“What I love is that this is a unifying project as opposed to all the division going on nationally. It offers hope.“– Irene Loy, Dreamtree Project, Taos, New Mexico
On Tuesday January 16, 2018 members of the Taos community joined us at our offices to move the Rio Fernando Park planning efforts forward. Besides members of our staff we had Agnes Chavez, the Artistic Director of the Paseo Project, Rachel Conn of Amigos Bravos, Irene Loy of the DeamTree Project, Ilona Spruce, the Director of Tourism for Taos Pueblo, John Miller the Taos Town Planner, Darien Fernandez of the Taos Town Council, Amy Bell of Groundwork Studio and several others on hand.
The Rio Fernando Park
We’ve been talking a lot about the Rio Fernando Park property the past few months. But what exactly is it?
The future Rio Fernando Park (this name may change over the course of the project depending on input from the community) is a 20-acre parcel we purchased two years ago. The property is just one mile from the center of downtown Taos near Fred Baca Park. The property contains 7 acres of wetlands and wetland riparian areas that hug the Rio Fernando de Taos. The Rio Fernando is one of the few rivers that flows through the center of the Town of Taos. This wetland connects to a broader wetland that spills out into the adjacent Town of Taos-owned Fred Baca public park and then downstream to the Rio Pueblo that feeds the Rio Grande. The other 13 acres of the land hosts approximately 13 acres of urban forest and former agriculture and ranching land. The property was owned for hundreds of years by the Romo family and was left without any management for over 25 years.
What we found when we purchased the land was a dominance of invasive tree species and noxious weeds. The acequia (the Spanish system of open ditch water conveyance introduced 500 years ago) that once watered the agricultural sections of the property is dry and in very poor condition. On top of all of that, overgrowth that has made much of the riparian area around the river and wetland ecologically challenged and difficult to access.
We’re Fixing It Up – And Not Just a Little Bit!
This land is in need of a lot of help. Our goals are to revitalize the critical Rio Fernando Park wetland to improve the water quality and quantity that feeds the Rio Grande, to help mitigate climate change by minimizing the effects of extreme storms after periods of extreme drought, and to enhance critical habitat to migratory and resident species. We are also working with our steering committee to create a public park that will enhance the quality of life in our town with more green space, agricultural fields, walking trails and access to the Rio Fernando. The park will also be a key field site for education. This will include hands-on demonstrations of conservation techniques for the community and partnerships with local high school and college educators.
Agnes Chavez of the Paseo Project imagines Rio Fernando as a muti-use park that has the arts at its core. “I want to integrate the arts right into the initial design,” she says. “We want to see this as a dynamic space.”
Thats the goal.
“There has been divisiveness over land in our community,” says Taos Town Councilman Darien Fernandez. “This project is a way to overcome that.”
We have pulled together a stunningly talented group of people to help us with this work. And the work has already begun. As we mentioned a month ago, Gordon Tooley completed the keyline
plowing which will slow down erosion on the property and allow seeds that will heal the soil to grow and eventually out compete the invasive plants. We’ve hosted several educational events and taught members of the community how to do water quality sampling.
“People want to see things happening and this project is moving forward. We see progress. People want progress,” says John Miller, the Taos Town Planner.
Progress is where it is at. Come summer we will have multiple youth and professional crews on site both restoring the acequia and the wetlands while others map out and set to work on the agricultural areas, trails, green space and public access.
“In the end,” says Ilona Spruce of Taos Pueblo, “we nourish ourselves by taking care of the land as a community.”
We couldn’t agree more.
Stay tuned. Along with all the other projects we are working on (not to mention our ongoing conservation easement work) we will keep you up to date on the work at the Rio Fernando property and let you know about opportunities for you to help! In the meantime, consider leaving a comment about what you’d like to see at firstname.lastname@example.org