Work has begun on a project to clean up and repair the area across Frijoles Creek from the Bandelier National Monument Visitor Center. Courtesy/NPS
Fallen branches are being removed as part of a project to clean up and repair the area across Frijoles Creek from the Bandelier National Monument Visitor Center. Courtesy/NPS
Work has begun on a project to clean up and repair the area across Frijoles Creek from the Bandelier National Monument Visitor Center, which has been damaged by flash floods following the Las Conchas Fire in 2011.
Using emergency relief funds from the Federal Highway Administration, contractors will build a new vehicle access route, clean up the flood debris, and re-establish the picnic area and overflow parking areas. Work will include removing the present damaged asphalt and resurfacing the road and pullouts.
The project also will include stabilizing a section of the edge of the entrance road that was eroded by one of the floods.
Great stacks of logs and other debris that floods carried down from the burned area will be taken to the park gravel yard to an air curtain incinerator. These devices control burning in such a way as to release very little smoke while burning materials thoroughly and very rapidly. Some logs will be used in a separate project in the near future to reconfigure the creek bed to conditions similar to what it was before being deeply scoured out by the post-fire flooding.
At this time there are no plans to replace the vehicle bridge that had been near the Visitor Center. Instead, vehicle access will be provided by the addition of a very short two-lane spur from the entrance road, which will cross the creek near the Falls trailhead by means of a concrete box culvert.
Another source of funding will provide for a waterline to be re-established in that area to provide for three frostfree water stations at the Falls trailhead, Frijolito trailhead and the Alcove house trailhead. The Cottonwood Picnic Area restroom won’t be reopened at this time due to engineering problems which must be resolved first.
The new culvert and paving should be flood-resistant enough to survive future floods. However, it is possible that the area will be closed to vehicles during monsoon seasons to keep floods from posing threats to visitors and their vehicles.
During the work, visitors will not be able to cross the construction area. Those wishing to hike the Falls Trail or access the trails on the mesa top will have to go up the canyon to the crossing at the end of the Main Loop Trail (just past Long House) and then go back down the canyon to the Falls and Frijolito trailheads by way of a bypass trail. This will add about one mile each way.
The project contract calls for completion by the end of October. If cold weather arrives too soon for the paving to be done in the fall, that part of the work will have to be completed in the spring.
“We are really looking forward to making it possible for everyone to use and enjoy that area again. We’ll have to ask for patience on the part of our visitors during the work, but it will really be worth it when everything is completed,” Bandelier’s Facilities Manager Joseph Gurule said.