Marijuana use, litter problems spike at scenic mountain spots

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EL PASO – The Franklin Mountains feature some of the Borderland’s most prominent scenic areas. With great views overlooking El Paso’s valleys, Downtown and Juarez, Mexico, it is a popular destination for El Pasoans and travelers alike.

Runners and cyclists share the road with residents and tourists along the Rim Road route to Scenic Drive, where you can stand in one spot and see three states and two nations. Families and friends stroll through Tom Lea Park. There, an obelisk marks the southernmost point of the Rocky Mountains in the U.S.

But not everyone appreciates the view and moves on. Late-night parting, littering and even vandalism threaten the tranquil beauty of the mountainside.

According to data from the El Paso police department, 72 citations were issued to people on Rim Road and Scenic Drive from January 2017 to February of this year. The most common offense was possession of marijuana less than two ounces on Rim Road and juvenile curfew in a public place on Scenic Drive.

Police records show offenses involving marijuana use on Rim Road and Scenic Drive spiked in 2016, increasing more than 256 percent since 2010. The police crime data was acquired by El Paso Inc. and shared with Borderzine for this story. Borderzine provided assistance on analysis of the data.

A bag of dog waste is tied onto the handle of a trash box at Tom Lea Park. The trash box was not full. Photo by Ryann Ellis, Borderzine.com

In the daylight, when the partiers have gone, area residents like Bob Brannon walk Tom Lea Park and pick up trash they find along the way.

“It’s discouraging, but we keep trying,” said Brannon, who is a member of the Rim Area Neighborhood Association.

David Lemon, a resident living in the Rim area neighborhood agreed. “It makes me sad because we come up here every weekend and sometimes we’ll find condoms. One day we found a bottle of Viagra,” Lemon said.

Up the road from the park, graffiti mars a section of a cliff below The Star on the Mountain, a 300-foot-wide set of lights in the shape of a star.

Trash found on Scenic Drive ranges from shattered glass and beer cans to dirty clothes as well as blankets and large tarps

“It’s a great place to come and see the view, but some people take advantage of it by drinking, smoking, and cussing,” said an ice cream truck vendor known as “The Ice Lady” who sets up on Scenic Drive nightly.

On the other end of the city, where Transmountain Road connects the West Side to the Northeast, 103 arrests were recorded from January 2017 to on the scenic byway between 1-10 on the west and Railroad Dr. in the Northeast. Crimes ranged from possession of marijuana to vehicular theft under $500.

Back on Rim Road, residents like Lemon would like to see more help from the city in maintaining the area.

“They have the probationers that clean up Concordia cemetery,” he said. “Well, bring them up here.”

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