An Administrative History
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Since the establishment of the park in 1972, Guadalupe Mountains has been the scene of a number of special events. The dedication ceremony and celebration in September 1972, the opening of the new facilities at Dog Canyon in May 1982, and the tenth anniversary celebration and opening of the contact station in McKittrick Canyon in November 1982 were single-day events, sponsored by the Park Service with the assistance of civic organizations from nearby communities. Each year the park also had a spontaneous special event--the magnificent colors of autumn--which attracted many visitors. On two occasions the park was the staging ground for events that were not planned by the Park Service but captured widespread public attention: a flag ceremony on Guadalupe Peak in recognition of the U.S. bicentennial anniversary and a climb of Guadalupe Peak by small group of paraplegics who made the trip in wheelchairs. All of these events served to increase public awareness of and interest in the park. As such they are an important aspect of the administrative history of the park.

Events Sponsored by the Park Service

Dedication Ceremony--September 30, 1972

The year in which the park was established was also the centennial anniversary of the establishment of Yellowstone National Park, the nation's first park. For that reason, the Washington office of the Park Service participated more actively than usual in events taking place in the parks. During the centennial year, to bring the anniversary observance to as many parks as possible, national-level staff members and other significant people related to the government took part in such functions as the Guadalupe Mountains dedication. Julie Nixon Eisenhower, daughter of President Richard Nixon, and Nathaniel P. Reed, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, participated in the festivities at Guadalupe Mountains and were the principal speakers at the dedication ceremony (see Figure 40). [1]

Although the drawn-out legislative struggle to establish the park had generated much public interest, particularly in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico, park managers were unwilling to rely on that interest to bring people to the dedication ceremony. To assure a good turn-out, they launched a major publicity campaign in advance of the date. The El Paso, Dell City, Van Horn, and Carlsbad chambers of commerce and the Carlsbad Caverns Natural History Association cooperated in the publicity effort and helped to make the day-long occasion a success. [2]

The dedication ceremony, attended by some 2,400 people, took place near the temporary office and information station at Frijole, a location that in 1972 had no other facilities that would attract visitors. That so many people were willing to travel the considerable distance to the park to attend the ceremony attests to the effectiveness of the publicity campaign as well as the high level of local interest in the park. The ceremony included all of the pomp necessary to properly initiate a new facility: a U.S. Army color guard from Fort Bliss, Texas, to present and retire the colors; the Van Horn, Texas, high school band to provide music; local clergy to lead the invocation and benediction; and Park Service Associate Director Stanley W. Hulett (see Figure 40) to serve as master of ceremonies. The speaker's platform was filled with people who had been instrumental in the establishment of the park: J. C. Hunter, Jr., and his wife, Mary (see Figure 41), former owners of the largest portion of the park lands; former Senator Ralph Yarborough and Congressman Richard White (see Figure 40), who had initiated the legislation to establish the park; and John Ben Sheppard, who had been chairman of the Citizens Committee for Guadalupe Mountains National Park. While the infirmities of age prevented Wallace Pratt from attending this occasion of which he had long dreamed, his seminal contribution to the establishment of the park did not go unrecognized. After speeches by Reed and Eisenhower, a welcome by Superintendent Donald Dayton, and remarks by White, Theodore Thompson, Associate Director of the Southwest Region, unveiled a special plaque honoring the Pratt family. [3]

After the dedication ceremony, Cavern Supply, concessioner at Carlsbad Caverns, prepared and served a free barbecue lunch for all who had attended. Park managers invited the public to tour McKittrick Canyon in the afternoon. [4]

Opening of the Facilities in Dog Canyon--May 22, 1982

In 1982, the beginning of the season of summer visitation coincided with completion of the ranger and visitor facilities in Dog Canyon and of the access road to the area. Hoping to generate more interest in the Dog Canyon area, which previously had received far less traffic than the southern areas of the park, management again initiated a heavy promotional campaign to encourage attendance at the ribbon-cutting ceremony and barbecue on May 22. For several weeks before the date of the occasion local newspapers carried announcements of the dedication and maps showing how to reach Upper Dog Canyon. Park managers invited newspaper, television, and radio people from Carlsbad, El Paso, Roswell, and Albuquerque to attend. They also sent individual invitations to people in Dell City and Carlsbad whom they considered to be special friends of the park. [5]

dedication ceremony
Figure 40. Distinguished guests at the dedication of Guadalupe Mountains National Park, September 30, 1972: (L-R) Donald Dayton, Stanley Hulett, Richard White, Julie Nixon Eisenhower, Ralph Yarborough, Nathaniel Reed. (NPS Photo)

Mary and J.C. Hunter, Jr.
Figure 41. Mary and J. C. Hunter, Jr., (right) at the dedication of Guadalupe Mountains National Park. The Hunters' 70,000-acre ranch was the largest parcel the federal government purchased to establish the park in the southern Guadalupes. (NPS Photo)

An estimated 300 people traveled the newly improved road to Dog Canyon on May 22. Much less formal than the park's dedication ceremony, a simple ribbon-cutting initiated the Dog Canyon facilities. William Dunmire, Superintendent of Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe Mountains, served as master of ceremonies. Donald Dayton, who by 1982 was Deputy Regional Director for the Southwest Region, gave the principal remarks. The mayors of Carlsbad and Dell City and the presidents of the chambers of commerce of both towns joined Dunmire and Dayton in the ceremony. After the ribbon-cutting the Eddy County Mountain and Desert Res-Q Squad prepared and served a Dutch-treat barbecue lunch. The public was invited to tour the campground, contact station, residential, and barn areas during the afternoon. [6]

Tenth Anniversary Celebration--November 6, 1982

Later in 1982 the McKittrick Canyon contact station was completed in time to be the focus for the tenth anniversary celebration of the park. Instead of taking place on September 30, the occasion was scheduled for November to coincide with the height of fall colors. The chambers of commerce of Dell City, Van Horn, Sierra Blanca, and Carlsbad exhibited their continuing interest in the park by their promotion of and involvement in the event. The Carlsbad Caverns Natural History Association provided all of the printing services associated with promotion. [7]

Approximately 1,300 people attended the Dutch-treat barbecue prepared and served throughout the day by the Dell City Chamber of Commerce. During the day-long event, park rangers led guided tours into McKittrick Canyon, and trails were open at all times for public use. [8]

The formal program to observe the park's anniversary and to dedicate the McKittrick Canyon contact station recalled the dedication ceremony of 1972. An address by Congressman Richard White, highlighting colorful persons and events related to the park, was the focal point of the program. An Army color guard from Fort Bliss presented and retired the colors, a resident of Van Horn sang the national anthem, and local clergymen gave the invocation and benediction. Superintendent William Dunmire was the master of ceremonies. Honored guests on the speaker's platform were Congressman Ronald Coleman, former Senator Ralph Yarborough, Judge Doyle Ziler of Hudspeth County, Judge John Conoly of Culberson County, and Deputy Regional Director Donald Dayton. Regional Director Robert Kerr presided at the ribbon-cutting to officially open the visitor contact station. [9]

Color Weekends

The "first annual fall color cavalcade" took place in October 1971; 135 people participated in three guided tours of McKittrick Canyon. [10] Each year thereafter park managers watched the development of fall colors and announced the weekends when they anticipated color-viewing would be at its peak. The number of visitors to the canyon during the two or three designated weekends gradually increased to approximately 700 in 1976, jumped to 1,450 in 1978, and nearly doubled again to reach 2,800 in 1979. Although fall visitation fell off in 1981 and 1982, by 1983 it had returned to the peak level of 1979. [11]

By 1986 visitors coming to see the fall colors in McKittrick Canyon had increased to such a point that management decided to institute a new policy for the color weekends in 1987: during those weekends McKittrick Canyon would be administered under an "incident command system" where the gate at the highway would be closed when a certain number of people had entered the canyon. A publicity campaign describing the new policy began early in October 1987. Managers advised the public to visit the park on weekdays if possible, then outlined the procedures for the late- October, early-November weekends. After the 110-car parking lot at the mouth of the canyon was full, additional vehicles would be permitted to enter the canyon only as other vehicles left and parking spaces became available. The news stories suggested alternative locations within the park for color-viewing; they also encouraged large groups, such as bus tours, to make reservations to visit the canyon. The publicity campaign was a valuable effort; park managers received strong public support for the limited access program initiated during the color weekends of 1987. [12]


Last Updated: 23-Apr-2001