Even considering the urgency of climate change and the relentless drought, villagers, their government and local   institutions should choose to keep Corrales green.

As the Planning and Zoning Commission and Village Council continue to evaluate land use policies and assess changing priorities for water use, our agricultural  heritage and long-standing community values should be retained. It would be a possibly irreversible mistake to transform the streetscape along Corrales Road to a xeric scene of gravel,  wood chips, bark, yucca and cactus.

Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that kind of landscaping: it’s just not appropriate as a wholesale application along Corrales Road’s business district. And even there, a little is okay.

The real problem would come if and when Corrales MainStreet implements an overall xeric look for the pending pathway project, or Village officials choose that for the proposed make-over for the Village Office complex across from Wells Fargo Bank.

The Middle Rio Grande Valley and Corrales bottomlands specifically should remain an oasis that attracts visitors and shoppers, and instills pride and satisfaction in residents returning home from work in the city.

Foresight is needed to avoid development, including landscaping, that would turn Corrales Road into an indistinguishable extension of the streetscape along North Coors Boulevard.

Should Corrales be doing its part to conserve water? Absolutely. The metro area has more than a dozen golf courses; Corrales has none. We tend to follow Albuquerque’s voluntary guidelines for watering residential greenery, including night time irrigation. Probably most homes here do use xeric landscaping, since most are in the more populous sandhills west of Loma Larga.

And there’s another crucial difference between average Corraleños’ water use and that of nearly all other residents of Albuquerque and Rio Rancho: flush by flush, villagers here return domestic water use to the aquifer (cleaned as it filters through soil and sand) while surrounding city dwellers send their wastewater to sewage treatment plants and then  down the river. Although Corrales has a few pockets of groundwater contamination, those are largely or entirely confined to neighborhoods of higher residential density.

The Village Council should reconsider its just-approved recommendations for landscaping in non-residential areas covered in Chapter 18-40 of the Code of Ordinances. In paragraph (c) under “landscaping requirements for non-residential development,” the recommendation for ground cover is that “xeriscaping or usage of low water plants or native plants is encouraged.”

That’s okay, but let’s  not overdo it.  Plenty of native plants are well-adapted to infrequent watering and could be planted along Corrales’ business district and still keep the bottomlands green. Let’s avoid the knee-jerk response that our streetscape needs to be gravel, wood chip and cactus.

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