The Rio Grande Vision

4

Turning a “Hidden Ecological Jewel” Into Dust

By Alex Escué Limkin & Rebecca Limkin

—Summer 2018

I sit with my son on my lap overlooking a dusty depression, a swath of brown erosion bordered by thorny Russian olives and dense saltcedars. “What is this place?” my son asks me.

“We used to call this place the Bosque,” I reply. “I brought you here to help you imagine what this used to look like, and why we try so hard to protect the patches of wild nature that still remain.

Photo Credit: Driving in Heels via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Driving in Heels via Compfight cc

“Before you were born, your mother and I would take walks here alongside the Rio Grande in the shade of the cottonwood trees. We would park just off of Tingley Drive or by the BioPark and wander into the woods. There were many small trails, and we were familiar with all of them.

“There were no cars here, no sirens, no machinery, no boardwalks, no asphalt. We could take off our shoes and cool our feet in the water on hot summer days and feel like we were in the middle of a wilderness—even with the road just a few hundred feet away. The parking lots didn’t intrude into the Bosque, and there were no paved paths, trash cans or restrooms alongside the river. This all used to be trees, and the trees were filled with wildlife.” I waved my arm behind us.

“There were hundreds of different water birds and other animals that sheltered here: migrating geese and ducks and cormorants and herons and egrets, not to mention beavers and porcupines, muskrats and fish.”

“What happened?” my son asks.

“A mayor called Berry thought that the Bosque was not being used enough, so he hired a team of advisers to come up with what they called ‘improvements.’ The team decided that by building parking lots and bridges, boat launches and restaurants, people would come and spend money here.

“The mayor believed people wanted convenience and entertainment from the Bosque, not wildness or to feel the natural world around them. He seemed to think that people were afraid of touching the earth with their bare feet.”

“Did it work?”

“On one hand it did. More people came in their cars to buy things, but it lasted only a short while.

“The very year the mayor proposed his plan, the city fire department restricted access to the river because of the threat of fire. In the same year, the entire region was in a historic drought. There was little snowpack, and we hadn’t had our regular monsoons.

“Despite that, the mayor forced his development onto the Bosque, bringing huge earth-movers and dump trucks that ran for months, laying down tons of concrete and destroying habitat. A spark from one of the vehicles caused a fire that ravaged the area. The only trees that survived are those that can withstand fire, like these saltcedars.

Photo Credit: jared via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: jared via Compfight cc

“After awhile, no one wanted to come here anymore. The wildlife fled or starved, and the remarkable feeling of being in a wilderness within a city, the feeling that your mother and I loved, was gone. That’s why it looks like it looks today.”

“Didn’t anyone try to stop him?”

“We did what we could. We attended meetings, we wrote letters, we called his office, we chained ourselves to a cottonwood. Our neighborhood association, and many others, signed resolutions opposing his plans. But in the end, the mayor won.  This is what his victory looks like for the Bosque.”

We stood up, pulled the tumbleweed thorns from our shorts, scowled at the boat launches tilted in the dry riverbed, and headed home.

*****

For more information on Mayor Berry’s plan, see riograndevision.com

Register your opinion at townhall.cabq.gov

Or contact the Mayor’s Office at 505-768-3000 or theplan@cabq.gov.

Author Alex Escué Limkin is forming an action and advocacy team, DVR-6, specializing in the recovery and aid of homicidal and suicidal veterans in the backcountry. He blogs about his experience as an Iraq veteran at warriorswithwesthusing.org.

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  • Laura F. Sanchez

    Should be required reading by everyone at city hall and by every planning, architectural and engineering firm in the state. But has a planning/design/engineering firm ever recommended the “No Build” option?

  • http://WarriorsWithWesthusing Alex Limkin

    I attended a meeting yesterday put on by Richard Barish, an attorney who loves the Bosque and wishes to preserve its wild qualities. Over forty Albuquerque residents showed up to discuss the Mayor’s ill-considered plan to build major infrastructure in the Bosque, including viewing platforms, boardwalks, bridges, boat launches, restaurants, and boutique hotels. One of the attendees at the meeting presented a resolution that their Neighborhood Association came up with to oppose the Mayor’s plan, and observed that a coalition of other Neighborhood Associations is growing. Here is the resolution they have adopted:
    THE MAYOR HAS PROPOSED “ABQ THE PLAN: THE RIO GRANDE VISION.” THIS VISION DESCRIBES AN URBAN PARK ALONG THE WILD RIO GRANDE.

    EVERY EFFORT SHOULD BE MADE TO PRESERVE THE BOSQUE AS A UNIQUE NATURAL AREA. WHILE THE ‘PLAN’ CALLS FOR PRESERVATION AND RESTORATION, IT ALSO INCLUDES MAJOR INTRUSIVE DEVELOPMENTS AND COMMERCIAL PROJECTS SUCH AS PAVED TRAILS, 5 OR MORE FOOT BRIDGES ACROSS THE RIVER, MANY VIEWING TOWERS, BOARD WALKS, BOAT RAMPS AND RENTALS, RESTAURANTS AND EVEN A LODGE.

    IT IS HARD TO BELIEVE THAT THE PRISTINE QUALITY OF THE BOSQUE CAN SURVIVE SUCH MASSIVE DEVELOPMENTS. AND IT DECREASES THE ALLURE OF THE BOSQUE FOR LOCAL RESIDENTS AND TOURISTS.

    CONSEQUENTLY, THE GRANDE HEIGHTS NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION OPPOSES THE PROPOSED ‘PLAN’ FOR THE RIO GRANDE BOSQUE AS PRESENTED.

    In addition to posting your comments to the Mayor at theplan@cabq.gov (the period for comment has been extended to June 14) please contact your Neighborhood Association members and ask that they join the growing coalition of Neighborhood Associations interested in preserving the Bosque. To sign on to the coalition, please contact Joe Valles at JOEVALLES@aol.com.

  • Alex Limkin

    I attended a meeting yesterday put on by Richard Barish, an attorney who loves the Bosque and wishes to preserve its wild qualities. Over forty Albuquerque residents showed up to discuss the Mayor’s ill-considered plan to build major infrastructure in the Bosque, including viewing platforms, boardwalks, bridges, boat launches, restaurants, and boutique hotels. One of the attendees at the meeting presented a resolution that their Neighborhood Association came up with to oppose the Mayor’s plan, and observed that a coalition of other Neighborhood Associations is growing. Here is the resolution they have adopted:
    THE MAYOR HAS PROPOSED “ABQ THE PLAN: THE RIO GRANDE VISION.” THIS VISION DESCRIBES AN URBAN PARK ALONG THE WILD RIO GRANDE.
    EVERY EFFORT SHOULD BE MADE TO PRESERVE THE BOSQUE AS A UNIQUE NATURAL AREA. WHILE THE ‘PLAN’ CALLS FOR PRESERVATION AND RESTORATION, IT ALSO INCLUDES MAJOR INTRUSIVE DEVELOPMENTS AND COMMERCIAL PROJECTS SUCH AS PAVED TRAILS, 5 OR MORE FOOT BRIDGES ACROSS THE RIVER, MANY VIEWING TOWERS, BOARD WALKS, BOAT RAMPS AND RENTALS, RESTAURANTS AND EVEN A LODGE.
    IT IS HARD TO BELIEVE THAT THE PRISTINE QUALITY OF THE BOSQUE CAN SURVIVE SUCH MASSIVE DEVELOPMENTS. AND IT DECREASES THE ALLURE OF THE BOSQUE FOR LOCAL RESIDENTS AND TOURISTS.
    CONSEQUENTLY, THE GRANDE HEIGHTS NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION OPPOSES THE PROPOSED ‘PLAN’ FOR THE RIO GRANDE BOSQUE AS PRESENTED.
    In addition to posting your comments to the Mayor attheplan@cabq.gov (the period for comment has been extended to June 14) please contact your Neighborhood Association members and ask that they join the growing coalition of Neighborhood Associations interested in preserving the Bosque. To sign on to the coalition, please contact Joe Valles at JOEVALLES@aol.com.

  • Alex Limkin

    An online petition (http://chn.ge/13qP26V) to preserve the wild qualities of the Bosque, drafted by committee and launched on Friday, has so far garnered over 380 signatures. Due to this petition, when Mayor Berry sits down at his desk Monday morning, he will face hundreds of emails from city residents expressing opposition to his Rio Grande Vision.

    Here is a handful of their comments:

    “I believe that further development will drive away the very source of enjoyment we are hoping to preserve–the wildlife, nesting birds, fragile ecosystem. Keep the bosque wild for future generations.” Denise S.

    “In my opinion, “developing” the Bosque is incredibly shortsighted. I think it will hurt tourism, not encourage it. Bars and restaurants are everywhere and “wild” environments are few and far between.” Catherine F.

    “I think it is important we have a 3rd party study the ecological impacts, we can’t go back in time once we destroy this watershed….there are more sustainable ways to monetize the Bosque for Eco-tourism. I do support spotlighting the Bosque as a Green Destination for people who really want to enjoy open spaces and nature, but we don’t have to add unnecessary bricks and mortar projects to do so. There are plenty of other places to build in the city and underutilized buildings/spaces already owned by the City and the County (and the state). We should be good stewards of those spaces (and tax dollars) as well.” Hakim B.

    “The idea of destroying our wonderful Bosque and river habitat for cheap commercialization sickens me to the core. This area should be protected, not destroyed by commercial development. The only need we have for paved trails in the Bosque has already been fulfilled. Save the Bosque, don’t destroy it!” Catherine W.

    “I am a wildlife biologist living in Albuquerque. Research from our non-profit organization has shown the massive importance of the bosque to migratory, wintering, and breeding songbirds. Development, fragmentation, and disturbance will likely have great impacts on populations of songbirds that are already declining due to habitat loss, drought and other climate-related factors, and human impacts. I strongly urge you to keep the bosque wild and not turn an important and unique habitat into an “amusement” park. This plan will surely injure the ecological and biological value of the Albuquerque area as well as the hearts of its people.” Ashli G.

    “In this time of extreme drought, we should be marshalling our resources to preserve and protect our precious Bosque. Albuquerqueans need the tranquility of this wild habitat — not another amusement park.” Gail V.

    “Keep nature the way it is! There are too many houses, buildings, etc. already! Why touch it? I take my son down to the Bosque at least twice a month and it is a wonderful experience for him to connect with nature.” Tanya L.

    “As a state senator representing the affected area, I am extremely concerned about the potential commercialization of our bosque.” Bill O.

    “While aspects of Mayor Berry’s plan have merit, the Sandias, the Petroglyphs, and the Rio Grande are what give Albuquerque its unique character and appeal. Intrusive development and encroachment on our natural habitats will have irreversible consequences. Before it is too late, let’s not jump on Mayor’s bandwagon to turn this beautiful treasures into commercial ventures.” Lee M.

    “The Bosque is a haven for wildlife. Hawks, owls and falcons nest there, along with many other birds. It’s a place for people to get away and experience peace and contact with nature. Please leave it the way it is!” Allison S.

    If you are interested in preserving the wild qualities of the Bosque, please join in and sign the online petition at http://chn.ge/13qP26V.

    Please let the Mayor and City Council know what the Bosque means to you!