Despite high winds, hot temperatures and dangerous fire conditions, the city of Albuquerque will keep its open spaces open, including the Elena Gallegos Picnic Area. A May 20 tweet by the Albuquerque Parks & Recreation Department reads, “While our partners at the US Forest Service have closed Santa Fe, Carson and Cibola National Forests, our Open Space areas will remain open. The more people use our trails and Open Space, the easier it will be to report suspicious activity.”
Following the fires that were deliberately set to the bosque on May 18, Mayor Tim Keller posted on Facebook, “This is going to be a long and dangerous fire season and we need everyone in our community to stay vigilant. If you see something, say something and familiarize yourself with AFR’s list of fire safety protocols.” During a press brief near the scene of the fires, Keller announced the bosque will remain open to the public.
Albuquerque’s open spaces include 24,000 acres of acquired land and another 4,000 acres of managed land in and around the city and East Mountains. One of the more popular open space areas is the Elena Gallegos Picnic Area, a 640-acre park in the northeast part of Albuquerque. Elena Gallegos is just an 11-minute drive from the Heritage Hills neighborhood and provides a fast and easy getaway from the city without leaving Albuquerque.
Elena Gallegos is home to a variety of wildlife including coyotes, lizards, cougars and an assortment of bird species. The cactus- and juniper-filled habitat is popular among mountain bikers, hikers, walkers and nature lovers who can traverse the many trails throughout the area. The popular Domingo Baca Trail 230 that leads to the 1955 TWA flight 260 crash site is currently closed due to the fire danger, but several other trails are still open.
Although the U.S. Forest Service website says Pino Trail 140 is closed, it can still be accessed from the picnic area and used up until the entry into the Cibola National Forest. When the forest is open, Pino Trail can be hiked the 4.7-mile stretch until it reaches Crest Trail 130. Pino Trail 140 intersects with trail 341 at the Cibola National Forest boundary within the Elena Gallegos Open Space and can be used to loop back to the parking area. Trail 341 is popular among bicyclists who can ride the entire distance of the open space by connecting to trail 230 to the north or trail 342 and 305a to the south.
The city is currently considering adding a 6,000-8,000-square-foot education center at Elena Gallegos. According to a January 2022 feasibility study, the education center will include a lobby, classroom space, interpretive room and coffee bar, staff offices and meeting room, restrooms, and storage. Improvements to parking, roads, trails, bathrooms and other areas around the open space are also being considered.