NeighborWoods Project

                   Albuquerque NeighborWoods Project for Oso Grande Neighborhood

Prepared by Karen Rivard, a member of OGNA and project manager for the Neighborwoods project

At the fall meeting of the Oso Grande Neighborhood Association, Betta Eisenberg informed members of the exciting news that our neighborhood had been awarded a tree planting grant by our city councilor Trudy Jones. This grant gave Oso Grande 100 street trees as well as 100 additional give- away trees. The street trees required planting within 20 feet of the street. Planting, cost of the tree, as well as a water rebate would be provided by the grant. The additional 100 trees would be planted by the homeowner with no requirement of 20 feet from the street. The next challenge was getting the word out as a small percentage of homeowners attended the meeting. Fortunately, our city councilor provided the funds for a mailing of postcards to each and every homeowner. Ms. Jones’ assistant, Aziza, provided a mailing list of 435 homeowners and the postcards were mailed at the end of March. At that point one would think that there would be a flood of inquiries. Not so. It seemed that the response was more like a trickle. A few months went by then Betta proposed that we canvass the neighborhood to increase interest in the project. On several occasions, teams of 4-5 TreeNM employees and volunteers ventured forth, street by street. With our masks, hats and sunglasses I am sure we looked a bit suspicious! (No one would ever be able pick us out in a line-up). We did wear our TreeNM green shirts. We encountered more challenges such as no answer to our ringing of a doorbell (if there was one). On the occasions where someone did answer the door, we were able to present the homeowner with options for trees and the response was enthusiastic. Incrementally, we neared the goal of 100 adopted trees. A final posting in Nextdoor.com put us over the top with actually two homeowners on a waiting list. As a result of this project, Oso Grande is going to be much more colorful and shady in the future with the following trees to be planted on August 29: 50 Crape Myrtle, 14 Desert Willow, 6 Emerald Sunshine Elm, 6 Southwestern RedBud, 3 Hot Wings Maple, 2 NM Olive, 5 Raywood Ash, 7 Shantung Maple, 2 Smoke Trees, and 5 Vitex. Hopefully these trees will grow and thrive leaving a beautiful legacy long after the current residents are gone.

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Park Improvements

El Oso Grande Park Improvements

Many of you may have noticed the wonderful El Oso Grande Park improvements taking place this Spring and Summer, 2020.   The park’s irrigation system was outdated and inefficient and the old pipes were prone to break causing maintenance issues.  The entire mainline, irrigation valve, wiring and irrigation controller were upgraded and the irrigation pipes replaced with durable HDPE pipe.  All of the sprinkler heads were replaced with new efficient sprinkler heads.  The new irrigation controller now has built-in cell phone-based communication to the City’s Irrigation Central Control.  So from the City’s central control the irrigation system can be monitored, scheduled and checked for line breaks, malfunctions and uniformity of irrigation throughout the park.   This will provide the healthiest turf with the least amount of water. 

Other upgrades include new plantings around the perimeter of the park:  58 Trees (Frontier Elm, Honeylocust, Chokecherry, Autumn Blaze Pear, etc), 33 large shrub/small trees (Butterfly bush, Crepe Myrtle, Vitex, etc.), and 24 small shrubs (Smoke Bush, Bosnian Pine etc.).  Additionally the playground sand was replaced with safer engineered wood fiber and several new park benches were installed.

The total cost of the project was $378,849.79.  Many thanks to City Parks and Recreation and Councilmember Trudy Jones for these long awaited El Oso Grande Park Improvements so that Northeast Heights neighborhoods can enjoy them.

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My thoughts about El Oso Grande Park and Neighborhood

After having lived in various places in Albuquerque on and off since the 1960’s, my love for this city and our state has only grown.  I find myself living now in the neighborhood of El Oso Grande Park, located on Osuna Road, just west of John Robert’s Dam on Juan Tabo Blvd.  This vibrant neighborhood is now in danger.

El Oso Grande Park is used by multitudes of soccer teams, youth football leagues, dog walkers, hikers accessing Bear Canyon trails to the east, bikers using the Albuquerque bike trail system, and families for get togethers and picnics.  It’s playground to the east of the sports fields is rarely without parents and children. It’s views of the sunrise and mountains to the east, and the sunsets to the west, cannot be overrated.  

Directly to the east of the park and playground, is a city of Albuquerque designated Pollinator Habitat, a collaborative project among Oso Grande Neighborhood Association, the City, and the Native Plant Society (NPS), and partially funded by PNM Resources Foundation.  It is a place designated to returning the desert to it’s natural flora and fauna habitat.  This beautifully designed complex of tree canopy, park, playground and wildlife habitat is currently bordered to the east by a large area of privately owned mesa, a natural water catchment for heavy rains and a natural safety zone for the earthen dam directly east of it.  The dam, natural water catchment and native mesa, pollinator habitat, playground and park are a well designed cap for the end of the natural corridor of Bear Canyon Arroyo.

And now this beautiful area for outdoor enthusiasts is in danger of being marred by replacing the natural acreage below the dam with a large storage facility that may be given zoning and building approval by the city.  The land that this structure will be built on is the large property directly west of the dam, that serves as a natural catchment area for water, as it is the last natural vestige of Bear Canyon Arroyo.  It may be multistoried, effectively diminishing the incredible views of the Sandias from the park and bike trail.  The many people who climb the dam to sit and watch unforgettable sunsets from the top of the dam will no longer be able to enjoy this pristine view.  

But most importantly, building on this land will will interfere with all the family sports and recreation activities which the City of Albuquerque has good reason to be proud of, a multi-use area for the use of Albuquerque’s diverse population, from infants to disabled to the aged.  It does not make sense to me to build a large commercial building, covering a large water adsorbing natural catchment area, with asphalt and cement, right below an earthen dam!  Our park and many of our houses are already in a FEMA designated flood area, why, in light of today’s climatic environment, would we risk compounding that problem?  I request that AMAFCA engineers and City Planning Department take a look at this property, which would be much better preserved as is, and acquire this land as an extension of the John Robert’s Dam.  Make it happen, Albuquerque! 

Janet Squires

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