Clark and the veterans at Post 2182 have run and operated a campsite and picnic area along the Old Blanco Highway east of Bloomfield on the way to Blanco for nearly 40 years.
Through donations and volunteer labor, the VFW has built up the area over the years. Since the 1980s, the group has enhanced the riverfront property with the addition of bathrooms, picnic areas, a pavilion, a ball field, horseshoe pit, swings for kids, and RV hook-ups.
Veterans installed and maintain water and electricity lines, for which they pay utility costs. They also manage two sewer tanks they pump out and service each year.
But a request to the Bureau of Land Management for help to combat vandalism and to obtain approval for a homeless veteran to live year-round at the site as a caretaker was met with a demand that the VFW relinquish any control it has exercised over the site until a new agreement can be reached.
Scott Hall, a BLM lands team leader and a veteran, wants to see the VFW continue at the area and believes the veterans have been good stewards over the years. But Hall is bound by the bureau's obligation to protect the area and keep it open to the public.
"It's got to be open for everyone," Hall said. "It's public land -- not private -- but there are a host of options that we've researched that could allow the VFW to continue at the site."
Because of the veterans' complaints, the BLM and VFW have scheduled a meeting with Rep. Ben R. Lujan and San Juan County Executive Officer Kim Carpenter on March 5. Hall is confident an authorization agreement can be reached.
Read more tomorrow in the Daily Times