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Arboretum at NMSU's Tucumcari science center is educational walking trail

TUCUMCARI - Individuals and educational groups are invited to meander their way through an outdoor arboretum near Tucumcari to learn more about the trees and plant life around them as well as to enjoy being in the outdoors.

Attendees at the inauguration of the Eastern New Mexico Outdoor Arboretum enjoyed sharing anecdotes about trees in the shade of a pecan at New Mexico State University's Agricultural Science Center at Tucumcari. (NMSU photo by Darrell J. Pehr)

Leonard Lauriault, a forage agronomist at New Mexico State University's Agricultural Science Center at Tucumcari, said the arboretum is available to civic and educational groups, such as 4-H, FFA and science and horticulture classes. The general public also is invited to come out and walk the path described as "an oasis of trees in the midst of a sea of native grassland."

"We have a really good opportunity here to show people what kinds of things they can grow in their own yard through the arboretum," Lauriault said. It is also a way for people to get outside and into nature and see the trees around them.

Through the walking trail, people can learn about tree identification and horticulture. Signs are posted along the way briefly describing the trees and shrubs. Along the trail, people can learn about such things as wild grapes, a variety of fruit trees, and black willow, live oak, cedar and Ponderosa pine trees, among other trees and shrubs.

The arboretum was made possible by a $10,424 grant from the New Mexico Soil and Water Conservation Commission and includes a drip irrigation system as part of the demonstration.

Prior to conducting research in irrigated agriculture, the center evaluated trees for windbreak and farmstead plantings leading to the establishment of more than 50 species of trees and shrubs on the center grounds.

With a drought in 2001, and limited irrigation water, several trees perished. With the help of the grant funding, the remnants of those trees and newly planted ones make up the arboretum today. There are currently more than 70 species of trees and shrubs in the arboretum.

"We're going to be adding more in the future," Lauriault said. "We designed it to be expandable."

Lauriault said the walking trail could take from 30 minutes to two hours to complete, depending on the speed of the walker and how much of the trail they wish to cover. The walking trail winds its way around the science center.

Lauriault said that though the walking trail is self-guided, groups and individuals can schedule an appointment for a more in-depth guided tour. Whether someone chooses to walk the path alone or with a guide, Lauriault recommends that people call ahead so they will know that people are on the trail. He added that the researchers at the center operate between 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Arrangements can be made for tours during the weekend.

The Agricultural Science Center at Tucumcari has been in operation since 1912 and is New Mexico State University's oldest off-campus research facility.

The center is located 3 miles northeast of Tucumcari and Interstate 40 on U.S. Highway.

To make an appointment or for questions, call Lauriault at (575) 461-1620 A descriptive brochure is available online at http://tucumcarisc.nmsu.edu/documents/eastern-nm-outdoor-arboretum-brochure.pdf.