August 20, 2001
Santa Fe County has assumed stewardship of 656 acres of the 17,000-acre Thornton Ranch, approximately 15 miles southeast of Santa Fe near Galisteo. Earlier this month, the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit land conservation organization, purchased the scenic, archaeologically significant land from the Thornton family.
The purchase preserves permanent public access via County Road 42 to Petroglyph Hill, an important archeological site on an adjacent 780-acre parcel purchased last year. It safeguards a significant stretch of open space in the face of impending development — which is encroaching on all sides of the ranch — and prevents development of home sites on this pristine tract.
On Aug. 17, the Trust for Public Land transferred to the county complete control of the property through a lease-purchase agreement. Under the terms of the agreement, the county made an initial payment on Friday and will take title to the property in December 2001 when funds for the balance of the purchase price — a total of $1.83 million — become available from an open space bond measure approved by voters in November 2000. The county’s initial lease payment came from the funds remaining from a previous bond measure, approved by voters in 1998.
The two Thornton Ranch tracts total more than 1,400 acres and represent the largest contiguous open space area in the county. Because the two parcels lie adjacent to more than 1,600 acres of state trust and U.S. Bureau of Land Management land, this purchase consolidates thousands of acres of public property and could open large areas to the public that previously were accessible.
Santa Fe County is working on a management plan for the land; questions and comments about the plan may be directed to Alina Bokde, county planner, at (505) 986-6217.
In 1998, county voters approved a $12 million general obligation bond for the purchase of parks, trails, and historic and cultural sites. Shortly thereafter, the County Open Lands and Trails Planning and Advisory Committee was formed to identify resources in need of protection and make recommendations to the county commission. In November 2000, voters overwhelmingly approved a second open space bond package in the amount of $8 million.
In October 2000, in cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management, the Trust for Public Land facilitated the county’s acquisition of the first Thornton Ranch parcel, 780 acres that includes Petroglyph Hill as well as an additional 435 acres of lease interests. The second Thornton Ranch parcel is the 14th property the county has acquired with open space bond money.
Thornton Ranch terrain consists of blue gramma grassland, rolling hills dotted with pinon, juniper, and sage and high mesa areas. The most striking feature is Petroglyph Hill, a large hill covered with black volcanic rock on which hundreds of petroglyphs are carved, and offering views of the entire Galisteo Basin. The Galisteo Basin and surrounding areas contain many nationally significant, well-preserved prehistoric and historic archaeological resources of Native American and Spanish colonial cultures.