In Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s April 30 address to New Mexico citizens, she announced a phased plan to relax COVID-19 health restrictions now in place for “some” state parks and many businesses.

This announcement, added to an obviously optimistic Facebook post by the Elephant Butte Chamber of Commerce, briefly fueled an anticipation that Elephant Butte Lake State Park (EBLSP) would begin day-use operations on Friday, May 1. 

EBLSP will not be opening for visitors during this initial phase of modified restrictions. 

Following the governor’s address, officials with New Mexico’s Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD) issued a press release, which included a list of eight state park facilities designated to open for day-use only operations on May 1. State parks opening for day-use in this initial phase are; Cimarron Canyon, Ute Lake, Brantley Lake, Sumner Lake, Caballo Lake, Cerrillos Hills, Storrie Lake and Villanueva. 

Officials associated with the EMNRD reportedly stated EBLSP would not be opening at this time due to the large facility’s potential to become a hot spot for COVID-19 transmission. An apparent determination was made that EBLSP would not be able to field sufficient staff members at this time, to effectively manage what could easily become a large crowd of visitors and a considerable health risk. 

While this is certainly disappointing to many Sierra County residents and perennial EBLSP patrons, it was noted that all remaining state park facilities would be opening, as a phased relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions is anticipated to proceed.

While EBLSP is not opening, Sierra County’s Caballo Lake State Park was included on the list and was scheduled to begin welcoming visitors for day-use operation on May 1. 

In the April 30 press release EMNRD authorities said day-use fees would be waived at all facilities through at least May 15, to decrease person-to-person contact. The statement went on to urge patrons to verify park facilities are open before visiting, and to also ascertain information regarding park capacity limits, group size restrictions, available facilities, social distancing updates, visitor etiquette and recommended health supplies. 

The EMNRD statement further provided a list of restrictions in place for parks reopening on May 1. Notable on this list was that all playgrounds and comfort stations would be closed to ensure social distancing, while vault toilets would be available. Group shelter use and/or large organized gatherings will continue to be prohibited, as are campfires, open fires and overnight camping. 

A copy of the EMNRD press release and additional information about all of New Mexico’s State Parks is available through the department’s website (www.emnrd.state.nm.us). Governor Lujan Grisham’s April 30 press release is available through the Office of the Governor website (www.governor.state.nm.us).

(1) comment

Chelsea Morning

I can see both sides of this dilemma, so a possible compromise could be to begin opening EBLSP twice a week, during the week, for daytime use only. If we behave ourselves, keep opening it slowly. If we don't behave, shut it down!

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