Oil and gas well pad converted into campground for southeast New Mexico visitors

Sep 24, 2020

Adrian Hedden, Carlsbad Current-Argus l Septwemebr 24, 2020

A former oil and gas well pad was converted into a campground for visitors to Carlsbad Caverns National Park and Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

Owned by EOG Resources, the land was previously permitted as a well site for oil and gas extraction but was plugged about eight years ago.

Instead of the traditional process of plugging the well, reclaiming the land, and returning it to its original state, EOG partnered with the Bureau of Land Management’s Carlsbad Field Office and the City of Carlsbad to provide a place for visitors to the area to camp while exploring the unique landscape of the area.

The site is off National Parks Highway at about mile marker 10 at Washington Ranch Road, centrally located between Carlsbad Caverns and the Guadalupe Mountains national parks.

It sits on about 4 acres, offering five RV space and six spots for tents. Access to the campsite is free and available on a first-come-first-serve basis. There are bathrooms at the site, but no other services or water availability.

Steve Wells, New Mexico acting BLM director said the public-private partnership for the project provided a local benefit to an area that often lacks facilities for visitors and could respond to an increased interest in outdoor recreation amid the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread closure of other recreation options.

“The more we can do locally, our job is to find the partners,” Wells said. “When you get different companies, they’re invested in the communities. With everything going on with the pandemic and the rush to recreation, this is perfect.”

He said that investment in the community by oil and gas companies, which profit from extraction in southeast New Mexico and the oil-rich Permian Basin, was important for local host communities to benefit from nearby industrial development.

“With all the nasty rhetoric in the media today, it’s good you can find common ground,” Wells said. “A lot of it is our staff, employees are part of the community. For us to add a campground to the portfolio is just a win-win for everyone.”

While EOG provided funding for the project and the location, Plains America Pipeline contributed the labor for the construction of the facility.

Each RV and tent space at the site offers a carport for coverage along with a picnic table.

Creighton Welch, government relations manager with EOG said the project was intended to provide a benefit to the community while reclaiming land formerly used for oil and gas development.

"Beyond our legal, regulatory and contractual obligations, we partner with landowners and state and federal regulators to restore land in a manner that is responsive to the specific interests of the local communities, and we are grateful to have collaborated with BLM in creating this campground, which will serve those who live in and visit Southeast New Mexico," he said.

Doug Neighbor, superintendent at Carlsbad Caverns said the camping facilities would provide a much-needed service to hundreds of thousands of annual visitors to the park.

“Pretty much most of the escarpment around here is Carlsbad National Park, Neighbor said. “One thing we don’t have up there is a campground. This location is very important.

“Folks that want to experience the BLM lands around here, want to do birding around the rivers, they can stay here even while oil and gas is rocking and rolling and there aren’t a lot of campgrounds available.”