With facilities more than 25 years old and subject to ever-increasing use, the Socorro Nature Area in the bosque near Lemitar is undergoing a much-needed facelift.
The work, which includes an accessible parking pad and 50 feet of new sidewalk to make the access easier to the restroom, informational kiosk and shade shelter, said Darren Scott, public affairs specialist for the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the area and is doing the work.
The nature area will remain open during the construction, he said.
“For visitor safety, the areas where construction is taking place have been marked by safety cones and barrels,” Scott said. “With signs announcing construction is taking place.”
The work also includes replacing two wood shelters and the wooden viewing deck, as well as 12 picnic tables and 15 benches, he said.
Three old kiosks also will be replaced, and a new drip irrigation system will be installed, Scott said.
Covering 120 acres, the nature area is important as an environmental education resource within the Rio Grande Bosque, he said.
It includes a 1/2 –mile, self-guiding nature walk with interpretive signs, a pond, and an amphitheater, where such events as hawk demonstrations are conducted.
“Since its original development in 1994, the area has seen a significant increase in its use and the demand on its facilities,” Scott said. “The project is designed to update the area and its facilities using modern technology and building materials, supporting the American’s Great Outdoors Campaign, while also ensuring the area is safe and accessible for all visitors.”
While the nature area is mostly sawgrass meadow, the wildlife area is attached to the bosque and its boundaries extend to the Rio Grande. Wildlife that needs wooded areas are often seen in the bosque, such as the Swainson’s hawk, which nests in the bosque’s many cottonwoods.
In addition to the developed footpath, intrepid hikers can scramble east from the nature area, crossing a metal footbridge above the low-flow conveyance channel to reach the river.
The nature area is reached via the Lemitar Exit at Milepost 156 on I-25m then by traveling east on NM 408 for 1.1 miles to the railroad tracks. Past the tracks, turn right at a “T” intersection and follow the signs to a maintained dirt county road that leads to the parking area.