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Roswell BLM works on recreation improvements

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Jaggers Camp to close next week for construction project

Employees of the Roswell field office of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management are working to bolster the recreational opportunities on its public lands in the region, and two Lincoln County projects are examples of that effort.

Infrastructure construction just started for an expansion of the Rob Jaggers Camp at the Fort Stanton-Snowy River National Conservation Area, said Assistant Field Manager Randy Howard with the Roswell Field Office, which is part of the Pecos District Office of the New Mexico division of the federal agency.

The second recent improvement involves a Rio Bonita rehabilitation project not far from the town of Lincoln that is expected to draw fishing enthusiasts as well as other visitors.

The Jaggers Camp off of New Mexico State Road 220 about 10 miles west from the town of Lincoln has been around for years and became highly popular in the 2000s, mainly with equestrians because of its riding trails, said Roswell Field Manager Chuck Schmidt.

Since then, more people have become interested with the site, with trails that also can be used for hiking and mountain biking.

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“We have seen quite of a transition from equestrian use to just general use by the public,” Schmidt said.

For many years, the BLM has been planning on how to improve the area, with engineering plans beginning about 18 months ago, he said. About a week ago, construction began on a water line along Highway 380.

Howard said he thinks public demand for the site is significant.

“We’ve seen a huge increase in recreation, especially during this pandemic, with a lot of people really wanting to get outdoors and get away,” Howard said. “This is really going to help us mitigate that and offer more sites for recreation.”

Knutt Peterson, a local outdoor recreation planner for the BLM, said the camp gets visitors from many places, but is especially popular locally.

“We have a lot of people from all over New Mexico, Texas and across the United States,” he said. “Primary users are from Lincoln County and Chaves County.”

Due to the construction, the Jaggers Camp will close starting Monday for the two to three months of the main construction work. The parking lot and its shelters will remain open, as will the nearby Cave Canyon camp site, which has four camp sites, but no water or electrical hook-ups.

When the Jaggers Camp reopens, it will have 27 recreational vehicle (RV) hook-up sites with potable water and electricity. It currently has nine sites with only electrical connections. Picnic tables and shelters at each site also are planned. A group shelter for events will be available for rent.

Peterson said plans call for rehabilitation and maintenance of the 72 miles of multi-use trails, with the assistance of EcoServants, a nonprofit based in Ruidoso that is associated with AmeriCorps and the New Mexico Youth Conservation Corps.

“And in the near future we are going to be adding more interpretation on the NCA,” Peterson said, referring to signs, kiosks and other markers that provide information about the ecology, wildlife and plant species, and cultural significance of the area.

People can contact the Roswell Field Office at 575-627-0272 for more information as the project progresses. Once camp construction is finished, people will be able to reserve sites at www.recreation.gov.

Howard said that the second project began as a river rehabilitation project. He said that the Dow Canyon tract of the Rio Bonita had become incised and downgraded over the years and had to be reworked so that it could flow properly and serve as a habitat for fish. Many different entities became involved, including the Upper Hondo Watershed Management group, which helped to remove invasive plant species; Riverbend Engineering, which did the restoration design; New Mexico Game and Fish Department and its Habitat Stamp Program; the National Wild Turkey Federation; the Rio Grande Trout Program and EcoServants.

“The main objective was to restore the river function, and along with that we could work with Game and Fish and do a put-and-take fishery,” Howard said.

He said that, in January, New Mexico Game and Fish stocked the Dow Canyon portion of the river with non-breeding rainbow trout and has plans to stock it annually. No reservations or fees are required for visiting the site, Howard said. According to the BLM website, hiking and mountain biking also can occur there.

Howard said the tract is about two miles east of the town of Lincoln off of Highway 380. People heading from the Roswell area to Lincoln will be able to see a large parking lot with its pipe fencing from the highway.

Howard said that the BLM also has recreation sites in Chaves County, including the Mescalero Sands and Haystack Mountain off-highway vehicle areas. The local office also is working with the county and the city of Roswell on other trails projects. He said people with ideas or suggestions about other recreation opportunities should contact the Roswell Field Office.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.