JEMEZ SPRINGS—Valles Caldera Trust has been awarded a $545,000 federal grant that will allow visitors to tour the Valles Caldera National Preserve in the quiet comfort of a solar powered all-electric shuttle bus.
The grant is one of 29 awarded nationally by the Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in the Parks Program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Authority.
The grant will fund the purchase of an all-electric 26-passenger ADA-compliant shuttle bus to replace two gasoline-powered 12-passenger vans currently in use.
Construction of a solar photovoltaic panel array to power the vehicle, establishment of charging stations and a garage to house the bus are also included in the funding.
“The grant allows us to test the durability and suitability of all-electric vehicles on our roads and terrain,” said Executive Director Dennis Trujillo of the Valles Caldera Trust. “We hope the experiment will lead to conversion of the entire fleet to all-electric vehicles, which will reduce the environmental impact to the preserve, enhance the visitor experience, and reduce costs.”
The Trust estimates a $60,000 annual savings in fleet operation costs during the first five years of the program in addition to a decrease road maintenance expenses.
Once suitable sites are selected, the Trust will develop a general plan for the construction of the solar array and garage. The goal is to have the bus operational for the spring season of 2014.
“Once our shuttle bus system is established, we can eventually connect it to a regional public transportation network,” Trujillo said. “We could link Bandelier National Monument, Santa Fe National Forest, and the communities of Los Alamos/White Rock with the Valles Caldera National Preserve.”
The Valles Caldera Trust oversees the Valles Caldera National Preserve, formerly the privately owned “Baca Ranch.” The 89,000-acre property is located in the Jemez Mountains in northern New Mexico. The ranch was purchased by the federal government in 2000 under the Valles Caldera Preservation Act. The property is known for its huge meadows, abundant wildlife, meandering streams and remarkable scenery. The mission of the trust is to create a successful model of public land management that protects and preserves the unique values of the Valles Caldera National Preserve. Toward that end, the trust will operate the preserve as a working ranch; strive to become financially self-sustaining; meet the varied needs of visitors; strive to use and steward the multiple resources of the preserve; and work collaboratively with our neighbors.