Canyons of the Ancients National Monument recently hired a new supervisory park ranger.
For 10 years, Chuck Lassiter has worked for public lands “from the Blue Ridge Mountains to Zion National Park,” but recently landed his dream job.
“It’s a very special area,” he said. “I’m excited to be here and have been eyeing this job for quite some time.”
Lassiter specializes in recreation management and education, and has a vision for the future of CANM and its Anasazi Heritage Center museum.
“One of my priorities is to start a ranger program that will offer educational programs and tours of archaeological sites, but also of the flora and fauna of the monument,” he said. “Ranger programs are what visitors have come to expect.”
They will begin in June and be based out of the Anasazi Heritage Center near Dolores.
Lassiter is also charged with solving two pressing problems on the monument: improving the parking situation at the Sand Canyon Trailhead and working with the county to repair and maintain County Road 10.
“Moving forward on a solution for these two issues have my full attention,” he said. “I am persistent, and know these are a big concern for the county and community.”
To alleviate crowding at Sand Canyon, the monument purchased the adjacent Lamb House property to expand the parking lot. However, officials realized that more planning and mitigation is needed to avoid sensitive cultural sites, Lassiter said.
What will be done with the historic Lamb House is undecided, he said, and requires additional study and funding. Ideas for the building range from a visitor information center to a field research station for archaeologists.
County Road 10 crosses the monument and is a designated tourist route to multiple ruin sites, including nearby Hovenweep National Monument.
But the paved road is deteriorating badly and repairing the road is a challenge because of federal requirements to protect ruins sites near the road.
“In some cases, the road crosses through ruins,” Lassiter said. “We are moving forward in partnership with the county to create a plan that preserves sensitive sites while allowing the road to be worked on.”
Lassiter will also look into improving access to the monument to ease pressure at the popular Sand Canyon trail network.
“There is some opportunity for accessing other parts of the monument,” he said. “My philosophy is multiple use. It is the public’s land.”
He said that expanding the education and interpretation programs is key for the archeology rich monument that is seeing more and more visitors.
“The model is still an outdoor museum, and being able to see archaeological sites up close makes this monument unique,” he said. “We want to balance recreation, conservation, and education and teach proper etiquette around cultural sites.”