Vegas Verdes: A Gift to Las Vegas

Published on December 15, 2019 in the Las Vegas Optic.

Breadth and depth are two characteristics that describe the Las Vegas community. We are individuals and we are representatives of civic organizations and service clubs, city and county governments, and various federal, state, and local agencies. The whole is deserving of congratulations. We have come together for a renewed and rebuilt river park; we have worked as a team and have exhibited resourcefulness and perseverance in pursuit of that goal.

A little over a year ago, a widely representative group of dedicated people came together for a three-day, intensely focused, community design workshop. The attendees worked hard; struggled to hear and be heard; to voice their ideas and hopes. The beginning of a working agreement appeared and the result was the development and conceptual drawings of the future river park with the restored river at its heart. Even as the workshop attendees were formulating a grand plan, Hermit’s Peak Watershed Alliance (HPWA) personnel were considering the hard realities of money. Without money, goals could not be reached, plans could not be implemented, and dreams were nothing. And the first and most critical thing money was going to have to pay for was shovel-ready drawings, also known as construction drawings. Organizations granting money for the building and installation of park improvements and amenities would demand them.

Attending the workshop on its last day were State Senator Pete Campos, and Las Vegas Mayor Tonita Gurule-Giron. They heard the desires and intents expressed, and both verbally committed financial support for the Gallinas River Park Project, in particular for the shovel-ready drawings – Campos from the state legislature’s capital outlay program; Gurule-Giron from Las Vegas city funds. Soon after the workshop, Lea Knutson and Elizabeth Juarros of HPWA, invited representatives from the city and county to tour the park and discuss the long-range plans for its renewal, and the amount of money needed. After that eye-opener, the county committed to finding funds for the project and city renewed its previous commitment.

So far, however, all was verbal – no dollars were yet in hand. Time and some reminding have converted the verbal promises to actual allocations. First, a $70,000 capital outlay request was made and awarded during the 2019 State Legislative session. Later in the year, the city contributed $20,000 and at its November County commission meeting, San Miguel County announced a contribution of $30,000. Finally, a donation of $20,000 from the Las Vegas New Mexico Community Foundation will pay for project oversight, promotion, and for efforts to ensure ongoing community participation. Together, the allocated funds will underwrite the entire cost of completed shovel-ready drawings for the Gallinas River Park extending from Mills Avenue in the north to Prince/Independence Streets in the South.

The chief expense covered by the combined contributions is the cost of hiring a landscape architect who will produce the shovel-ready drawings. The City of Las Vegas is currently in the process of selecting a contractor who will undertake the job. The basis for the drawings is to be the conceptual plan that emerged from the workshop.

One important aspect of the drawings is a proposed budget covering the cost of the actual construction and installation of all the new park features and other alterations and additions. The budget, as part of a first draft, should be ready by June, 2020, and with that in hand, The Gallinas River Park Collaborative and HPWA members will begin a fundraising drive. This involves identifying both government and non-government sources and writing grant proposals. The Gallinas River Park is an enormous undertaking and cannot be built quickly. Progress will be apparent as money becomes available.

The draft of the shovel-ready drawings will also spell out specifications and locations for the many fixtures, structures, and equipment planned for the park. These include such essentials as trash cans, signage (interpretive signs and directional signs), lighting, picnic tables, benches and other seating. Amenities never before conceived include an amphitheater, a playground, a compact area for the exercise equipment, spur trails leading to the river bank, and fishing and observation decks.

Landscaping, but not the kind on display in conventional city parks, gardens, and public space for art installations are planned. All will be in keeping with a park that is dedicated to preserving its natural appearance and the river’s history and culture. Several public meetings are planned to insure that everyone in the community has an opportunity to review and comment upon what will ultimately be a blueprint for what the river park will look like. The final and complete drawings, it is hoped, will be presented and approved by the end of 2020.

The new and improved Gallinas River Park is a gift of the people of Las Vegas to themselves. The diverse group of individuals who first came together at the workshop has demonstrated the efficacy of working together for a common goal.

When general agreement is made, success follows.

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