For Immediate Release:
On Monday the Bosque Action Team received maps of three different options for trails in the Bosque, part of a public process on how to restore and formalize trails in the Bosque. On Tuesday the City of Albuquerque had bladed a 6-foot-wide trail through the Bosque. Members of the Bosque Action Team, who had been working with the City in a productive public participation process, were stunned by the move.
“Mayor Richard Berry ordered a trail to be plowed through the Bosque on Tuesday. His intentions for the design of the trail were never disclosed, and the plans to begin construction on Tuesday were never divulged, but were only discovered by accident after construction had already begun. The Mayor reneged on the City’s promise to allow the pubic to review and comment on specific design options before a final plan was selected. His actions are a breach of trust with Albuquerque residents who had worked long, and effectively, to come up with a consensus plan for the Bosque,” Richard Barish, Bosque Issues Chair for the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club and leader of the Bosque Action Team.
The City had previously committed to a process whereby it would devise several options for the trail, put those options out for public comment, hold public meetings, select an option, and assess the expected environmental impacts of the option before acting.
In fact the Bosque Action Team, a Coalition that includes an array of conservation groups and individuals, received maps from the City on Monday for review at the Team’s monthly meeting. The next day when Richard Barish one of the Team’s leaders went to take a more careful look at the area, he found City “bobcats” bulldozing the area. The City never solicited nor took public comment on the trail design they are now building.
This according to Barish, the move was particularly disappointing since the Open Space Division and the Bosque Action Team had a very productive exchange of views on what should be done in this area over the last two months and were very close to being in agreement on a plan for this area.
“The City had done a very good job of involving the public and building trust over the past year. Now that trust has literally been bulldozed. How can the Mayor justify engaging people in a public process and then suddenly and secretly starting construction?,” said Barish.
Location of the bladed bosque trail
On Tuesday, the City began to build a trail within the Bosque north of Central on the east side of the river. The trail extends about half mile north and exits the Bosque south of the siphon. The trail hugs the bank of the river for a portion of its length in the location of what was previously a narrower trail. The City bladed and leveled the entire length of the trail and when completed will be surfaced with crusher fines. The trail includes a long section along the river bank. The river bank is the most environmentally sensitive portion of the Bosque and is an area where the City should be reduce, not increase, impacts.
The City has tried to justify its actions with a variety of excuses:
“The trail is for ADA access.” The Bosque Action Team supports ADA access. However, this is just an after-the-fact justification devised by the City. This trial has never been identified or planned for ADA access in any planning documents. The City has not been able to show that this trail would qualify as ADA compliant.
“The City got feedback on the two Bosque walks last month.” The Bosque walks were a great opportunity to express concerns and exchange ideas, but they did not provide comments on the City’s plans. The City’s plans were never disclosed before the City started construction on Tuesday, the City did not get any comments on the trail they are building, they did not even receive informal feedback on this design. The City reneged on its promise to listen to the public before it selected a plan for the Bosque.
The City may complain about the use of the term “bulldoze” with respect to the trail, but it is indisputable that they bulldozed the good will and trust that had recently been developed. They used “bobcats” to clear a 6 foot wide trail. The consensus plan would have included a wider, multiuse trail that would have been great for bicycles, but would have been less developed and more natural in design.
The public process up to this point:
The City’s plans for the Bosque got off to a rocky start four years ago. The City shipped the plans off to an architectural consultant, Dekker, Parish, Sabatini,before it even asked City residents what they wanted done in their Bosque. When it consulted with the public, it was only a very narrow segment of the public.
City residents are understandably very attached to their Bosque. The Bosque is a great place to enjoy nature in the middle of the City. When the public learned what the City had in mind for the Bosque, they came out in great numbers to express their opinions, and they didn’t like what they learned about the plans for the Bosque. The City’s plans called for substantial development in the Bosque. About 400 people showed up at a public meeting on September 4, 2013, and almost every one opposed the City’s plans.
The City, to its credit, appeared to listen. It slowed the process down. It put on a series of terrific Bosque forums last year to educate Albuquerque residents about the issues facing the Bosque. It did a great job of soliciting public input on its environmental monitoring plan and on plans for the Bosque between Central and the I40 bridge. The City had gone a long way toward repairing the trust it had lost by its early handling of the Bosque plans.
Involving the public in the process appeared to bear fruit. The Bosque plan’s fiercest critics and the Open Space Division were close to agreement on what would have been a consensus plan for the Central to I 40 stretch. What had been a source of contention was turning in to a model of listening, dialogue and willingness to address the needs of the other side. The consensus plan that was being discussed would even have included a wider, multiuse trail similar to what the City seeks. The trail would have been great for bicycles and horses, but the trail would have had a less developed and more natural design that is more in keeping with the natural character of the Bosque than the trail that is now being built.
Monday, February 10, 2015
Bosque Action Team receives maps identifying different trail options for the Bosque for their review as part of the public consultation process.
Featured image by Ian Mentken