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Agency decides to keep three pines

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By David Giuliani

Lorenzo Herrera has lived near the three tall pines along N.M. Highway 434 all of his life. As far as he is concerned, they should stay.

When he was 6, he remembers walking with his grandmother, Epimenio Vigil, and the two of them took shelter under the pines during a severe windstorm.

The day — Oct. 13, 1951 — was significant in Herrera’s life. He and his grandmother were walking to his parents’ house to visit on the day his brother, Francisco, was born.

“I have always been around those trees,” he said Thursday. “They are a landmark. They give directions for people on that road. They are the only big trees.”

And it looks like those symbols of the Guadalupita area will remain. The state Transportation Department announced Thursday that it would allow the three ponderosa pines to stay, even though the agency is cutting most other trees along the highway as part of a safety project.

That decision came after residents protested the planned cutting of the trees, with some even standing guard this week to prevent a crew from cutting them down.

Christina Romero, the department’s spokesman, said the agency’s district engineer, Paul Gray, decided to save the trees on the recommendation of the department’s environmentalist.

“Those trees contribute to the culture of the area,” Romero said, adding that the protesters didn’t take part in public meetings for the N.M. 434 safety project.

She said the agency has placed temporary fencing around the trees to make sure a contractor knows not to cut them down.

A number of Guadalupita residents stood by the trees, vowing to “peaceably resist” any effort to cut the trees down. They said the trees were 200 years old.

The Transportation Department has stated that the crews were removing trees to remove sight obstructions around curves and eliminate the hazards for people who accidentally veer off the road. Also, with more sunlight on roads, snow will melt much quicker during the winter, making traveling safety, according to a department fact sheet.