Regional
6:30 pm
Tue September 3, 2013

White Sands Monument Cuts Hours Amid Budget, Safety Concerns

White Sands National Monument is cutting back hours by one hour in the morning and about another hour at night.

The end of the busy summer season is here, but there are other reasons for the cuts.

It’s well-known the traffic and travel of summer dies down after Labor Day.

The hours are pulled back at places where tourists have been visiting all summer.

One such place is White Sands National Monument. If it wasn’t so hot, you might think the sand was snow.

“This is a plastic flying saucer they use in the snow…the kids use it and slide in the sand dunes just like they were in the snow…it’s fun to watch ‘em.”

Half a million people visit this monument each year…. It’s the most visited in New Mexico.

Even though it’s popular, the National Park Service cut its budget by $81,000. With that cut, a change in hours.

A lot of the visitors who are here come from the rest of the country, and they’re not too happy to hear about the change because, like the rest of us they pay federal tax.

“They should really think twice about where our money is going. As a taxpayer, it’s sad that this is what it’s come to.”

The superintendent of the monument, Marie Sauter, decided to cut back the hours, opening at 8 am instead of 7 am…and closing an hour after sunset instead of at 10 pm.

Thing is, Sauter is saving money by sharing equipment among other ways, not by changing the hours. That’s for another reason…safety concerns.

There are a little over a dozen workers to handle the half million visitors and this summer was especially taxing.

“They’ve been very tired lately”

During a rescue operation, help is needed from White Sands Missile Range and Holloman Air Force Base.

Not all the visitors are upset about the hours changing.

“…the sun’s going to go down early anyway.”

When the sun goes down is exactly when Sauter begins to worry.

Visitors have become lost in the daylight, but nighttime is when the risk is much higher.

Sauter says visitors always need to do some preparing of their own when they enter the sands.

“We recommend a gallon of water sunscreen and we all wear long sleeves even in the summer…and take snacks.”

The new hours will last through the end of the year.

You can still register to backcountry camp and request to enter the monument early. You will need to give seven days notice to enter earlier than 8am.