Johnson: Organ Pipe: "The most dangerous national park" in America


Lukeville, Ariz.: I’m currently in “Roving Reporter” mode, taking a shorts and t-shirt break from Lovely Ouray’s long-John winter. Try not to hold that against me (grin). This column comes to you from Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument—way, way down on the border of Meh-hee-co—where I’m immersed in a lush volcanic desert landscape that begs exploration. That’s what our National Parks are for, right? Well, not so fast. Almost 70 percent of Organ Pipe has been closed since 2002. That’s when Park Ranger Kris Eggle was shot and killed by drug runners armed with AK-47s.
My pre-manhood days were spent roaming southern Arizona. I attended second and third grade in a two-room schoolhouse in Palominas, while Dad and Mom worked on a remote ranch whose property abutted Old Mexico. In those days a three-strand barbed wire fence is all that stood between “us” and “them.” The “border” was an inconsequential formality in the 1950s; Arizona was booming and needed a hardworking labor force.
But “the times they are a-changin.” Mourn innocence lost, and so too, “paradise.” Indeed, Govie (slang for Legislative Bureaucrats) continue to spin their rhetoric roulette wheels when it comes to long overdue Immigration Reforms. One side wants “teeth,” the other, “tenderness,” and thus, we get nothing. That “fence” they’re straddling is now razor-wired, and I for one hope it draws blood. A few Career Politicians have “bled out” into “one term wonders” trying to juggle constituent demands. It seems the demographic “face” of America is rapidly changing.
With Govie’s Legislators hopelessly deadlocked (as per usual), Head Honchos in another DC Ivory Tower that houses “We The People’s” National Park Service, take it upon themselves to “do what they have to do” and give up on one of our most prized and unique parcels of Arizona Sonoran Desert wilderness.
Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like something is profoundly amiss in the collective mind of our leadership, when as a country we’ll spend untold lives and money going to war in the name of human rights/democracy building (spelled, O-I-L), in Middle Eastern places where our culture and values are spit upon, and not lift a finger to defend our own sovereign southern border with anything more than winks, nods and 10 foot poles. And while they “fiddle,” my childhood playground “burns.” It’s sad and pathetic, that one of our finest national treasures is under siege and Govie takes the easy way out and just closes it down like some “blighted neighborhood.”
It’s appalling how they just threw up a few “Keep Out” signs and called it “good,” averted their eyes while illegals brazenly marched themselves, drugs or both, through our National Park, to freedom and/or dealers. Worse, outside Arizona, the silence is deafening. Dare I say it? Organ Pipe has become a “mutually understood” port of entry, and If we won’t/can’t defend and protect one little tiny park...keep it completely open and safe within its borders...the logical unspoken suggestion to would-be illegal immigrants and/or drug cartels is, “Hey, you guys can use the Park as a Pipeline again. We put up some signs to keep our people out of your way.
Perhaps it's too much of a political "hot potato.” It might ruffle feathers amongst the fastest growing "block" of voters. Here’s a bad “side effect” for you: if the Republican Party can’t find some common ground with the emerging new face of “America,” you can kiss the “check and balance” two party system good-bye, at least at the Presidential level.
This column is not intended as an editorial on illegal immigration or the drug pipeline from Mexico, for that matter. I’ll leave that discussion to political demagogues who are all talk and no action. Instead, this is when a favorite childhood playground gets turned into a housing development. It’s also about lack of will...the sovereignty of a relatively minute cubicle of land, one tiny Park where a line in the desert sand needs to be drawn, so we “legals” can put it to its intended use. To drug runners and illegal immigrants I say this: You may cross into this country to the east or west of Organ tunnel, air, sea, balloon...but not here. Not Organ Pipe! Whatever it takes, be it National Guard, active duty soldiers, Border Patrol, technology, or all of the above; let’s enforce for a pitiful few miles the rule of law and station manpower enough to deter, if not outright prohibit, Organ Pipe from being used as a "pipeline" to America.
I’m in Organ Pipe because of its winter warmth, solitude and surreal desert beauty. It renews my soul, this complete antithesis to Colorado, and that somehow balances my life in ways I can’t explain.
I watched Halley's Comet streak across Organ Pipe’s star glutted black dome back in 1986. It was so out of the way, free of light and air pollution, almost as if I was looking through a magnifying glass. We need to find the will to reopen Organ Pipe completely, lest Govie let it slip into a dangerous “no-man's land” by the time Halley’s Comet comes calling again.  
Mark Johnson is a restless soul who lives in Ouray, Colorado with his wife, Bobbie. He is happiest when exploring the West's nooks and crannies, hiking, climbing  and mountain biking. He authors two "wanderlust" based blogs: and