Volunteer work on the Juan Tabo and La Cueva Picnic Areas, Sandia Ranger District

“Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.”
~Elizabeth Andrew

Rock shelter with mountain landscapeThe Historic Juan Tabo and La Cueva Picnic Areas on the Sandia Ranger District were constructed during the Great Depression by members of the Civilian Conservation Corps. The picnic areas are now unique historic sites that were designed to blend with and complement the surrounding landscape, with picnic tables tucked inside patches of oak trees, and around iconic boulders on the western side of the Sandia Mountains. While the picnic areas have long been a popular destination for forest visitors, in recent years they have been subject to repeated vandalism which has contributed to them falling into disrepair.

Picnic table with mountain landscapeSince 2015, the Forest Service has partnered with members of the community and numerous volunteers to help restore the sites. Almost 1,000 volunteers have participated in the restoration effort over the past 4 ½ years, with some individuals contributing thousands of volunteer hours. One of the latest projects is the restoration of select concrete picnic table tops and benches. The concrete used in the 1930s had a unique green hue that was replicated with the help of graduate students from the University of New Mexico engineering department, who analyzed and developed a mix that has been used in the restoration efforts. Skilled craftsmen from the American Carpenter’s Union have been volunteering weekends over the past year to restore the original table tops. This past weekend, the volunteers worked to reconstruct the benches inside the Juan Tabo Rock Shelter.

The Cibola National Forest and National Grasslands appreciates all the hard work that all our volunteers do.
People with equipment restoring shelter People with equipment restoring the shelter

In fiscal year 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service reported more than 120,000 volunteer and service opportunities on Forest lands and units. Together, volunteers and service participants contributed 5.2 million hours valued at $128.2 million and equivalent to 2,885 full-time employees—nearly 10 percent of the Forest Service permanent workforce. In 2019, the Cibola National Forest and Grasslands had over 430 volunteers participating on various projects across the forest, and 49,371 hours of time contributed by volunteers, partners, youth corps, and organizations.