24 Jun 2016

Notes from the Road: Alonso Rael Property

Woman near poolside at Sunrise Springs Resort swimming pool

The swimming pool is open and warming up. Sunrise has new golf carts and the Sunrise staff has been working on putting the new beds on the backs. The replacing of all the patio gates at the casitas is complete as is the repair of the Moonhouse deck. The addition of the shade-sails to the deck has added a neat, almost sculptural feature, to the building.

The annual cleaning for the koi pond went well and the fish and plants are enjoying their nicely cleaned habitat. There are new plantings along the water fall by the spa entrance and new flagstone in the hydrotherapy area.

We have spotted two types of Tanagers migrating through the area at the moment. If you see a small almost all red bird, that is the Summer Tanager, the bright yellow bird with the red head is the Western Tanager. There have also been sightings along the pond of a pair of possibly mating Kingfishers.

Alonso Rael Property
Over a hill, along the Santa Fe River, in between the community of La Cienguilla and the Tres Rios Ranch, sits the two home community of El Canon. Once the home to several families, El Canon is now home to one family and the historic Rael Farm and house. The Rael Farm is approximately 35 acres and was acquired by the BLM a few years ago. It consists of about 10 acres of irrigated farmland, fruit trees and a garden area with the remaining acreage used for grazing cows. The irrigated farmland is fed by a mile long acequia (ditch) that comes off the Santa Fe River.

BLM had already acquired most of the much larger Rael Ranch but the property in El Canon only became available after Alonso Rael passed. The BLM has designated the Ranch and adjoining lands as an “Area of Critical Environmental Concern” (ACEC) and after a specific BLM process the more recently acquired Rael Farm will be incorporated into that designation.  ACECs are intended to protect important riparian corridors, threatened and endangered species habitats, cultural and archeological resources and unique scenic landscapes that the BLM assesses as in need of special management attention.

On a Saturday, in February, a small group of residents, at the invitation of the BLM field office, toured the Rael Farm and house. That afternoon, the group, which included a number of Rael family relatives, met in the La Cienega Community Center to talk with BLM representatives about the future of the property. There was a general agreement that the property and house would maintain its agricultural heritage, there will be limited access to the farm and the possibility was raised that it might be used to share the history of our community’s farming/ranching history. 

BLM has cleaned up and painted the off the grid house (no running water or electricity) house, pruned the fruit trees and cut back large overhanging branches that were threatening the house. Down the road there is the chance that BLM may be looking for a caretaker – tenant farmer to manage the property. The family stories of Alonso Rael and his brother Leo were insights into a community character, who loved, and was loved, by many.

It is hopeful that one-day Sunrise Springs guests will be able to visit this special place in the valley.

Guest Comments from the Road
Over the last two weeks every guest I have taken to the airport has indicated they are coming back and letting their friends and family know about the wonderful experience they have had here. That’s a great compliment. From someone who has several years of experience in the hospitality industry I have been surprised and quite impressed by the emotional connection we make with our guests and how they express that emotion when they are departing. Hugs and kisses aren’t normally part of driver’s duties when taking someone to the airport, and I know those hugs and kisses are meant for staff.

Carl DickensCarl Dickens began working at Sunrise Springs in 1984, the same year he and his family moved to the valley. Carl remained at Sunrise Springs for five years, and later returned in September of 2012. Carl is active in the local community and is passionate about the history of the area, preserving its agricultural traditions, and water conservation.