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Profile: Richard McIntyre, Parks Division Manager--Guaje Pines Cemetery, Los Alamos NM

by Leslie McGuire, managing editor






Guaje Pines is called a garden cemetery and as such, there are no upright markers. They have mowing challenges, however, because, although there are regulations about what you can put on the headstone, people rarely abide by them.


Los Alamos is the smallest county of thirty-three counties in New Mexico and is located in the North Central region. During World War II, the United States government secretly established the area as a center for the Manhattan Project and the world's first nuclear weapons were developed at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory.

Richard McIntyre is the Parks Division Manager for Guaje Pines Cemetery, Los Alamos. Los Alamos is a county encompassing today's government laboratory and properties, many subdivisions, and a town site of former government homes and installations. There is only one cemetery within the county limits: Guaje Pines Cemetery. The cemetery was plotted and developed by the county government in June 1961. The first interment was August 1961 and the cemetery is currently divided into six sections.

Los Alamos exists because of the Manhattan Project. It was a town that wasn't supposed to be continuing once the research was complete. The bomb was built at Los Alamos but detonated at the Trinity site at Alamagordo, NM, near the White Sands Missile Site.






Richard McIntyre has a great deal of range in his qualifications. As the Parks Division Manager, he has a great many areas which he has to take care of. He has a BS from Rutgers University in landscape architecture and is a licensed landscape architect in New Mexico.


Since there was no cemetery when the town officially opened in 1951, the Atomic Energy Commission gave the county eight acres for a cemetery. If anyone died before that, they had to be buried in Santa Fe, or somewhere even further away. Located in the foothills of the Jemez Mountain Range the altitude is 7100 feet above sea level. The name Guaje Pines comes from the Guaje Ridge, alluding to the peaceful nature of the site among the pines.

McIntyre has a full time staff of 28 including his part time and seasonal employees for the area parks and the 13-acre cemetery. They manage everything, which includes the turf, irrigation, trees, shrubs, seasonal plantings, fertilization and soil aeration, as well as burials. "Pest control not a big problems," says McIntyre, "but we do use herbicides on occasion."

In the local area, there are 27 parks, some of which are as big as 270 acres and others as small as 1/2 acre. There are a total of 4000 acres of open space, which is basically anything you can't build on, which includes cliffs, canyons, playgrounds, tennis courts, etc. They maintain about 600 acres of turf including the cemetery. His staff takes care of all the parks including the cemetery.






McIntyre has a staff of 28 including his part time and seasonal employees for the area parks and the 13-acre cemetery. They manage everything, which includes the turf, irrigation, trees, shrubs, seasonal plantings, fertilization and soil aeration.


Machines

The staff uses three mowers, two smaller ones and one large Jacobsen. "We use a mix of blue rye fescue because at this elevation we need a cold season grass. It is a completely different climate at this elevation then the rest of the state. We also have the areas that don't have any graves yet, but where there are graves, they have flat headstones," says McIntyre. "They have to move all the paraphernalia that's on the grave site before they can mow. Therefore, it takes two guys, one takes off flowers and accoutrements, then the other one mows the area around the flat headstone. "

They have a plow, which they use to plow the main street leading into the cemetery. They usually get advance notice of any impending storms so they can clear a path through the snow to the actual grave site. However, they must be careful not to rip up the grass. The plow is equipped with balloon tires, and they can set down planking if a thaw is in progress to protect the area from the muddy snow melt.

Irrigation Issues

The soil is called tuffa, a compacted volcanic ash Sometimes they have to jackhammer through this rocky layer to get through. The biggest problem they have in their turf areas is compaction. They do aeration and their fertilizers are custom designed for each area. "One of our goals is to make sure the irrigation systems throughout the whole park system have a uniformity of design," says McIntyre. "This requires installing new line, heads and especially new timers. We're about 20 percent finished with that.

The parks are all irrigated of course, but the old original systems are starting to fall apart. They are using a Hunter irrigation system, and intend to stay with Hunter as they move forward with the new installations. "Some parks have six different types of heads," says McIntyre, "But we are going through all of them and re-designing, which takes time."

At Guaje Pines they also have a tree planting program, which was started years ago and never finished. "As far as other plantings, we only have one little area of annuals, which is around the base of the flagpole," Says McIntyre. "There's also a rose garden at the entryway, but the remainder of what we grow and maintain is turf."






The staff does the preparation and setting up for the services, and it is the acting superintendent's decision whether they can hold a funeral on the weekends. However he rarely denies them. They do both full and partial funerals, and there are different types of services--some as large as a tent with 50 chairs.


Funeral Duties

The staff does the preparation and setting up for the services, and it is the acting superintendent's decision whether they can hold a funeral on the weekends. However he rarely denies them. They do both full and partial funerals, and there are different types of services--some as large as a tent with 50 chairs. Of course, the most difficult time is winter when there's snow on the ground. Partial burial consists of usually an urn or ashes. In addition, there are special areas such as the infant REA. They do not accept animals however, and there isn't a special area for pets.

Taking care of pathways isn't really a problem since there are none. There's only one entry road that goes in to a circle and then loops into a cul de sac at the end. The road is asphalt, which is plowed in the winter to keep it clear.

"Guaje Pines is called a garden cemetery and as such, there are no upright markers." Says McIntyre. "We have mowing challenges, however, because, although there are regulations about what you can put on the headstone, people rarely abide by them," says McIntyre. "If the staff removes what's placed there, there could be problems."






At Guaje Pines they have a tree planting program, which was started years ago and never finished. As far as other plantings, they only have one little area of annuals, and still have a lot more tree plantings to take care of for a more forested look.


Education

Richard McIntyre has a great deal of range in his qualifications. As the Parks Division Manager, he has a great many areas which he has to take care of. He has a BS from Rutgers University in landscape architecture and is a licensed landscape architect in New Mexico. He himself doesn't need any special licenses, but his six district area supervisors hold all the necessary licenses including as pesticide applicators.

Staff

As division manager, he has an office manager and a parks superintendent who runs the daily operations of the crew. He also has an open space specialist who manages the open space and the trail systems. They have over 50 miles of trails in their system

The acting superintendent of Guaje Pines is Randy Lucero and his assistant is Don Lujan. They're both long term employees who have worked their way up to the top and have all the necessary licenses and certificates. They can oversee any type of situation, which is great. "It's hard to get replacement personnel," says McIntyre. "We are very isolated. Even though it's absolutely beautiful here, we're about 40 miles NW of Santa Fe and there's nothing much in between. It's hard to get people and get them to stay."

In addition, continues McIntyre, "We only have so many full time positions. We can't train someone and keep them for 6 or 8 months as a seasonal employee and then expect them to return."






There's a rose garden at the entryway, but the remainder of what they grow and maintain is turf. The major pests are deer and elk. They graze and sometimes crop the grass down too low, or eat the roses and go after the trees.


Planning for the Future

Los Alamos National Laboratory is still there, and the population of the town is about 18,500. During the work week, however, this goes up to about 30 thousand because people commute there. More and more development is occurring in the region, which means the cemetery should fill up by 2050 or 2060. No areas have been set aside to enlarge Guaje Pines, although some parcels of land are being deeded over to the county from the Pueblos and various government agencies. A decision needs to be made over the next couple of years about what to do when this one fills up.

But if anyone is the right person to handle the planning stages, it's McIntyre. As a landscape architect Richard McIntyre is in charge of developing the entire park system. They have a parks master plan, which gives them some direction on what they want to do. He not only knows the area, he is exceptionally well versed in it's special considerations.



The Foothills of the Jemez Mountains








The Jemez Mountains are a 1,300 square mile range with peaks ranging between 9,000 to 11,000 feet.

There is much variation in the Santa Fe National Forest because of the differences in elevation and rainfall. In the warmer and drier areas, the forest communities consist of sparse pinyon and juniper trees. At higher levels, the pinyon-juniper is replaced by ponderosa pine, and above these communities, Douglas fir, blue spruce, limber pine, and white fir, can be found. These communities are often referred to as 'mixed conifer'. Above these communities, at 8,500 to 9,000 feet, is the Canadian life zone. Here can be found spruce and sub-alpine fir communities. The spruce becomes dwarfed above 10,000 feet due to the harshness of the weather. This is the Hudsonian life zone.



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October 15, 2019, 10:18 pm PDT

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