 in the National Parks Conservation Association’s new report, on air pollution in national parks. Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands national parks ranked fifth and 10th, respectively, in the top 10 national parks with unhealthy air. “Air pollution and climate change are some of the most serious threats to the health of our parks today—and the problems they cause include weakening the health of plants and animals, permanently harming ecosystems, and negatively affecting visitors’ health and enjoyment,” the report notes. Carlsbad Caverns also ranked fourth for worst national parks for hazy skies. “On average, visitors to national parks miss out on 50 miles of scenery because of air pollution,” the report notes. The assessments were based upon data collected by the National Park Service in 2021 for 3,992 parks across the US. The four most polluted parks in the US were in California: Sequoia, Joshua Tree, Mojave and Kings Canyon, largely as a result of “vehicle emissions, industrial operations and agricultural activities in regions like the San Joaquin Valley of California.” Climate change, however, is cited as a factor nationwide for worsening environmental conditions at national parks. Of the nearly 400 parks assessed, “roughly half are at high risk from at least one high-impact vulnerability factor,” including wildfire, drought, sea level rise and invasive species.NM nonprofits receive $20 mil from MacKenzie Scott foundation

Ten New Mexico nonprofits are among the 361 that recently received $2 million each from MacKenzie Scott’s Yield Giving Foundation as a result of an open call. According to the foundation, the recipients were chosen from 6,000 applicants “for their outstanding work advancing the voices and opportunities of individuals and families of meager or modest means, and groups who have met with discrimination and other systemic obstacles.” New Mexico Environmental Law Center Executive Director Dr. Virginia Necochea described in a statement the $2 million as “transformative gift” that will allow NMELC “to take a collective breath for the first time in years and spend much needed time reflecting on how we will continue to advance our work in a manner that reflects our commitment to equity, social justice, to New Mexico, and to the strong protection of our sacred Mother Earth.” Other recipients include the National Indian Youth Leadership Project, the Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies and the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “We are deeply honored to receive this gift and affirmation of our work, NMCLP Executive Director Sireesha Manne says in a statement. “New Mexico is a vibrant place to live, and all of our families deserve opportunities, dignity, and justice…While the barriers we are fighting to dismantle are significant, we are committed to this ongoing work together.”

SCOTUS considers abortion rights again

The US Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments today about mifepristone, a drug used for medical abortion; this will be the first time the justices have weighed in on abortion since overturning Roe v. Wade in June of 2022, in a case New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez last year joined with a coalition of 24 attorneys general to file a friend-of-the-court—amicus—brief. Since the court reversed Roe v. Wade, 14 states have banned abortion, and seven have enacted previously illegal restrictions, according to the SCOTUS blog. In New Mexico, abortion remains legal, following a series of actions by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and state lawmakers, including signing House Bill 7, or the Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Health Care Act last year. The Wall Street Journal examines the impact this checkerboard landscape for women’s health has had on Whole Women’s Health in Albuquerque, which now regularly sees women from Texas seeking care they can’t receive where they live. Marva Sadler, who worked at Whole Women’s Health Texas clinics for 17 years before moving to New Mexico, tells WSJ she feels less fear now the state will try to shut them down and tells her patients from Texas, “this ain’t Texas.”

Listen up

On the most recent episode of the Save Water Santa Fe radio program, host Christine Chavez talks to City of Santa Fe Water Division Director Jesse Roach, both about his career leading him to the city—where he’s been for five years—and the water programs he oversees, many of which the February edition of the Municipal Water Leader magazine—on whose cover Roach appears—highlights. “Everything that’s been done here in the water division or City of Santa Fe water is stuff that has taken the ideas and hard work of people before us going way back,” he says, “into the ‘50s and ‘60s when we started expanding our water supply options.”

Pilgrim preparation

As Good Friday and Easter weekend approach, online Christianity-focused magazine Aleteia offers up “alternative holy week vacations for Catholics” including the Camino de Cristo Rey in New Mexico, one of several Camino trails recommended for “budget-friendly” journeys. “Cut down on travel costs by driving or cycling,” Aleteia writes, “packing picnics, and opting for modest accommodations along the way.” For a more mainstream holy week experience in New Mexico, officials expect potentially hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to make their way to the Santuario de Chimayó shrine, starting Thursday night and through Easter weekend. Folks planning to drive north this weekend might want to change their plans but, in lieu of doing so, should expect delays and also “exercise caution, avoid speeding and remain vigilant for pedestrians along the route.” Those planning to participate in the pilgrimage are urged to observe a slew of safety precautions, including following signage, avoiding traffic lines, staying on the path marked for pedestrians, wearing weather appropriate- clothing and bright colors, and carrying a flashlight. The North Central Regional Transit District Blue Bus will operate a special express bus, Route 151 from 10 am to 5 pm on Friday March 29 from Española to Chimayó through Pojoaque. Find more safety tips for the pilgrimage in this video.

Beyond tourist traps

In non-religious travel news, The Travel recommends a day trip between Alpine, Arizona and Truth or Consequences in New Mexico, which it describes as a short four-hour drive between two of the smallest towns in each state: “The tiny forest town of Alpine,” the story notes, sits “just six miles from the Arizona-New Mexico border,” while “past the forests, the equally small town of Truth or Consequences provides a grand desert finale. Along the way, various hidden gems, both natural and human-made, promise to make this a true road trip experience.” The day trip has two possible routes, one of which takes drivers through Silver City, and provides easy access to the Gila National Forest and its Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. Indeed, “unassuming nature” is one of Truth or Consequences’ main draws, the story says (along with hot springs, of course). “New Mexico is full of tourist traps like Roswell,” the story notes, “but alternative attractions, like Truth or Consequences, let travelers get back to the true beauty of this southwest state.” Condé Nast Traveler magazine, meanwhile, includes Albuquerque on its latest list of the 15 best family friendly vacation spots (it’s apparently always spring break somewhere in March). New Mexico is “one of the best family vacation spots in the US because it’s an ideal year-round destination, but also because there’s something to suit every preference.” As for Albuquerque, the city offers “easy access to national parks like White Sands and Carlsbad Caverns, and unmatched mountain views” along with numerous “opportunities for education,” including at the Albuquerque Museum and the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center.

Damp days

The National Weather Service forecasts a 30% chance for more snow showers today after noon, with little if any accumulation. Otherwise, it will be mostly cloudy, with a high temperature near 45 degrees, and southwest wind 5 to 15 mph becoming west in the afternoon.

Thanks for reading! The Word hopes she doesn’t miss T Coronae Borealis when it explodes.

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