Sunday, October 1, 2023

Park Potential

Village working with MRGCD on Joint Powers Agreement


Doug Findley has a vision for the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District-owned property along the Corrales Interior Drain that cuts through the bosque and eastside neighborhoods. He envisions converting about a 2-mile stretch on both sides of the nearly dried up channel into a park-like environment to complement the nearby Corrales Nature Preserve while maintaining its utility as a travel route.


“It would be made up of natural, native things – bushes or flowering plants – and have a meandering road through part of it and a pathway,” said Findley, who is heading a committee appointed by former mayor JoAnne Roake to look into ways to utilize the corridor. “It would be a safe corridor for people, and a real recreational place.”


The mission of the Corrales Interior Drain Committee is to “identify and help implement ways in which the Interior Drain and its right-of-way may be improved for safe, enjoyable and essential public use while maintaining tranquility for adjacent residents.”


Findley, himself, has fond memories of growing up next to the drain, built in the 1930s to return water from Corrales irrigators to the Rio Grande. 


“Then, it was a functioning drainage system, there were bridges and it was a place to go to fish,” he said.


But times change, and environmental conditions aren’t what they used to be.

“It was built below the water table and the water table has gone down many feet,” he said of the channel. “It’s made the drainage ditch obsolete, and, according to the guys from the MRGDC, it’s not coming back.”


Important Pathway

While the drain is essentially nonfunctional, people still use the corridor extensively. 


It’s a pedestrian path to get in the back way of Corrales Elementary, and provides access to the village’s commercial district. Horseback riders, hikers and bikers also use the route.


In all, it encompasses 26 acres along a corridor that averages 120 feet in width. It runs from Valverde Road on the north to the Corrales Riverside Drain on the south, just beyond Meadowlark Lane.

It’s also used as a traffic route. Cars travel hard-packed dirt, rutted in spots, along the ditch bank a block or two to get to a preferred paved road, or their home. 

The channel cuts through residential neighborhoods on the eastside of the village. “At one time the size of ditch banks were unpassible; you couldn’t drive along it,” Findley said.

“Eventually, people started driving over part of it realizing, ‘I can get to this area a lot quicker.’

Now it’s like a 4-lane road.”

While not a dedicated road, there are stop signs posted where the ditch bank road intersects paved roads that run east-west. 


Findley said his vision for a park retains traffic access.


“There is a need to have automobile traffic on parts of it, but we would want to limit it,” he said. “Instead of a continuous road, the sections that need to be driven on will be driven on.”


Improvements would also mitigate dust during dry and windy weather.

Findley, whose father Jim Findley is credited for leading efforts that established the Corrales Bosque Preserve, says his vision for the corridor has its origins in, of all places, New York City.


“I got the idea from an elevated train that ran through Manhattan. The train stopped running and they were going to condemn property, but instead they turned it into a park.


“So, I want to take this more-or-less abandoned MRGCD property and turn it into a park.”


Idea Input

Findley has his own ideas, but the committee he heads is taking input from residents. Public meetings will be held to get input from residents as to what they would like to see the Corrales Interior Drain become.


Some water still gets in the ditch but not enough to support much habitat. Environmental architects could help alter that. Some people have floated the idea of creating a pond.


“It’s still close to the water table, so there could be natural water from that, and there could be fishing, ducks and turtles,” Findely said of the drain.

There could be other designated areas along the route. 


One suggestion that’s already come up is to create a butterfly sanctuary out of respect for Native neighbors. The people of Santa Ana Pueblo referred to the area as “the place of butterflies.”


JPA needed

Findley couldn’t put a dollar amount on what it would take to fund the project. 


“There’s not a lot of infrastructure or pouring concrete and putting in steel,” he said, adding that most of the money would go into landscaping the route.

So far, just $150,000 has been allocated for planning, and Findley said that money practically fell into their lap.


“I was at the Corrales Farmer’s Market doing outreach for this and Melaine Stansbury was there,” he said of his encounter with the U.S. Senator from New Mexico in 2021. “She came by and said, ‘Oh my God. I’ll get you money!’”

Taudy Miller, a former village planning and zoning administrator, also played a role in securing the funding, according to previous reports in the Comment. She worked with state Sen. Brenda McKenna and then-state Rep. Daymon Ely to secure the initial funding.


What needs to happen next is for the MRGCD and village getting together to finish a Joint Powers Agreement, so they can work in coordination on the project.


The village of Corrales has expressed interest in putting water and sewer lines in the existing drain. That part of the village is the most dense residential zoning, allowing homes on a quarter acre compared to one per acre in most of the village, perhaps warranting sewer connections.

Bosque fires are always a major concern, and the village would like to install water lines that would provide firefighters better access to water.


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