Vegas Verdes – Accomplishments and Things to Come

Published in the Las Vegas Optic on November 24th, 2021.

The Gallinas River and its Park continue their steady march toward full restoration and revitalization. Many goals have been reached and new goals have been set. As 2021 nears its end, we applaud some notable accomplishments and likewise recognize some projects recently begun.

The City of Las Vegas has established a Gallinas Park Advisory Committee. It is composed of representatives from each of the four council districts and will work closely with the Parks and Recreation Commission to ensure that the community’s concerns, problems, and needs for the River Park are shared with the Las Vegas Department of Parks and Recreation. The Committee will work with and support the Parks Department director regarding the finalized design for the Park additions and improvements and implementation. The Hermit’s Peak Watershed Alliance (HPWA) and its Friends of the Gallinas River Park (Friends) have enjoyed a strong partnership with the City and especially with the Parks Department. This new committee will ensure that the partnership continues.

The most recent phase of the river restoration began in the spring and is nearly complete. Strollers on the river walk watched and marveled as meanders and riffles emerged, ponds came to life and filtration basins appeared. A big duck pond, formerly clogged with cat-tails, attracted lots of ducks; muskrats enjoyed the small river pond near the foot bridge; and fishermen were happy. Approximately 600 trees, shrubs and grasses have been planted thanks to volunteer labor. First steps have been taken, again with volunteers, to remove or control some of the invasive species along the river-bank. Tierra Y Montes Soil and Water Conservation District undertook climination of some of the largest of the invasive species, such as the Siberian Elm.

The Unity Orchard team looks forward to the first tree plantings. Before this can happen, an irrigation system must be installed and prior to installation, several parties must sign off on a memo of understanding. Even with all these steps that must come to pass, and soon, the orchard planners expect to have the first trees in the ground a year from now. Mike Bode of (??) will donate a number of heirloom semi-dwarf apple trees. The orchard will also include several other varieties of fruit trees and fruit bearing shrubs. The Las Vegas Rotary has been generous with its fundraising assistance. In the meantime, volunteers are needed to clear brush, remove some large rocks and stones, and spread wood chips.

The magnificent mural announcing the Gallinas River Park was something of an unexpected, but quite fabulous, gift from the City of Las Vegas. The Las Vegas Rotary Club funded the work by local artist Jaime Chavez, and it appeared without fanfare in the spring of 2021. Chavez has lived among us for the past dozen years or more and has begun to make a name as a muralist in New Mexico and neighboring states.

Solar lighting has been placed along the walkway south of the bridge. The standards are unobtrusive; the illumination is directed downward so as to avoid adding to light pollution; and the lights require no power. They provide security and safety for evening walkers, joggers and bikers. The new water bottle refill station is up and running just inside the barrier on the North side of Bridge Street. It’s bright blue and ready to use – you can’t miss it. Now there’ll be no reason to throw away your plastic water bottle – you can use that again and again. 

New park benches are paid for and here. They are destined for scattered sites all up and down the river – both sides. Installation is to take place in the spring. Picnic tables have been ordered – not here yet, but expected to be installed in the spring. These will go in designated picnic areas.

The kiosk garden is thriving. Volunteers worked many hours last year to first prepare the soil and then plant many (flowering) shrubs and small trees. They continued to weed and water from spring through this fall.

And finally, less thrilling, but most essential (seven) trash cans are installed and being emptied regularly, and two city organized clean-up projects brought out nearly 50 volunteers to care for our park and river.

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