‘Friends of the Sandia Mountains’ volunteer time to ensure safe nature areas

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – One of the best things about New Mexico is how close you are to the outdoors – especially in the metro where the Sandia Mountains are right in your backyard!

If you’ve ever enjoyed the trails and picnic areas – even the parking lots – you’ve got dozens of volunteers to thank, including Sam Beard who co-founded the Friends of the Sandia Mountains back in 1997. A district ranger had written a letter where "he asked us to start a non-profit," Beard explained.

Rav Nicholson is another volunteer who works with her husband.

"A big part of what we do is maintain the hiking trails and very often there are windfalls that impact the hiking trails," Nicholson explained. "There are trees that infringe on the hiking trails that could pose a danger so we go out and remove those too."

Now, 24 years later, the organization has grown to well over a hundred people, including Lou Romero. Romero retired from the U.S. Forest Service but he could never be far from the trees.

"I discovered the Friends of the Sandia Mountains," Romero said. "It gave me an opportunity to go back outdoors where I grew up and do this kind of stuff."

The Forest Service’s seven-word motto, "Caring for the land and serving the people", represents what he is all about.

"It really represents what the Friends of the Sandia Mountains do," Romero explained. "We care for the mountains and serve the people every day that we’re out here."

The group’s latest project includes replacing the posts surrounding the parking lot to prevent vehicles from damaging or destroying the place.

"The real reward in volunteering is seeing the results of your work knowing that you made a contribution to make the Sandia Mountains a better place for everybody," Nicholson said. "The idea is provide a place where people so close to a treasure like this can come out and recreate in ways that they enjoy and do it in as safe a manner as possible."

Most of the volunteers are retired but they are always looking for younger people to get involved.