Resler Canyon is an area of El Paso containing distinctive natural features called arroyos. Arroyos are channels that have been carved into the slopes of the Franklin Mountains by intermittently-flowing water over many years. They offer havens of peace and beauty in an urban setting, and provide important wildlife corridors that connect El Paso’s Franklin Mountains with the Rio Grande, just miles away to the west and the south.
In the past, El Paso’s development occurred mainly on tablelands (mesas). Residents of established neighborhoods often assumed the arroyos would remain in their natural state forever, but recent rapid growth placed acute pressure on privately-owned arroyos. Resler Canyon was one of the first to be slated for development.
Project Description & History
Plans to build approximately 140 single-family homes in the 91-acre canyon were heavily opposed by the adjacent Coronado Neighborhood Association (led by preservationist Charlie Wakeem, businessman and lifelong El Pasoan). Meanwhile, in January 2005, Dr. Richard Teschner—a professor of linguistics at the University of Texas at El Paso and a resident of the Coronado Townhouses on the mesa alongside Resler Canyon—began working with his lawyers behind the scenes to purchase the arroyo. Dr. Teschner had recently received a substantial inheritance from his deceased parents in Milwaukee. He independently decided he wanted to use his newfound wealth to “Save the Canyon,” so he donated $1.87 million to the Frontera Land Alliance (the El Paso area’s only 501(c)3 nationally-accredited land trust organization) so it could purchase the property directly. The City of El Paso played a pivotal role in the deal by earmarking $347,500 for much-needed repairs to City-constructed drainage structures feeding into the canyon. On December 23rd, 2005, the final transaction was completed and Frontera became the owner of the 91 acres now known as the Charlie Wakeem/Richard Teschner Nature Preserve of Resler Canyon, or the Wakeem/Teschner Nature Preserve for short. The main objectives for the Preserve are to manage existing wildlife habitat, address erosion, improve the natural habitat, and provide a safe and natural area for the general public to hike on a pre-existing trail.
Wakeem/Teschner Nature Preserve recently went through two clean ups that were huge successes. As an urban land trust, they work to address the issue of people occasionally dumping waste into the nature preserve. With the help of dedicated volunteers, they have been able to keep it clean and safe for the public to enjoy.
Resler Canyon is now managed by the land trust as a nature preserve. It provides open space for passive recreation that the general public can enjoy, as well as a location for guided hikes that are sponsored by Frontera. In accordance with Dr. Teschner’s wishes, there are no plans to construct visitor facilities or additional trails. Frontera holds biannual community clean-up days in the spring and fall, and works to re-vegetate areas of the canyon impacted by erosion, illegal dumping and drainage repair work.
Water flow from Resler Canyon directly feeds the Keystone Wetlands, a city-owned, privately-managed natural area and site of the archeological remains of a 4000-year-old Native American village. Throughout the canyon’s mile-long length, its arroyos, soils and plants provide vital filtering that enhances the quality of water which enters these rare desert wetlands.