How many private landowners do you know who have opened their land to the public or — even better — have enthusiastically encouraged the public to hike, mountain bike and explore their property by horseback? As far-fetched as it sounds, this is exactly what Commonweal Conservancy, a local conservation and community-building nonprofit, has done with the Galisteo Basin Preserve, located five miles south of Eldorado off U.S. 285.

Since its founding in 2003, Commonweal has been working quietly to create one of the largest privately-held, publicly-accessible open space areas in the American West. During the past 12 years, Commonweal has permanently protected more than 7,000 acres of the Preserve’s craggy escarpments, sandstone knolls, sculpted arroyos and savannah grasslands with conservation easements.

And in partnership with REI, the Santa Fe Fat Tire Society, the Trails Alliance, Santa Fe County Horse Coalition and other committed volunteers, Commonweal has built and maintained over 26 miles of publicly-accessible trails for hiking, mountain biking, trail running and equestrian use.

The Preserve has become a beloved recreational resource for thousands of Santa Fe residents and visitors from around the world who enjoy its breathtaking vistas, soulful silence, and exciting single track and multiuse trails that wind through this extraordinary region of Santa Fe County.

But the Preserve is a landscape at risk.

A booming economy fueled Commonweal’s land acquisition, neighborhood development and trail-building program early in the organization’s history. But a seven-year recession has challenged the organization’s creative finance skills of late.

In an effort to sustain its open space, recreational, and community building vision for the Preserve and ensure the permanent protection of more than 12,000 acres within the Galisteo Basin, Commonweal needs our help and support.

Earlier this fall, a small handful of donors pledged $25,000 as challenge grants. If Commonweal can match the $25,000 challenge, dollar for dollar, by Dec. 31, the organization will be able to support its open space and trails work through the coming year.

You can help make sure that this remarkable recreational and open space resource continues to be available for public use for years to come by visiting www.galisteo and clicking the “Donate Now” button to make a tax-deductible contribution. Alternatively, you may mail a donation to Commonweal Conservancy at 117 N. Guadalupe St., Suite C, Santa Fe, NM 87501.

It’s time for the Santa Fe recreation and trails community to step up as partners and investors to ensure the success of the Galisteo Basin Preserve. What better gift to share during the holidays than a gift of trails and wide-open spaces?

Henry Lanman is a member of the Santa Fe Fat Tire Society and of the Trails Alliance of Santa Fe.

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