Thursday, December 29, 2005
Petroglyphs Moved for Paseo
By Andrea Schoellkopf
Copyright © 2005 Albuquerque Journal; Journal Staff Writer
Five petroglyphs that stood in the way of the Paseo del Norte expansion have been relocated, clearing the way for the road's long-delayed construction west of Golf Course Road.
In a two-day operation that ended late Wednesday afternoon, contractors hired by the city moved nine boulders, five that contained the ancient drawings.
"We're ready," said John Castillo, the city's director of municipal development, as the last of the surveyors packed up their equipment at sunset Wednesday.
More Than a Rock
[+] Click for photos from weekJim Thompson/Journal This is one of the smallest rocks that was moved to make way for extending Paseo del Norte on the city's West Side.
Photos from this week's ABQjournal.com Journal Photos
A state permit for archaeological data recovery, which included relocation of the petroglyph rocks, went into effect last week.
No Native American input was provided in the relocation, Castillo said.
"We sent letters, numerous letters, asking for information or direction or impact," Castillo said. "We didn't receive any information on data recovery."
Nobody came to disturb the crews, save for the occasional hiker, rabbit or roadrunner, Castillo said. As they finished the work, a coyote howled nearby.
Opponents of the extension who say the area is a sacred site were not aware of the relocation but said Wednesday night they were not surprised when notified by the Journal.
"I knew it was going to happen sometime after the 21st," said Dave Phillips of the New Mexico Archaeological Council, referring to the date the permit went into effect.
Laurie Weahkee of the Sacred Alliance for Grassroots Equality Council called it a "real shame" and "a tragedy."
"We knew he (the mayor) would do it over this Christmas vacation. He needed to give a gift to the developers. He's their Santa Claus," said Weahkee, who was reached on her cell phone.
Phillips' and Weahkee's organizations were among several parties who sued the city to prevent the road's construction but did not prevail in stopping it.
Work on the extension could begin in February or March; the city opens construction bids Jan. 10.
The 1,200-foot road extension will run from Golf Course west to Kimmick. Developers are expected to complete the remainder of the road to Universe.
City planners have been trying to get the road built for years, believing it will help relieve traffic congestion that plagues Albuquerque's West Side due to rapid growth.
The road's path sits on eight acres set aside by Congress that bisect the Petroglyph National Monument.
The rocks that were moved still face each other in the same relative position as before.
Jicarilla Apache representatives who visited the site last month said they believed one of the rocks was used as a touching stone for prayer.
The rocks weighed between 100 and 12,000 pounds and required a track excavator to move them the 200 to 300 feet southwest of their previous location. Two of the rocks that did not contain drawings were smoothed from either grinding or touching for prayer.
The crews apparently used straps and blankets to protect the boulders, and no damage was reported.
Castillo said the area now marked off with yellow tape would be fenced off during the road construction.
"They're going to be protected," Castillo said.
Two others in the pathway did not appear to have drawings or anything of significance, but crews moved them as part of the touchstone structure.
"We just thought it'll look better aesthetically to move the ones with the group," said John White, project manager with Salls Brothers Construction of Albuquerque.
Crews were expected to continue their work today, filling in the area between and around the boulders with dirt. Archaeologists also were expected to continue their digging in the road's pathway in search of anything of significance.
Weahkee said her group would continue to fight the city's permit application with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to install a pipeline in the Piedras Mercadas arroyo and then to pave Paseo over it.
The city has said it now plans to build a bridge over the arroyo, which would bypass the need for approval from the Army Corps.