Home Environmental education New Mexico ranch wants to use Wildfire to educate kids and people with disabilities – The 74

New Mexico ranch wants to use Wildfire to educate kids and people with disabilities – The 74

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CLEVELAND, NM — Lessons learned from the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon fire could soon be taught to people with disabilities and students at a ranch that was saved through fire suppression efforts.

Collins Lake Ranch, a 300-acre property surrounded by forest in Mora County, is a full-time home for people with disabilities and their coaches.

Yurts are surrounded by trees at Collins Lake Ranch on Monday, September 12. (Megan Gleason/Source NM)

Steve Smaby, the owner of the facility, said the blaze burned about 150 acres, but the ranch was spared severe fire damage due to burn backs ignited on the outskirts of the property. .

Steve Smaby is the owner of Collins Lake Ranch. Photographed on Monday September 12. (Megan Gleason/Source NM)

“In my opinion, it saved the place,” he said.

More than 340,000 acres and hundreds of structures in surrounding communities were destroyed by the wildfire. Thanks to the efforts of the fire crews, no facilities on the ranch were damaged and other than some flooding and road damage, the ranch came out relatively unscathed.

Flooding created silt and clogged a culvert near a road in Collins Lake Ranch. Pictured on Monday September 12. (Megan Gleason/Source NM)

Now Smaby wants to use this as a learning experience for children and people with disabilities. He said the wildfire had amplified his ambition to create an environmental learning centre.

“They can see what fire is. And now we have a perfect example. Here is a place where the fire has burned. That’s where it didn’t work,” Smaby said. “It’s a learning lab.”

During the pandemic, when schools were closed, Smaby bought WiFi, invited a few teachers and opened the doors to the ranch for students to learn. “We really changed some of their lives,” he said.

When the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon fire tore through the north over the summer, it threatened this operation. Everyone on the ranch was evacuated in April, Smaby said. This was costly and especially difficult for autistic residents who did not accept the change well and did not understand why they could not return home.

Burnt trees stand around the ranch on Monday, September 12. (Megan Gleason/Source NM)

But they had a home to come back to in May. Not everyone in Mora County could say the same.

Smaby wants to continue to focus on ranch education. Soon, Collins Lake will offer once-a-week outdoor classes for students and children, Smaby said, with activities including seeding and fire education. He said other groups have also popped up, such as religious or environmental groups.

“Every child should be able to spend time outdoors,” he said.

Source New Mexico is part of States Newsroom, a network of news outlets supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Source New Mexico maintains editorial independence. Contact editor-in-chief Marisa Demarco for any questions: [email protected] Follow Source New Mexico on Facebook and Twitter.


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