The City of Socorro is leasing 654 acres of state land adjacent to the Box Canyon Recreation Area for the next 40 years, giving greater recreational access to the public.

Under the agreement, climbers will no longer be required to obtain a separate recreational permit to access the “Fight Club,” a famously challenging boulder sought after by rock climbing enthusiasts.  The city intends to make further improvements to the land that will enhance the outdoor recreation experience, such as connector trails to link the parcel to existing recreation areas, as well as signage and other amenities.

“The City of Socorro recognizes the value of promoting outdoor recreation in the area as an engine of economic development,” said Socorro Mayor Ravi Bhasker. “We are making the City of Socorro and Socorro County a center for outdoor activities with the help of the State Land Office.”

The Socorro City Council approved the agreement in February. The city will pay the state’s Commercial Resources Division an annual rent, beginning at $5,100 and increasing every five years.In the final year of 2062, rent will be $10,000.

The partnership is the result of several years of collaboration between the City of Socorro, the State Land Office, BLM and local stakeholders.

“New Mexico’s outdoor enthusiasts know that access challenges make recreating in our Land of Enchantment difficult at times. That’s where the State Land Office comes in,” said New Mexico Commissioner of Public Lands Stephanie Garcia Richard. “With over 13 million acres under our purview, we can open doors for communities around the state and help them access public land in their vicinity.

“Outdoor recreation is an economic driver here in New Mexico and is an area that requires even more investment, which is why I have made expanding access to the outdoors one of my top priorities since taking office. Socorro’s leaders understand the important role recreational opportunities play in a community’s quality of life, and we are excited to partner with the city to enhance these experiences for their residents and visitors.”

Within one year of signing the lease and before any improvements are made, the City of Socorro will be required to submit a Site Stewardship Plan to the State Land Office regarding proposed recreational activities at the site.

Commissioner Garcia Richard established the first Office of Outdoor Recreation within the State Land Office. According to a press release from her office, the Commissioner streamlined the outdoor recreation permitting process, enabling users to pay permit application fees by credit card online and removing the requirement that applications be notarized in person. These changes have resulted in a 425 percent increase in the number of outdoor recreation permits processed since fiscal year 2018.

Correction: The title of this story was changed from ‘City lease will improve access to BLM land’ to ‘City lease will improve access to state lands’

Chieftain Staff Report