September 2014

Thornton Ranch Open Space


Claudia Meyer Horn


In the heart of the stunning Galisteo Basin, a 1,920-acre section of open space is in the process of being master-planned for educational and recreational uses. As the largest, contiguous open space currently owned by Santa Fe County, the Thornton Ranch Open Space property near the village of Galisteo is known for its quintessential high-desert landscape, breathtaking long vistas, wildlife habitat and cultural resources.


Land-conservation efforts in the late 1990s and early 2000s led to the purchase of the land by Santa Fe County and designated as open space. It was approved by voters and purchased with open-space bond monies. A concern over increased development in the Galisteo Basin and its impact on this unique cultural landscape—with loss of open space and wildlife habitat—and preservation of cultural resources drove this effort. The Galisteo Basin Archaeological Resource Protection Act, which became law in 2004, designated 24 significant sites within the Galisteo Basin in the National Register of Historic Places as federally protected sites. One of these sites, Petroglyph Hill, a particularly important archaeological site, lies within the Thornton Ranch Open Space property.


Santa Fe County staff conduct periodic guided tours with a limited number of people to Petroglyph Hill and other sites on the property. Overwhelming interest to visit this resource has resulted in tours filling up quickly and underscores the need to identify a management plan and master plan for the property for public access.


In 2005, a Draft Management Plan Report was prepared by Design Workshop with public and agency input to document desired uses, outline potential levels of access and recommend management scenarios.


Efforts are underway to inventory existing site conditions and cultural resources and generate a master plan for the property. The master plan will outline access for cultural, educational and recreational use while balancing the preservation and protection of significant resources. A team of archaeologists from Parametrix is conducting the cultural-resource inventory of the property, while the planning team (design office, with the Santa Fe Conservation Trust, Ecotone and AOS Architects) will be preparing a master plan for the site. Together, a well-considered master plan and a management plan will permit access for cultural, educational and recreational purposes while addressing site-security issues, erosion control, resource conservation and stewardship.


Claudia Meyer Horn is a landscape architect and founder of design office, a small multidisciplinary landscape and planning practice based in Santa Fe, New



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