I came late to the Franklin Mountains. Growing up in the Segundo Barrio in the 1960s and 1970s, I knew there were mountains to the north of my schools (Alamo Elementary, Guillen Middle, Bowie High), but I never visited them.
The mountains were always just “there.” By 1989 (when I graduated from UTEP), I’d heard about something called “the Franklin Mountains State Park,” but I thought it was for other folks and surely not for me.
The same held true when I worked full-time at a boys’ and girls’ club and then as a teacher at an elementary school and after hours as a rehab center counselor: “Mountains? How nice, but who knows what’s their price.”
But nine months ago, one of my old UTEP professors told me about a campaign he was involved in to conserve a place called “Castner Range.”
“Where is that, Dr. T?” I asked. “Hey Pablo, let me show it to you!” he answered.
So off we went and just in time. The famous poppies were reaching their peak, the land looked great from the strong winter rains, and I really liked what I saw: over 7,000 acres of high desert in bloom, with a mountain view I’d only seen from down below.
So up Trans Mountain Road we drove, and I saw why Dr. T wanted this land conserved as a national monument.
“Can I bring my grandchildren here?” I asked. “Only to the 17-acre Archaeology Museum park, located inside the range,” Dr. T. responded. “Until it’s conserved as a national monument, Castner is a closed artillery field and is ‘out of range’ for visitors.”
So I not only brought Brandon and Priseis Gutiérrez to see the park but the three of us ended up starring in a video produced by the El Paso Community Foundation (see https://youtu.be/1oluFAD7f14 ).
And now I proudly play a part in the drive for a Castner Range National Monument, and I cannot wait for President Obama to dedicate it and for the party at the Foundation Room to celebrate its dedication.