When I meet someone who is relatively new to Las Cruces, invariably their reasons for coming here include the phrase “… and when I saw those Organ Mountains…” This is a point of pride for everyone in our community. Granite spires that dominate the eastern skyline and give us a few extra moments of sleep before sunrise every morning and offer new colors of purple and blue as the sun sets in the evening. The valley below sinks into the lower Rio Grande valley, where it sharply rises into the desert mesas and hills to the west. My house is in the city, but my home is in the Desert Peaks that surround me.
Las Cruces has been teetering on the edge of being the New Mexico’s second largest city for a few years now. As cities such as Rio Rancho and Santa Fe have continued to grow from technology and service industry jobs, Hobbs and Roswell have found renewed growth in the liquid mineral extraction industries thanks to hydraulic fracturing. While our agricultural roots are still strong, Las Cruces has been shifting to a community that attracts retirees who appreciate our generally warm climate and fairly low cost of living. These folks have helped keep the service industries going and coupled with New Mexico State University and the nearby White Sands Missile Range and NASA facilities, helped to drive land and home sales as well.
So where do we look to continue our growth as a city and as a community? As we strive to answer this question, it seems clear that the answer is all around us. The wide open desert landscapes that surround Las Cruces have been harboring a veritable hoard of cultural resources that wait silently for more people to discover them. Just to name a few:
- Thousands of petroglyphs and other First Nation sites
- Nearly 30 miles of the first southern route overland trail, the Butterfield Stagecoach trail
- Sites associated with some of the Wild West’s best known figures like Billy the Kid and Geronimo
- The original boundary markers that demarcated the boundary of Mexico and the US after the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo
- Aerial bombing targets that were used to train bombardiers for combat missions in World War II
- Kilbourne Hole, a National Natural Landmark, used by NASA to train Apollo astronauts
- Caves and springs, in-which have been found thousands of fossils dating back to prehistory and even included never-before-seen fossils of a four horned antelope.