El Cerro de Los Lunas Preserve opens for hiking and horseback riding

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It has been three years in the making, but finally the trailhead at El Cerro de Los Lunas Preserve is complete. El Cerro, “the hill” in Spanish, is on the west side of the village.

Deborah Fox-News-Bulletin photo: EL CERRO DE LOS LUNAS preserve trailhead had its grand opening Saturday. Several key players attended the celebration including, from left, Ruth Ann Huning-Gonzales, former Los Lunas Mayor Louis Huning, his wife, Nancy Huning, Mayor Robert Vialpando, Park Ranger Pat Jaramillo, Community Services Director Michael Jaramillo, Ben Martin of Boy Scout Troop 307 and Scout Master Greg Martin.

The new trailhead is on the south side of N.M. 6, about 1.5 miles west of Huning Ranch, past the Jubilee subdivision.

Saturday’s grand opening celebration included hikers, village officials, Los Lunas Mayor Robert Vialpando, former Mayor Louis Huning and Boy Scout Troop 307.

There is a roomy parking lot and two red-roofed gazebos with picnic tables at the trailhead. The gazebos were built by Boy Scout Troop 307.

Boy Scout Ben Martin adopted the El Cerro de Los Lunas trailhead project as part of his effort to obtain his Eagle Scout badge.

He and his troop helped in the design of the trailhead and rest areas as well as helped do the work. They laid the concrete for the metal shade structures, said Los Lunas Park Ranger Pat Jaramillo.

The trailhead is a mile long, covered with black crusher-fine trail gravel. It leads to a few different marked trails in the 2,600-acre park preserve.

It’s hard to say how many miles a person could hike or horseback ride, but the whole trail system is 8 to 9 miles long. Motorized vehicles and bicycles are not allowed in the preserve.

“The trails are kind of tough, either real sandy, narrow or rocky,” Jaramillo said. “It’s not safe for bicycles or off-road vehicles.”

Eventually, the Los Lunas Parks and Recreation Department would like to build a bicycle path along N.M. 6, he said, but that will take more funding.

Along the trails are two shaded benches, one unshaded bench and two metal shade structures. The benches were made by the Youth Conservation Corps.

The idea for a preserve was spearheaded by the late Jack Huning when he donated 1,440 acres to the village.

“Uncle Jack wanted a good place for people of Valencia County and Los Lunas to recreate,” said Louis Huning. “He didn’t want homes built up the hill. He wanted to preserve the landscape and give back to the community for future generations to enjoy as our family had.”

“It was the largest private land donation in the state at the time,” said Michael Jaramillo, community services director.

The vistas of open space are a place where hikers and horseback riders can enjoy peace and quiet in the beautiful landscape and panoramic views.

Mayor Robert Vialpando was a councilor when the land was donated in 2006, and said when he was a youth, they called the hill,”the old man of Los Lunas,” because of the hill’s outline.

It was the previous administration, of which Vialpando was a part, that gave the go-ahead for the project. Grant money from the New Mexico Youth Conservancy Corps was pursued, and the $65,000 awarded was used for some materials, but mostly to hire youth to build and create the trailhead.

The project was a joint effort between the village’s parks and recreation and streets departments, the Youth Conservancy Corps, and Boy Scout Troop 307.

For information about hiking and horseback riding, call 352-7663.


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.