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Stick structures stump Santa Fe forest officials

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Chuck Waldron, from Austin, on Friday checks out some some of the huge tepee-like structures made from dead aspens near the Aspen Vista picnic area off Hyde Park Road. The U.S. Forest Service says the structures are a fire hazard. (Eddie Moore/ Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE — Mysterious stick structures that have popped up recently in the Santa Fe National Forest are stumping officials.

The National Forest announced Friday that numerous “human-built conical stick structures” have been erected near the Ski Santa Fe area. Some are two stories tall — about 20 feet — and 20 feet or more in diameter, according to spokeswoman Julie Anne Overton.

The pyramids were discovered when employees from the Española Ranger District went into the woods with a volunteer who showed them seven or eight of the stick tepees off Tesuque Peak Road at Aspen Vista. At least 10 more are below the Aspen Vista picnic area, and some have also been seen on the Windsor Trail and in the Big Tesuque drainage.

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A fire pit has been used in one of several structures made from dead aspens near the Aspen Vista picnic area off Hyde Park Road. (Eddie Moore/ Albuquerque Journal)

Officials are worried that the structures, made of about 1,000 or more individual sticks or logs, pose a fire danger. “The wood is seasoned and dry, and the design is similar to a classic kindling pyramid but on a much larger scale,” Overton wrote in a news release. “And to exacerbate the obvious fire danger, people appear to be using fire rings inside many of the structures.” But Overton said there’s no evidence people are living in them.

What about bigfoot, whose fans often post pictures of “Bigfoot tepees?”

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“That was one of the theories someone posted on the SFNF Facebook page,” Overton allowed.

But the structures are no joke. If they turn into pyres, the resulting flames could be a disaster for nearby homes and Santa Fe’s watershed.

“A high-severity fire in this popular recreation corridor would have catastrophic consequences not only for the Santa Fe National Forest, but for the Pueblo of Tesuque, the Santa Fe Municipal Watershed and residents in nearby neighborhoods,” Española District Ranger Sandy Hurlocker said in the news release.

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This is one of numerous conical structures made from dead aspens near the Aspen Vista picnic area off Hyde Park Road above Santa Fe. (Eddie Moore/ Albuquerque Journal)

The building of the structures in a national forest violates federal regulations is are punishable with up to $10,000 in fines and six months in prison, according to the Forest Service. People can report these structures and their approximate location to the SFNF at 505.438.5300 or any of the Ranger District offices.


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