Vegas Verdes: Keep the Gallinas River Park Clean and Beautiful

Published on Feb 17, 2021 in the Las Vegas Optic.

Pollution in all of its variations seems always to be with us. But…that doesn’t mean we should learn to live with it. Consider Las Vegas. We residents are lucky that our water comes from high in the mountains and flows through rural – nonindustrial – areas. The quality is pretty good, though not perfect. Trash is a major source of pollution and for the Friends of the Gallinas River Park, trash – whether it’s in the river or in the river’s environs – is a never-ending concern.

Enter the Las Vegas San Miguel County Chamber of Commerce (LVSMCC) on a mission to re-invent itself and looking for ways to funnel some resources into the Las Vegas community. The Chamber and the Friends group put their collective imagination to work and came up with a number of ideas for beautification/clean-up projects in the River Park. The Chamber demonstrated its commitment to the whole enterprise by funding the grant writing process. The grant proposal submitted to the Keep New Mexico Clean and Beautiful program of the New Mexico Tourism Department was successful. The City of Las Vegas is the fiscal agent for this project and it ultimately benefits the entire town.

The Keep New Mexico Clean and Beautiful grant program funds projects that contribute to the goals established by Keep America Beautiful. These are: end litter, improve recycling, and beautify communities. Our Las Vegas project contains four items: youth education, youth employment, foundation for irrigation, and a water bottle refill station. What, you may ask, do any of these have to do with beautification or clean-up?

Young adults will be hired to first instruct younger children in river health and maintenance and second to take charge of regular River Park clean-up operations. The outcome will certainly be a cleaner and more beautiful river park. An equally important result will be the growth of community pride among the town’s young people. New Mexico Highlands University and Luna Community College students will lead classes for children in all of the city’s elementary schools. The youngsters will learn about the damage to our environment done by litter and how to think in terms of litter control, reduction and removal. The classes will include much hands on learning, giving the pupils firsthand experience with their river and their neighborhoods and how to keep them beautiful and healthy.

High school students from both school districts will be hired to work alongside volunteers, keeping the park and surrounding areas clean, removing trash build-up, and devising ways to permanently reduce the amount of litter accumulation.
It is expected that lessons learned will be passed along to other students and anyone else whose lives they touch.

To increase eye-appeal, a number of small garden areas are planned for the river park entrances at Bridge Street. Non-effluent, non-river water back up irrigation is needed for establishment of the vegetation and in times of extreme
drought, used according to existing watering restrictions. The irrigation foundation segment of the proposal arranges for connections to the city’s water supply at the selected sites. Once a source of water is assured, appropriate irrigation systems can be designed and installed. And the water bottle fill-up station – that is a nifty answer to how to reduce plastic trash while offering a convenience to all of the walkers, joggers and runners on the trail. Should you have doubts about the extent and severity of the impact of plastic on our environment, here are some statistics. Less than 10 percent of all plastic produced since 1960 has ever been recycled, yet even were that percentage higher, the problem would not go away. The existing methods for recycling plastic are neither effective nor efficient, but they are expensive. A small percentage of discarded plastic finds its way to landfills, but most wind up polluting our oceans, lakes and river, or killing our environment. Still – there is more to trash/pollution control than recycling. Remember the phrase “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”. Plastic bottles are durable – they can be REUSED again and
again…and yet, again.

The new water bottle refill station, to be positioned along the path of the river walk north of Bridge Street and just inside the gateway to the park, is a state of the art piece of machinery. It requires no power source, and will get its water from the city’s system. Best of all, it encourages us to use our personal stainless
steel water bottles or, if we haven’t got one of those, not to trash our plastic water bottles, but instead to keep using the same one. For those who want to receive information about all the activities of the Friends of the Gallinas River Park, send a message to jerickson@hermitspeakwatersheds.org. Ask to have your name put on the e-mail list.

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