It turns out that is not true, according to New Mexico State Parks Deputy Director Toby Velasquez.
First, let’s get the park boundary straight, clarifying where the Governor’s order is effective and where it does not apply.
Velasquez said Elephant Butte Lake State Park is all federal property, Bureau of Reclamation land, with the New Mexico State Parks having management control—and authority—over the area north of the butte, the big rock in the lake that looks like an elephant.
Lago Rico also has a deal with the BOR to manage the area south of the butte. The Brown family owns the BOR lease and runs the Damsite Lodge and Marina and Marina Del Sur. In this area the Governor’s executive order does not apply and this part of the lake is open. People can and are launching boats from there and boating on that part of the lake.
“The lake surface within the Damsite is very small compared to the lake surface within the park boundary,” Velasquez said.
Since Elephant Butte Lake State Park was closed by the Governor’s executive order, March 16, the State Park Rangers have issued 13 citations, Velasquez said.
Only three of the citations involved boats, Velasquez said. “One was for no wake, which is a speed violation. There are parts of the lake that allow no wake. Two were for park conduct—conduct unbecoming by a visitor to an officer.”
The other 10 citations were all issued on land. “Six were for wrongful use of park property—people were in the park during closure,” Velasquez said. “One was for entering a road when closed. One was for driving with a revoked license. One was for careless driving. One was for damage of property.”
Most of the citations were “penalty assessment misdemeanors,” Velasquez said, in which a person may choose to pay an $83 fine as an admission of guilt, or they can go to court and plead innocence.
If one chooses court, there’s a chance one could end up having to pay court costs, possibly reaching the “hundreds” Trager referred to.
For those boaters who have been going from the Damsite launch and then beyond the butte, Velasquez said the State Park Rangers’ actions have been, “to educate, inform and redirect them to south of the boundary.”
No expensive tickets have been issued to boaters going beyond the southern boundary.