Friends of Bandelier Newsletter

August 9, 2010

Dear e-Friends of Bandelier.


To the Friends: There is sad news and glad news to report.

The sad news is that Kevin McKibbin died in June. Long-time park-goers will remember Kevin as Chief Ranger at Bandelier in the 1980s. Kevin was the very model of a park ranger, tall and slim, soft-spoken and the essence of a gentleman. I last saw him in 2006 at El Castillo in Santa Fe (surrounded by many Friends of Bandelier). He was not well, but content with his life. His daughter, Anne, kept up his membership in the Friends to the end. Students of atomic history may recognize the name: his mother was Dorothy McKibbin, receptionist at 109 Palace Ave in Santa Fe, who greeted new hires for the 1940s Manhattan Project. Kevin and his mother were very close, but he always followed his own interests.

The glad news is that the Grand Reopening of the Visitor Center will occur Wednesday, August 25. The agenda is not set as yet, but expect refreshments, Zuni dancers, pueblo crafts demonstrations, and tours of the building. Alas, no bread baking; the horno needs repairs. Best of all, it is National Parks Founders Day and admission is FREE.

Rod Torrez: At our board meeting in July, Superintendent Jason Lott announced the appointment of Rod Torrez as Bandelier's Chief of Interpretation. Rod replaces Lynne Dominy, who has moved on to Acadia National Park. Rod served under Lynne for a time, so he is familiar with the job. Rod's other park service experience includes tours at Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, Point Reyes National Seashore, Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, Grand Canyon National Park, and Mesa Verde National Park. Rod also provided technical interpretive assistance for the national park system in Croatia. He holds BA and MA degrees from Colorado State University and is a dissertation away from achieving a Ph.D. in Literature from the University of Colorado. We all hope he completes the degree. Replacing Lynne does not leave much time for composing a thesis!

Bandelier Conservation Corps: Jason and Rod describe the Corps as an "experience program" designed to get young people involved in the park. This year's six participants from local area high schools concentrated on Bandelier trail work. Impressed by their enthusiastic interest in the work, Jason and Rod hope to see a permanent corps involving more participation, more projects, and further development of a strong youthful constituency. The Friends previously approved $250 (one-half the cost) toward liability insurance for the Corps crew chief, deemed important because the schedule included overnight trips to wilderness and Rocky Mountain National Park areas. This summer the crew performed extensive work on the Burnt Mesa Trail, which needed it badly.

Phytoliths: Long-time Friends may remember Bob Powers, principal investigator for the 1987-1992 archaeological surface survey at Bandelier and editor of The Peopling of Bandelier. Bob retired from the Park Service and went back to school for a PhD in archaeology. His thesis work is a study of farming practices at Bandelier. Bob submitted a funding request for phytolith analyses of approximately 45 soil samples from six agricultural sites in the park. Phytoliths are microscopic silica bodies that form in plant cells and remain in the soil after the plant dies and decays. (Silica is the principal ingredient of sand.) For some plants, such as corn, phytolith shapes are unique enough to identify the plant from which they came. Bob's analysis will allow verification of the agricultural use of the six sites, identify the cultivars grown there, and facilitate further investigation of farming on Bandelier's famed pumice soils. Superintendent Lott had expected to ask us to help fund the Visitor Center grand reopening, but he was able to obtain sufficient money elsewhere. Instead, he approved Friends' support of $4,000 for Bob's phytolith analyses.

Valles Caldera: The Congressional bill for transfer of the preserve to the National Park Service passed its Senate committee and goes to the full Senate as part of a public lands omnibus bill. Management responsibility for the Valles Caldera would fall to Bandelier. A similar bill must go through the House of Representatives and be reconciled with the Senate bill. We all hope final action on the bill can occur this year. I have a PDF of the bill if anyone is interested in the bill's provisions.

Superintendent Lott announced plans to upgrade Bandelier trailheads during the next two years. I keep nagging for a decent trail up 10,000-foot Cerro Grande. Jason agrees; one of his first hikes after his move from Casa Grande National Monument in lowland Arizona was on the current trail running straight up the side of the mountain.

Dorothy Hoard