Los Caminos Wins Scenic Award
National Recognition for a Colorado Byway
Preserving a historic 500-acre ranch in the San Luis Valley is netting the Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic & Historic Byway an award from the National Scenic Byway Foundation.
The organization presented Los Caminos with its Beautification Community Award at its annual symposium Thursday night for completing the “Rancho la Luz – Conejos Ranchland Initiative – Preserving Wet Meadows” project. Located near the Colorado/New Mexico border, the open ranchland is an integral part of the Valley and Conejos County’s agricultural landscape. It also provides a backdrop for visitors traveling along Colorado Highway 142 (photo below).
“We are honored to receive this national award, recognizing not only for the successful effort to protect important agricultural land but the unique and beautiful scenery, history, culture, heritage and traditions not found anywhere else,” said Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area Interim Director Julie Chacon. “As one of the four oldest ranches and permanent settlements in Colorado, preserving Rancho la Luz, which was settled more than 150 years ago, will help provide a cultural experience and help people visualize what life would have been like for the earliest Spanish settlers.”
Colorado’s Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic Byway explores the wide and flat expanse of the valley floor that served as a gateway into Colorado for Spanish explorers arriving from the south. As a result, the state’s oldest communities can be found here. The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area oversees the Byway.
“It took a long-term commitment and a substantial amount of work from all the various partners for this conservation effort to succeed,” said CDOT’s Byways Program Manager Lenore Bates. “This easement truly exemplifies the spirit of our Byways program, a permanent commitment that will preserve the scenic and cultural qualities of this landscape along the Los Caminos Byway forever. It’s great to see it recognized at the national level.”
A $230,000 grant from Great Colorado Outdoors helped protect Rancho la Luz. Preservation of the property, which is part of a growing block of conserved land in Conejos County, is a function of the Conejos Ranchland Initiative, a partnership between Colorado Open Lands, Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust, and the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust.
Initially, John and Mary Lou Salazar, core conservators of Ranch la Luz, repurchased much of the property to keep the ranch intact. In addition to GOCO and CCALT, partners included the Natural Resource Conservation Service, Colorado Rio Grande Basin Implementation Plan, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Conejos County Commissioners.
More information about the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area and the Byway is available here: www.sangreheritage.org.
CDOT established the Scenic and Historic Byways program in 1989. In addition to supporting the state’s 26 byways, the program also supports two All-American Roads, 10 National Forest Scenic Byways, and two Bureau of Land Management Backcountry Byways. The statewide system is comprised of nearly 2,600 miles of roadway through 48 of Colorado’s 64 counties.