Ramona Malczynski – Partners are our Passion!

This summer I will be helping build and maintain relationships with National Park Service National Trails Office partners who manage certified sites along four Hispanic Heritage Trails: El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, El Camino de los Tejas, the Santa Fe Trail, and the Old Spanish Trail. Partners are crucial to preserving these trails, because the National Trails Office only administers the trails, but does not manage any land along the trails. Land management is up to our partners who range from local government officials, to private landowners, to museum directors and more. We also work closely with trail associations composed of people passionate about preserving these trails who have a wealth of knowledge on the history of the trails and the individuals and communities that have current connections to them.

In the past weeks, I have been helping compile information on our certified sites and putting this information into a format that is easy to use when we do outreach to partners. I also went on my first two site visits last week!

I got in the NPS van with the National Trails Office History Team and had a productive meeting with a member of the Old Spanish Trail Association about current and potential certified sites. Then, we went to visit a certified site on El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, Casa San Ysidro in Corrales, New Mexico. This was an excellent experience for me to see what our certified site partners do, how we can work together and the incredible places to visit along the national historic trails. I had never been to Casa San Ysidro despite spending most of my life nearby this amazing place.

We enjoyed a tour of Casa San Ysidro that included seeing furniture from the 17th century, tin work from a famous colonial period artist in New Mexico, and additions to the historic site built by the former owner and the Albuquerque Museum for educational purposes. Afterward, the History Team and I met with the Site Manager and Curator of History to talk about our partnership with them as a certified site and how we can continue to work together in the future. One of the main goals is to have our certified site partners provide information for our website and social media so our digital media champion, Em Kessler, can make pages like this one for each site: https://www.nps.gov/places/gutierrez-hubbell-house.htm.

The Site Manager of Casa San Ysidro is explaining how this hallway acts as a natural cooling system for the original structure of the house built in the 17th century.
Check out the tin work hanging on the wall on the left side of the photo. Tin work made from recycled tin was popular in colonial New Mexico because of a metal shortage.
This is a photo of Guy and I in Casa San Ysidro’s Sala Grande, constructed by the Minges, who bought this property in the mid-20th century, and members of Acoma Pueblo. They built this part of the house using traditional methods to imitate what a historic structure would look like.
Some of the wood is from artifacts and is hundreds of years old.

The next day, the History Team got back in the NPS van, this time prepared with lots of water, snacks, and sunscreen. We went to Ribera, New Mexico to meet with a member of the Santa Fe Trail association who found some swales that he thought might be what we call a high potential site or segment. A swale is a landform that looks like a shallow ditch, and at our office when we say “swale” we mean a shallow ditch created by erosion of the soil around wagon ruts. Swales can indicate where wagons passed on historic trails and can become historic or interpretive sites if there is enough historic evidence that people traveled on them and if their location could provide a positive visitor experience.

This is a photo of the second swale we saw in Ribera. We assessed if this swale could be considered a high potential site or segment based on its length, if the landscape around it looks similar to during the period of historic significance, and more.
This is a photo of Guy, our Santa Fe Trail Association partner, and I walking along the first swale to measure its length.
We were covered up to protect us from the sun.

We walked along the two swales our partner identified recording their length and rating them using a National Trails Office framework for identifying high potential sites and segments. It was extremely hot and although it seems counter-intuitive, I wore long sleeves, a hat and a gaiter to protect me from the sun. One of the historians, Guy, wore a sun hoodie and we thought he looked like he was on a space expedition.

After two days of site visits in the heat, we relaxed a bit and had lunch with our Santa Fe Trail partner in Pecos. These first two days of working with partners directly showed me how important partners are to the work of the National Trails Office. Preserving national historic trails would not be possible without them. It was so insightful to hear about how our partners became involved in historic preservation, the work they do with their trail associations throughout the year and what challenges they identify.

I am looking forward to presenting my project with the National Trails Office highlighting the importance of partners and how the Office works with them at the end of the summer!

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