NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is one of the few outdoor spaces still closed. It’s been closed for more than a year due to the pandemic and now the Bureau of Land Management, which owns the monument, is using the time to bring some changes to the popular attraction.
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One of the biggest challenges it’s trying to address is over-visitation. According to BLM, they originally planned for about 50,000 in 2007. But lately, they’ve been seeing about 130,000 visitors a year.
“In the past as many know, we have had a very, very big interest in Tent Rocks and for good reason. It’s a beautiful place. It’s so beautiful but it’s also very delicate at the same time,” said Jamie Garcia, Outdoor Recreation Planner for BLM, specifically working with Tent Rocks. “Working with Pueblo De Cochiti, we are both interested in kind of getting back to a more manageable annual visitation rate just because the damage that can be done to these features is pretty significant. In trying to kind of rein in that visitation and the trail degradation as well, we really want the visitors to have the best optimal experience possible.”
All of the changes that could be coming are laid out in BLM’s business plan. It is considering moving to a reservation system to help with long lines and wait times on narrow points of the trails, as well as limiting the damage to formations and trails. Details on how many people will be allowed in the monument at once and for how long are still being worked out.
BLM is also considering changing the entrance fee from $5 per car to $5 per person. “The fees in the past were not really self-sustainable as a monument. The money we were spending to run the monument, to hire individuals to run the monument, it was really quite over what we were actually making there,” said Garcia. “So with this new fee increase, it will help us be more self-sustainable as a monument itself so we won’t have to rely so heavily on various funding sources.”
BLM is also working on facility maintenance, trail stabilization, and staffing to figure out how many workers are needed to run the monument and keep it clean. BLM said it is working directly with the Pueblo De Cochiti on the proposed changes. There’s no timeline yet on when any of this could happen or when it could reopen. However, Tent Rocks will be closed through Balloon Fiesta at least, which is one of the busiest times of the year at the national monument.