An Administrative History
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Development of the park proceeded by steps, with temporary facilities serving until permanent ones were planned, funded, and constructed. For the first decade of park operation, personnel utilized existing or temporary facilities for employee housing and maintenance activities at Signal Peak and Dog Canyon. They also made do with temporary facilities for visitor contact at Frijole, McKittrick Canyon, and Dog Canyon; with temporary campgrounds; and with the existing trails, boundary fence, and roads to McKittrick Canyon and Dog Canyon until permanent improvements were made.

Residential Area for Park Personnel

From 1962 through 1963, Ranger Peter Sanchez lived at the Ship on the Desert; Roger Reisch also lived there after he took over Sanchez's position in 1964. In 1966, after Congress authorized the park, Noel Kincaid, foreman for J. C. Hunter, Jr., continued to live at the ranch house at Frijole and kept an eye on that area of the yet-to-be established park. However, after the Kincaids moved from Frijole in 1969, Reisch believed he could supervise the entire park better from Frijole than from the isolation of the Ship on the Desert location, so he asked to move to the old ranch house, even though he knew the house was well below the housing standards of the Park Service. In 1972, when John Chapman became the Chief of Operations for Guadalupe Mountains, he and his family moved into the Ship on the Desert. The Ship served as housing for area managers until completion of the permanent residential area in 1982. Reisch lived at Frijole until he became ranger for the Dog Canyon district in 1980. [1]

In 1972, in addition to Chapman, several other full-time employees were assigned to the park and needed housing nearby. The site of the Signal Peak Service Station, on one of the non-park sections of land acquired from J. C. Hunter, Jr., had electrical service and water could be piped to the area from Guadalupe Spring. Management selected this site, several miles west of the Pine Springs area, at the foot of Guadalupe Pass, for the temporary housing area. Three double-wide trailers and one single-wide trailer, all used, served as housing. During the next two years, the water and sewage systems at the site were upgraded. In 1976 contractors completed a new well; in 1977 it was connected to the water system, permitting abandonment of the unreliable line to Guadalupe Spring. As the staff of the park grew, management found more used trailers to add to the housing area (see Figure 22). The maintenance shops also were located at Signal Peak. By 1980, the Park Service had made a considerable investment in the site at Signal Peak. Management believed that although the site was outside the park boundaries, the well-developed water system at Signal Peak was a valuable asset which could be of future use to the park. [2]

park housing
Figure 22. From 1973 to 1982, park personnel lived in this temporary housing area west of the park, below Signal Peak. As the staff grew, management added more used trailers. The maintenance shops for the park also were located in this area. (NPS Photo)

The Master Plan approved in 1976 placed the permanent residential area near Pine Springs, south of U.S. Highway 62/180. During the master planning process, environmental groups opposed placing the housing and maintenance facilities on the north side of the highway where natural screening was available but the major resource was closer. They agreed to the location on the south side of the highway in spite of the fact that less natural screening was available there. Planners provided for screening of the residential area by earth berms and vegetation irrigated by sewage grey water. [3]

Even before approval of the Master Plan, however, park planners began seeking an adequate water source for all of the development anticipated for the Pine Springs area. In 1973, a well drilled north of the Frijole ranch house, near the mouth of Smith Canyon, failed the pump test. In 1974, Garland Moore, Hydrologist for the Southwest Region, selected a new well site at the mouth of Pine Canyon, near a former Texaco well site. Moore expected drilling to go to 5,000 feet. However, the drillers hit water at 2,673 feet and completed the well in 1976. [4]

After approval of the Master Plan, design work for the residential area progressed rapidly. The architects, a joint venture involving Pacheco and Graham of Albuquerque and Fred Buxton Associates of Houston, met with Park Service representatives in the fall of 1977 to establish design guidelines and concepts. They also met with the residents of the Signal Peak housing area to survey the desires and needs of the people who would live in the new residences. [5]

In December 1979, the initial phase of construction began. McCormick Construction Company, Inc. of El Paso won the contract for construction of roads and utilities in the Pine Springs area; the bid was $1,383,292. The contract included construction of an entrance road, picnic parking area, and restrooms in the campground area north of Highway 62/180, as well as the roads, utility system, water diversion and distribution facilities, and sewage collection and disposal facilities in the residential area south of the highway. Early in 1980, Kent Nicholl of Ramah, New Mexico, bidding $236,000, received the contract for construction of the sewage treatment plant. Nicholl completed the treatment plant in July 1980, but McCormick did not complete the roads and utilities contract until July 1981, considerably behind schedule. [6]

Federal law required all government agencies to negotiate a certain percentage of construction contracts through the U.S. Small Business Administration under the Minority Business Program. In government jargon these were called "8(a) contracts," referring to that section of the legislation that the contracts fulfilled. Under 8(a) contracts, the Small Business Administration was the contractor; a sub-contractor, the minority business, did the work. By early 1980 Superintendent Donald Dayton was frustrated by the 8(a) process. In a briefing document outlining the major issues affecting the park, he addressed the contracting problem: "Excessive delays in negotiating, and unreasonable cost estimates . . ., are causing large losses to the park in what it can expect to obtain from available funds, due to inflationary increases during the long delays. SBA has had letter contracts on three major park projects for 15 months and the projects are still not negotiated." [7]

In October 1980, Park Service officials announced the completion of negotiations with the Small Business Administration for the contract for construction of the housing and maintenance facilities at Pine Springs. The Small Business Administration designated El Paso Builders as the sub-contractor. Included in the contract, which amounted to $1,842,861, were ten three-bedroom and two two-bedroom family units for permanent employees, two two-bedroom apartments, two studio apartments, and three duplex apartments comprising six one-bedroom units. The contract also included a building for maintenance shops and offices. Because construction estimates submitted by the Small Business Administration were much higher than planners anticipated, Park Service negotiators were forced to cut costs for the project. They elected to eliminate the multi-purpose community building planned for the residential area as well as two buildings in the maintenance area, a parking garage for maintenance and ranger vehicles and a storage building for flammable materials. Cost-cutting also forced managers to eliminate the screening measures planned for the residential area. [8]

In February 1981 construction began on the housing and maintenance areas, with completion scheduled for October 1981. In his annual report for that year, William Dunmire, who replaced Dayton as Superintendent in February 1981, noted cryptically that there had been a number of problems associated with the project, problems he hoped would soon be resolved. Jay Bright, a planner from the Denver Service Center who managed the project, spoke less guardedly about some of the problems when he wrote to the Regional Director late in June 1981. He reported that three of the modular residences had been placed and a fourth was on the road. The positions of driveways made maneuvering the truck trailers difficult; Bright predicted continuing damage to road shoulders until all units had been placed. He also noted that the swamp coolers for the installed units had no water supply pipes, but he admitted that the plans had been vague on this matter and suggested that the contractor might justifiably submit a claim for increased costs. [9]

In March 1982 the builders re-roofed all of the new housing because of the inadequacy of the original roofing. This was the last major problem prior to final inspections and approval of both the housing and maintenance areas, which took place early in April 1982. Figure 23 shows part of the residential area, the duplex apartments for seasonal employees. After moving employees to new residences and offices, management sold as surplus all but three of the mobile homes which had been in use at Signal Peak, retaining two 12x60-foot trailers to reuse at Dog Canyon and the third, a double-wide, to serve as the community center for the new residential area. Later in 1982, O&A Contractors of El Paso constructed the paint storage building that had been eliminated from the 8(a) contract for the maintenance area; the cost was $16,997. In 1983, park personnel created a garage for the park's new fire engine from a prefabricated metal building obtained from Salt Flat. [10]

Another type of recycling took place in 1986. In February park personnel planted twenty-eight maple and five madrone trees in the housing area and the campground at Pine Springs. The plants came from a nursery in El Paso and were grown from seeds collected more than ten years earlier from trees in McKittrick Canyon. [11]


Last Updated: 23-Apr-2001