Hundreds push back on Mayor Berry's "Rio Grande Vision"

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By Richard Barish, Central New Mexico Group Bosque Issues Chair

The City of Albuquerque came out with its final Rio Grande Vision (RGV) plan at the end of August. The city describes this as a “conceptual” planning document. Like the earlier drafts, the final plan is almost exclusively filled with urban park kinds of ideas — viewing platforms, boardwalks, pedestrian bridges in the bosque and across the river, wide manicured trails, artwork, etc., that would turn the bosque from natural open space into an urban park.

In early September, the city also came out with proposed plans for the first phase of implementation of the RGV between Central Avenue and the I-40 Bridge. The plan contains a highly developed trail throughout the length of this stretch of the bosque on the east side of the river. This trail would be up to 10 feet wide, surfaced in some way, perhaps with crusher fines, and it would have four viewing platforms, four pedestrian bridges, and one or two boardwalk sections.

The problem with this sort of highly developed trail is two-fold. First, it will have an adverse impact on wildlife. Where the City of Rio Rancho built similar developed trails, bird numbers plummeted.

Second, a highly developed trail will change the experience from one of being in a natural space to one of being in an urban park. As V.B. Price said in a recent piece in the New Mexico Mercury, this plan is “designed against nature, not with it.”

On Sept. 4, the city held a public meeting on their plans. About 400 people showed up!

Almost every single comment opposed the city’s plans. The city then cancelled a second meeting scheduled for Sept. 18. The club, along with other entities and individuals, held a meeting anyway, and about 200 to 250 people showed up this time! At the second meeting, participants wrote letters to Mayor Richard Berry about our vision for the bosque. This includes the following:

Improve access to help people enjoy the Bosque. We want Albuquerque citizens to enjoy nature in the Bosque. In order to do this, we need to improve parking, signage, maps, interpretive exhibits, design features, and amenities at access points so that people know that the Bosque is a place where they can recreate and enjoy nature.

Help young people to get to know and enjoy the Bosque. Provide funding for field trips to ensure that all children have an educational experience in the Bosque.

Ensure that birds and wildlife will be there for Albuquerque residents to enjoy. Habitat in the Bosque between the levees should mostly be left undeveloped so the birds and other wildlife will not be disturbed and chased away.

Include a robust restoration component.

Improve the functionality of the Paseo del Bosque trail on the levees. Create a separate, parallel path so that pedestrians will have a place separate from faster-moving traffic. Improve visibility and remove potential hazards.

For more information or to get involved, contact Richard Barish, richard.barish@gmail.com or 232-3013.