New bar­ri­ers in­stalled near Gorge Bridge

De­fi­ant ven­dors con­tinue to sell goods on side of U.S. 64

Santa Fe New Mexican - - LOCAL & REGION - By Jesse Moya The Taos News

TAOS — Rio Grande Gorge Bridge ven­dors were shocked one morn­ing last week to find con­crete bar­ri­cades had been in­stalled along the high­way shoul­der where they nor­mally sell their jew­elry and goods.

In the evening hours of Wed­nes­day, state work­ers had placed more than 100 con­crete bar­ri­ers on the north and south sides of U.S. 64 on the west end of the bridge, ar­eas that had been pop­u­lar spots for lo­cal ven­dors to sell hand­made goods and other items.

But vend­ing in the high­way right of way vi­o­lates state law, and con­cerns were height­ened last month after a 74-year-old man was struck by a vehicle and se­ri­ously in­jured.

Fol­low­ing the in­ci­dent, ven­dors who for years have been set­ting up their ta­bles of art, rocks and jew­elry on the north shoul­der of U.S. 64 were told to move by of­fi­cials with the New Mex­ico De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion.

While some of the ven­dors com­plied, mov­ing to the south side of the high­way, where other ven­dors sell goods in a large, unim­proved park­ing area, many de­fied the or­der and con­tin­ued to sell their goods on the north shoul­der.

On Thursday, ven­dors an­gered by the new bar­ri­cade sim­i­larly de­cided to defy the Trans­porta­tion De­part­ment, haul­ing their ta­bles over the waist-high wall of bar­ri­cades and sell­ing their goods.

“I put in a pub­lic chal­lenge to whose ever de­ci­sion this was to fess up,” said ven­dor Mathew Roger Menich.

The New Mex­ico Trans­porta­tion De­part­ment in­stalled the bar­ri­ers, ac­cord­ing to the de­part­ment’s spokes­woman, Emilee Cantrell. Trans­porta­tion Sec­re­tary Tom Church or­dered the bar­ri­ers, she said.

“We’re not de­struc­tive,” said ven­dor Fred­die John­son, com­plain­ing that bar­ri­cades left no path­way for bridge vis­i­tors to reach the vend­ing area. “We want money, that’s our ma­jor ob­jec­tive and to live our lives.”

John­son, along with a small crew of other ven­dors, de­cided to mus­cle up and move one of

the over 3,000-pound blocks of con­crete to cre­ate a walk­way for tourists to come off the side­walk into their vend­ing area.

“I got to wit­ness the tran­si­tion from them kick­ing us fur­ther and fur­ther out un­til we’re al­most gone,” John­son said. “This is the fi­nal straw. They want us out.”

Within 15 min­utes of the crew mov­ing the bar­rier to cre­ate a path, more than 20 people mi­grated from the side­walk into the vend­ing area to view the goods.

Menich, along with other ven­dors, said they feel they have a right to sell their goods on the north side of the high­way as long as they are far enough from the road and traf­fic.

Ac­cord­ing to Menich, vend­ing at the bridge is how many of the mer­chants make their liv­ings.

A ver­sion of this story first ap­peared in The Taos News ,a sis­ter pa­per of The Santa Fe New Mex­i­can.

Vend­ing in the high­way right of way vi­o­lates state law.


Tourists watch as a crew of bridge ven­dors moves a bar­ri­cade to cre­ate a walk­way for people to ac­cess their goods. Ven­dors ar­rived Thursday morn­ing to hun­dreds of new con­crete bar­ri­ers placed in the area where they nor­mally sell mer­chan­dise.

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