How the Park was created
In 1997, participants of a Los Cerrillos community planning project - Dale Ball, Alina Bokde, Richard Crombie, Bev Fung, Joe Lehm, Ross Lockridge, Patrick Mohn, Ann Murray, Cathy Weber, and others - recognized the special natural and historical character of the hills and suggested doing something to preserve them.
In November 1998, a bond initiative proposing purchases of private land within Santa Fe County for public use passed with nearly 70% approval of the voters. In early 1999, with a Santa Fe County Open Space park becoming a reality, the all-volunteer Cerrillos Hills Park Coalition (CHPC) was organized. On January 28, 2000, the county completed acquisition of three parcels totalling 1,116 acres to make up the park. The Park contains some of the most intriguing land in New Mexico.
From 2000 to 2003, the park was developed by Santa Fe County and the all-volunteer CHPC. Park trails were built with a National Park Service grant and crews of youth corps and volunteers. Santa Fe County purchased and installed a vault toilet, frames for interpretive signage, a decorative group shelter, and two benches. The interpretive signage was written by volunteer Bill Baxter who has done extensive research on the history of the area, and the signs themselves were purchased with the help of local Cerrillos businesses. Buck Dent, a local sculptor, constructed an outdoor shelter that doubles as an analemma.
The park’s Grand Opening as a Santa Fe County Open Space park was in 2003, with Stuart Udall delivering the keynote speech. From 2003 to 2009, the park was managed by the Open Space Department with Todd Brown of the CHPC as overseer. Other members of the CHPC volunteered to help maintain the trails and present occasional programs.
In 2006, the New Mexico State Parks Division (NMSPD), in response to House Joint Memorial 8, prepared a feasibility study regarding the creation of a new state park from the existing Cerrillos Hills Historic Park. The study found that the property met the criteria as a State Park, so the Division moved ahead with soliciting input through public meetings and an open comment period. Most comments were in favor of creating a State Park, and in 2007, NMSPD purchased 3 lots with two structures in the village of Cerrillos for a Visitor Center site.
State Park personnel were present on-site and began interpretive programming in the spring of 2009. In September, 2009, the State Parks Division entered into a Joint Powers Agreement with Santa Fe County to manage the park as New Mexico’s 35th state park. Money was allocated towards building a Visitor Center on the property in Cerrillos. Ground was broken in the spring of 2011 for the Visitor Center and its Grand Opening was on May 19, 2012. Representative Rhonda King was the keynote speaker and NMSPD provided a chuck-wagon barbecue for attendees.
In 2012, the Amigos de Cerrillos Hills State Park, an all-volunteer group, was officially sanctioned by the State to help support the park. In their first two years, they have developed this website, sponsored speakers and programs in the Visitor Center, participated in two village-wide yard sales to raise money and provided refreshments for park events.
The original Americans knew these hills well. Certainly by 900 A.D., and probably much earlier, turquoise was being extracted, and by the early 1300s the lead for Rio Grande glazeware pottery. The Cerrillos Hills may be the location of the oldest known mine in the United States. First among cultures, Native Americans honor the gifts of the earth, and these generous hills are honored today as more than just a place.
The first Europeans to see the hills were with Coronado in 1540, and references in the Spanish, Mexican, and early U.S. Territorial periods of New Mexico occur again and again. The coming of the railroad in 1880 engendered a spate of speculation and a frenetic mining boom that is very much in evidence even now.
Today people fortunate enough to hike and bike and ride their horses in the arroyos and across the ridges of the Cerrillos Hills will find trails are marked, hazards are abated, and facilities established.
Unlike most built-up areas, the history of the Cerrillos Hills has been little disturbed by subsequent activity. You can still see fossil worm tracks in 70 million-year-old shale, a thousand-year-old turquoise pit, the stump of a juniper cut by prospectors 120 years ago, a hawk or coyote just a couple of years old searching for a meal, or this year's bloom on the chamisa or the cholla.
Our thanks to the Historic Preservation Division of the State of New Mexico's Office of Cultural Affairs for their efforts to preserve our heritage