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Over the Hump

A Sept. 30 celebration on Silver City's Boston Hill marks the mining-reclamation project's progress, honors itspast and looks to its future.

 

Joseph Gendron lets out a huge breath of relief. "For me, it'll be a time to go, 'Whew!'" he says with a laugh. He's talking about the upcoming celebration at Silver City's Boston Hill, an open-space project that has restored an old mining site into a recreational and educational area for locals and visitors. Gendron is the Brownfields Coordinator for the Boston Hill project and Trails & Open Space Coordinator for the Town of Silver City.

"We want to get people out there who haven't been out there,” he says, "to see what's been done and what recreational opportunities have been created through this project."

The Sept. 30 event is timed to coincide with National Public Lands Day, and will include recreational hiking, biking, refreshments, live music and a presentation by David Simon, New Mexico State Parks director.

Nancy Cliff, a volunteer with the Boston Hill project who has been helping coordinate the celebration, says the event will start at Silver City's Gough Park. "It will be a place where people can convene and park," Cliff says.

Participants will be shuttled in intervals by Corre Caminos Transit to various hiking trailheads on the hill, choosing from half-mile, one-mile and two-mile options. Trail maps will be given out and all hikes will convene at a central point on the hill for the celebration.

A biking group, led by Jamie Thompson, director of Big Brothers/Big Sisters and youth biking programs in Silver City, will ride a trail up the hill and convene with the hikers at the celebratory destination. There also will be a wheelchair-accessible option.

 

Boston Hill—a series of three hills, actually—is an historic mining area that lies at the southeastern extremity of the Silver City Range immediately southwest of Silver City. The area is composed of 500 acres of intermingled public and private land, 70 acres of which are managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

The Town of Silver City purchased a majority of the claims associated with Boston Hill in 1999 as the town's first open-space acquisition. The purchase was made possible in large part by a donation from Lennie Merle Forward, a generous area resident who has made similar bequests to the Silver City Library and Silver City Museum, and whose name adorns the Besse-Forward Global Resource Center at Western New Mexico University.

Area resident Susie Siedentop was the first person to consider the Boston Hill site for green space preservation, Cliff says. Other key people in the effort's early days were Herbie Marsden, Katy Belt, Mike Alecksen and Gary Klauss, she adds.

"There was a core group of people who brought us through that grueling process of purchasing the property, and without whose efforts the project would never have progressed to what it is today," Cliff says. "We are indebted to their vision and their hard work."

The town wrote a grant in 2000, according to Gendron, to make the site a Brownfields Pilot Project. The Brownfields program is a federal effort designed to clean up areas that have been contaminated by industry, such as mining. The focus of the Boston Hill proposal was the contamination issue, Gendron says, not safety or hazardous materials, as many Brownfields projects are.

In 2001, the town obtained the Brownfields grant and work began to remediate the site and create the recreation trails. Many volunteers, including workers from the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC), hauled dirt and removed barbed wire, old chain-link fencing and other hazards.

Gendron says an archaeological survey found abandoned mine shafts that had not been mitigated in the early 1990s when they should have been. These don't pose a hazard to bikers or hikers in the area, however, as they are not near the recreation trails and are posted with warnings to keep people away. Some of the volunteers also mitigated the shafts' danger during their restoration work, he adds.

The work crews gathered up the large amount of barbed wire that had been left around the site, as well as the old chain-link fencing the mining company had put around the mines that vandals had clipped and destroyed. Gendron says, "They gathered it all up and stuffed it in the shafts," getting rid of the hazardous fencing materials and reducing the chance that hikers might fall into the shafts. "We killed two birds with one stone."

 

In addition to its 10 miles of trails for recreational use, Boston Hill has lessons to teach about its mining history. Certain mine features, including underground workings, are slated to be mapped and studied, to see if they can be preserved and made safe for educational purposes. The Waste-Management Education & Research Consortium (WERC) of New Mexico, an environmental educational program administered through the College of Engineering at New Mexico State University, will provide closure and overall project design under an agreement with the BLM.

If You Go:

A Celebration of Boston Hill Recreational Area and National Public Lands Day

September 30

Gather at Gough Park. Corre Caminos will shuttle participants to trailheads,

9:30 a.m.
First shuttle to two-mile hike from Spring Street trailhead

10 a.m.
Shuttle to one-mile hike from Cheyenne trailhead

10:30 a.m.
Shuttle to half-mile hike from Market Street trailhead

A bike group will go up from Cooper Street trailhead (call for details). Wheelchair access (call for details). Trail maps will be distributed at the event

All hikes will lead to a central gathering point on the hill for celebration with a presentation by New Mexico State Parks Director David Simon. Refreshments and live music.

Return shuttles to Gough Park start at 12:20 p.m., in 20-minute intervals.

The first mining in the Boston Hill area occurred in the early 1870s after considerable prospecting for silver. The silver ore, however, did not occur in significant quantities compared to the neighboring districts at Chloride Flats and Fleming Camp.

The hills came to be called Boston Hill around 1880 after the Massachusetts and New Mexico Mining Company (also known as the "Boston Company") purchased the Legal Tender claim. By 1883, the company was in financial trouble and the mine changed hands once again.

The principal ore mined on Boston Hill was manganiferous iron ore. A considerable quantity of fluxing ore—an ore containing an appreciable amount of valuable metal, but which must be smelted to extract the more valuable content because it contains other agents—was shipped to smelters at El Paso and Socorro. The ores also supplied the local Silver City smelters until they closed in 1907.

A narrow-gauge (24-inch) railroad was built around the south and west side of Boston Hill in 1906 to reach the mines at Pinos Altos. The railroad was plagued with problems and ceased operations around 1908. Mining activity on Boston Hill ceased in the early 1970s and soon after the railroad company pulled up its tracks and left town. Remnants of the rail bed remain, a bit of history still visible in the hills today.

While celebrating present achievements, Gendron also is looking to Boston Hill's future. Donors and volunteers are needed, he says, to continue improvements at the site and to maintain it.

He says, "I hope that when people see this project, and the wonderful recreational opportunities available on this piece of land, that others will step up and help take care of the place."

For more information about the event and Boston Hill, contact Joseph Gendron, brownfields@zianet.com, 534-6367.

—Donna Clayton Lawder

 

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