Uncertain Future for La Luz Trail Run
As you know, the La Luz Trail Run was canceled for 2020. With the pandemic restrictions in place, no one was surprised. What was a surprise is that, without some kind of intervention by our legislators, the 2019 event may have been the last La Luz race.
The La Luz Run started in 1965 and had been run every year since except for one (and now two with 2020 cancellation). In 1978, the Sandia Manzano Wilderness was added to the National Wilderness System. The Wilderness Act was passed by Congress in 1964 and prohibited certain events within established boundaries. The La Luz Run continued to be held under permit from the Cibola National Forest with the assumption that the run was "grandfathered." This was the belief of the running community as well as the Forest Service. The 1985 Forest Use Plan for the Cibola NF even explicitly specified a limit of 400 participants.
In the past few years, the Forest Service has been updating the 1985 Use Plan and they sought to formally reference the Sandia Manzano Wilderness Legislation to justify the existence of the La Luz Trail Run. After exhaustive research, no reference could be found.
With this realization, the Forest Service were left with no alternative but to notify the ABQ Road Runners they would not issue a permit for the event in the future. We were advised that our only alternative was to work with our legislators on a solution for the race to go forward.
After months of investigation and outreach, Kurt Coonrod (ARR President) and ARR friend and attorney Norm Gagne sent letters to New Mexico's federal legislators, Senator Martin Heinrich and Representative Deb Haaland [prior to her confirmation as Secretary of the Interior], in protest of the ruling and in defense of the long-standing tradition of the La Luz Trail Run. Read the letter, linked below.
Subsequent communications between Norm Gagne (himself a multi-year La Luz finisher), Senator Heinrich's office, and the Forest Service brought this report from Norm:
"...it would likely take several years to get new legislation passed with an exemption. There would likely be opposition from outfits like Wilderness Watch and maybe others. On behalf of Senator Heinrich, [his rep] has kicked the issue up to the top of the Forest Service but he expects that the local decision will be supported and no further permits will be issued without a specific legislative exemption. ...The outlook is not promising. ... I think that getting anyone to buy the argument that this was a pre-existing and therefore exempt event is doomed. If there is a path forward, it likely lies in a legislative exemption....
UPDATE: Progress has been made on the legislative side toward getting the La Luz Trail Run restored. We have held meetings with staff from Senator Martin Heinrich's office and Congresswoman Melanie Stansbury’s office. They are in the process of putting together legislation that would reinstate the La Luz Trail Run. We sincerely thank them for their support! Special thanks to club members Kurt Coonrod and Norm Gagne for their contributions to this effort.
Further Reading | Efforts and Responses
Letter from Forest Service disallowing LLTR in 2020.
Letter to Sen. Heinrich & Rep. Deb Haaland, January 30, 2021
Appendix A: A HISTORY OF THE LA LUZ TRAIL RUN
Albuquerque Journal article May 16, 2021, via yahoo!news.
Scanned from Albuquerque Journal:
"La Luz race hits end of trail as Forest Service denies permit." May 16.
"NM's delegation should lead race to get La Luz run back." May 21.
Letter from Wilderness Watch. May 31.
La Luz Trail Run is a nine mile trail race that starts in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains in Albuquerque and finishes at Sandia Crest at an altitude of 10,678’. This is over 4,000’ of elevation climb.
We use a lottery system to fill the 400 allotted slots in the race. The 400 limit is mandated by the United States Forest Service (since much of the race is run through National Forest that has been designated as a Wilderness Area).
The lottery process is open for two weeks on Ultrasignup.com. After the lottery has closed, Ultrasignup will randomly draw all names and compile a list. The first 400 names selected will be entered into the race, charged the registration fee, and notified of their entry.
Those not selected in the first 400 will be placed on a waiting list in the same order as their names were randomly drawn. As cancellations are received from the original list of 400 entrants, persons from the waiting list (in order) will then be offered an entry slot. If the slot is accepted, racer will be charged and added into the race. Racers will not be charged until selected AND notified by email.
Bib numbers/race entries are not transferable. Finish times for unauthorized runners will be discarded = disqualification.
There is no race day registration and no refund or rollover of entry fees for any reason. Please understand that ARR is a non-profit, all-volunteer organization, and only non-profit groups benefit from this race.
The La Luz Trail Run has been sponsored by the Albuquerque Road Runners Club since 1999. Thank you for your continued support of the race and a big Thank You to all the Club volunteers, Ham Radio Operators, and the Scout Troop that handles the two middle aid stations.
Former Luz Race Race Director Rodger Sack presents a donation check to Scout Troop 17 at the November 2019 membership meeting. The scouts were instrumental in the operation of the middle two aid stations of the race, including transport of umpteen loads of water up the trail, staffing the stations, and removing all trash.
View a short video of LA LUZ 50th
by K Holmes/W Wiggins
LA LUZ TRAIL
ALBUQUERQUE ROAD RUNNERS
PO BOX 20011 | ALBUQUERQUE, NM 87154
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