“Riverwalk” economic feasibility study recommendations unveiled

by Diana Tittle | November 14, 2021
5 min read
Wilson & Company schematic of a proposed river-spanning—and utility-carrying—bridge

A conceptual plan that is to be voted up or down by city commissioners at their Nov. 17 meeting could significantly influence the future economic development and expansion of Truth or Consequences.

T or C City Manager Bruce Swingle will likely ask the city commission at its Wednesday meeting to adopt the recommendations of the “Riverwalk” economic feasibility study, despite critical response to several of its previously disclosed development proposals.

Commissioned by the city in July 2019 and prepared at a cost of $60,000 by the Wilson & Company engineering firm, the study calls for a public investment of $12 million in outdoor recreational amenities on both sides of the Rio Grande, such as a campground, cafés and small shops, a four-mile bicycle loop, a playground and sports fields.

One third of the estimated cost would go toward the construction of a 46-foot-wide bridge spanning the river, possibly at either Ralph Edwards or Rotary parks. Accommodating vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists, the bridge would also serve as a conduit to bring water and wastewater services to the east bank to spur real estate development.

The role of private investment in creating new residential areas and businesses is contemplated, but not described or quantified in the study, perhaps because of public opposition to Wilson & Company’s preliminary concept of transforming Rotary Park into the Sierra County equivalent of San Antonio’s Riverwalk: a outdoor pedestrian mall lined with shops, restaurants, bars and even hotels. 

Public input was sought at an open house last June and in a public survey enclosed in the city’s August utility bills. The majority of respondents expressed opposition to the riverfront’s commercial development and to a vehicular bridge, while supporting a pedestrian-only bridge and recreational enhancements within the broader “Study Area.”

Wilson & Company’s concept map of recommended developments in the “Study Area”
survey questions
Some of the recommended projects are not popular with the majority of respondents to the study’s public survey, three questions from which are illustrated here. Source: Wilson & Company

The latest iteration of the study still includes unpopular concepts along with the popular. Logging in at 50 pages, it can be found beginning on page 165 of the commission’s Nov. 17 meeting packet, available on the city’s website. Although labeled a draft, the study is due this month for review by the New Mexico Finance Authority, which awarded the City of Truth or Consequences a $50,000 grant to help underwrite its preparation.

Among the recommended projects that the study argues “could support the community’s goal of growing its outdoor recreation economy” are:

• a $3.2 million bridge with two 12-foot-wide lanes to accommodate east-west vehicular traffic, flanked by a 10-foot-wide “path” on one side and a 10-foot-wide sidewalk on the other. Four possible sites for the bridge are marked on the Study Area map, but Wilson & Company’s first and second choices are for Ralph Edwards Park and Rotary Park, respectively.

• extension of city water and wastewater lines to the east bank of the river, which is “currently vacant because of the lack of utility connections,” the study observes. Although Wilson & Company note that the “type of development and infrastructure needed on the south side has yet to be determined,” the study recommends that the city spend an estimated $1.15 million to construct new utility transmission lines, using the bridge as a “support structure.”

• light commercial development (i.e., small restaurants and locally owned retail) on city-owned land marked as Circle 1 on the Study Area map. The study describes the location of this “one million square feet of developable land” as being south of Rotary Park and behind the Veterans Memorial Park and the New Mexico State Veterans’ Home. No estimated cost, as private dollars are anticipated to be attracted by public investments.

• a public campground with a restroom, picnic tables and grills and a new park with sports fields and a playground. Marked as Circle 3 on the Study Area map, these facilities are sited directly across the river from Ralph Edwards Park. Estimated cost: $356,310.

• a “recreation hub” marked as Circle 4 on the Study Area map and located near the tubing put-in point on State Highway 51. This area could accommodate such new outdoor activities as fishing, kayaking and horseback riding. Estimated cost: $1.6 million.

• a four-mile-long bicycle path beginning at Ralph Edwards Park and traveling via Riverside Road on to the new “recreation hub” before looping back to the new campground via Turtleback Road. (On the Study Area map, the path’s route is indicated by a solid black line labeled 5.) Estimated cost: $2.5 million.

The bike path is separate and apart, the study notes, from an east-bank hiking trail linking T or C and Williamsburg proposed by a citizen-led planning effort facilitated by the National Park Service. The Turtleback Trails project has been focused on identifying desirable “green” recreational developments, including a network of walking/hiking/biking paths on the east side of the river that would be reached by a new non-vehicular bridge.

Wilson & Company states in the study that it has taken into consideration residents’ concerns about how riverfront development will affect the “natural Hot Springs and the living ecosystem that surrounds them,” as well as for “existing river views and wildlife sanctuaries.” The study recommends that “additional environmental analysis should occur before any development begins.”

Residents who wish to comment on the Riverwalk study may do so in person during public comment at Wednesday’s city commission meeting. Or, before the end of the day tomorrow, Monday, Nov. 15, they may submit written comments via email to torcpubliccomment@torcnm.org, by fax at (575) 894-6690, or in person at the City Clerk’s Office, 505 Sims St.

The Nov. 17 meeting will be broadcast live on KCHS-FM 101.9.


Diana Tittle is editor of the Sun.

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Understanding New Mexico's proposed new social studies standards for K-12 students

“The primary purpose of social studies is to help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world.”
—National Council for the Social Studies 

Reader Michael L. Hayes of Las Cruces commented: What impresses me is that both the proposed standards and some of the criticisms of them are equally grotesque. I make this bold statement on the basis of my experience as a peripatetic high school and college English teacher for 45 years in many states with many students differing in race, religion, gender and socioeconomic background, and as a civic activist (PTA) in public education (My career, however, was as an independent consultant mainly in defense, energy and the environment.)

The proposed social studies standards are conceptually and instructionally flawed. For starters, a “performance standard” is not a standard at all; it is a task. Asking someone to explain something is not unlike asking someone to water the lawn. Nothing measures the performance, but without a measure, there is no standard. The teacher’s subjective judgment will be all that matters, and almost anything will count as satisfying a “performance standard,” even just trying. Students will be left to wonder “what is on the teacher’s mind?” or “have I sucked up enough.”

Four other quick criticisms of the performance standards. One, they are nearly unintelligible because they are written in jargon. PED’s use of jargon in a document intended for the public is worrisome. Bureaucrats often use jargon to confuse or conceal something uninformed, wrong or unworthy. As a result, most parents, some school board members and more than a few teachers do not understand them.

Two, the performance standards are so vague that they fail to define the education which teachers are supposed to teach, students are supposed to learn, and parents are supposed to understand. PED does not define words like “explain” or “describe” so that teachers can apply “standards” consistently and fairly. The standards do not indicate what teachers are supposed to know in order to teach or specify what students are supposed to learn. Supervisors cannot know whether teachers are teaching social studies well or poorly. The standards are so vague that the public, especially parents or guardians, cannot know the content of public education.

Three, many performance standards are simply unrealistic, especially at grade level. Under “Ethnic, Cultural and Identity Performance Standards”; then under “Diversity and Identity”; then under “Kindergarten,” one such standard is: “Identify how their family does things both the same as and different from how other people do things.” Do six-year-olds know how other people do things? Do they know whether these things are relevant to diversity and identity? Or another standard: “Describe their family history, culture, and past to current contributions of people in their main identity groups.” (A proficient writer would have hyphenated the compound adjective to avoid confusing the reader.) Do six-year-olds know so much about these things in relation to their “identity group”? Since teachers obviously do not teach them about these other people and have not taught them about these groups, why are these and similar items in the curriculum; or do teachers assign them to go home and collect this information?

Point four follows from “three”; some information relevant to some performance measures requires a disclosure of personal or family matters. The younger the students, the easier it is for teachers to invade their privacy and not only their privacy, but also the privacy of their parents or guardians, or neighbors, who may never be aware of these disclosures or not become aware of them until afterward. PED has no right to design a curriculum which requires teachers to ask students for information about themselves, parents or guardians, or neighbors, or puts teachers on the spot if the disclosures reveal criminal conduct. (Bill says Jeff’s father plays games in bed with his daughter. Lila says Angelo’s mother gives herself shots in the arm.) Since teacher-student communications have no legal protection to ensure privacy, those disclosures may become public accidentally or deliberately. The effect of these proposal standards is to turn New Mexico schools and teachers into investigative agents of the state and students into little informants or spies.

This PED proposal for social studies standards is a travesty of education despite its appeals to purportedly enlightened principles. It constitutes a clear and present danger to individual liberty and civil liberties. It should be repudiated; its development, investigated; its PED perpetrators, dismissed. No state curriculum should encourage or require the disclosure of private personal information.

I am equally outraged by the comments of some of T or C’s school board members: Christine LaFont and Julianne Stroup, two white Christian women, who belong to one of the larger minorities in America and assume white and Christian privileges. In different terms but for essentially the same reason, both oppose an education which includes lessons about historical events and trends, and social movements and developments, of other minorities. They object to the proposal for the new social studies standards because of its emphasis on individual and group identities not white or Christian. I am not going to reply with specific objections; they are too numerous and too pointed.

Ms. LaFont urges: “It’s better to address what’s similar with all Americans. It’s not good to differentiate.” Ms. Stroup adds: “Our country is not a racist country. We have to teach to respect each other. We have civil rights laws that protect everyone from discrimination. We need to teach civics, love and respect. We need to teach how to be color blind.”

Their desires for unity and homogeneity, and for mutual respect, are a contradiction and an impossibility. Aside from a shared citizenship, which implies acceptance of the Constitution, the rule of law and equality under the law, little else defines Americans. We are additionally defined by our race, religion, national origin, etc. So mutual respect requires individuals to respect others different from themselves. Disrespect desires blacks, Jews or Palestinians to assimilate or to suppress or conceal racial, religious or national origin aspects of their identity. The only people who want erasure of nonwhite, non-Christian, non-American origin aspects of identity are bigots. Ms. LaFont and Ms. Stroud want standards which, by stressing similarities and eliding differences, desire the erasure of such aspects. What they want will result in a social studies curriculum that enables white, Christian, native-born children to grow up to be bigots and all others to be their victims. This would be the academic equivalent of ethnic cleansing.


This postmortem of a case involving a 75-year-old women who went missing from her home in Hillsboro last September sheds light on the bounds of law enforcement’s capacity to respond, especially in large rural jurisdictions such as Sierra County, and underscores the critical role the public, as well as concerned family and friends, can play in assisting a missing person’s search.

Reader Jane Debrott of Hillsboro commented: Thank you for your article on the tragic loss of Betsey. I am a resident of Hillsboro, a friend of Rick and Betsey, and a member of H.E.L.P. The thing that most distresses me now, is the emphasis on Rick’s mis-naming of the color of their car. I fear that this fact will cause Rick to feel that if he had only gotten the facts right, Betsey may have been rescued before it was too late. The incident was a series of unavoidable events, out of everyone’s control, and we will never know what place the correct color of her car may have had in the outcome. It breaks my heart to think that Rick has had one more thing added to his “what ifs” concerning this incident.

Diana Tittle responded: Dear Jane, the Sun undertook this investigation at the request of a Hillsboro resident concerned about the town’s inability to mount a prompt, coordinated response to the disappearance of a neighbor. From the beginning, I shared your concern about how our findings might affect Betsy’s family and friends. After I completed my research and began writing, I weighed each detail I eventually chose to include against my desire to cause no pain and the public’s right to know about the strengths and limitations of law enforcement’s response and the public’s need to know about how to be of meaningful assistance.

There was information I withheld about the state police investigation and the recovery. But I decided to include the issue of the car’s color because the individuals who spotted Betsy’s car emphasized how its color had been key to their identification of it as the vehicle described in Betsy’s Silver Alert. Because the misinformation was corrected within a couple of hours, I also included in this story the following editorial comment meant to put the error in perspective: “The fact that law enforcement throughout the state was on the lookout in the crucial early hours after Betsy’s disappearance for an elderly woman driving a “light blue” instead of a “silver” Accord would, in retrospect, likely not have changed the outcome of the search” [emphasis added].

I would also point to the story’s overarching conclusion about the inadvisability of assigning blame for what happened: “In this case, a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances, many of them beyond human control, hindered the search that it would fall to Hamilton’s department to lead.”

It is my hope that any pain caused by my reporting will eventually be outweighed by its contribution to a better community understanding of what it will take in the future to mount a successful missing person’s search in rural Sierra County.


Riverwalk grant is gateway to future City spending
by Kathleen Sloan | June 11, 2020

The Truth or Consequences City Commission accepted a $50,000 grant to be used to plan for a “Riverwalk,” although four members of the board were…

“Riverwalk” ideas get thumbs down from community
by Kathleen Sloan | July 2, 2021

The City of Truth or Consequences will abandon its idea of encouraging commercial development of the riverfront—if it listens to the 30 or so community...

3 thoughts on ““Riverwalk” economic feasibility study recommendations unveiled”

  1. This all sounds wonderful, but may I propose an alternative to all the new development? Our golf course costs $269K/year while yielding $41K in income—a truly staggering loss per annum which would close any intelligent business operation. How do we justify pouring money into an obviously losing proposition? The Sierra Del Rio in Elephant Butte is an alternative course nearby, so it is not a total restriction to golfers to close ours down. Or perhaps we might just reduce it to nine holes and offer the rest of the land as a park to be used for cycling, safe (level) walking paths, some shady spots…. All this money for new development would be more readily and less expensively applied to improving a people area in an established greenland, it seems to me.

    I understand the romance/charm/magic of a “Riverwalk,” but it’s not like we have a river but for half the year. And the drought does not lend itself to gushing waters of drama and beauty anytime soon. The river’s recent popularity has grown because of the lake being so low. The off-road vehicular traffic has scarred our desert and interrupted the privacy of many. Repurposing the course or any portion of it would do neither of these, while perhaps keeping costs down.

    1. Thank you, Carol, I am glad to read some creative ideas for improving the already existing little city of T or C. We already have areas that could be utilized more efficiently. As I watched water run down my street last year for days in a stream-sized flow, I wondered at the wisdom of trying to expand water/utilities to the other side of the river while areas of our town both above and below ground could use some TLC.

      In fact, maybe a bumper sticker of “TLC for T or C” may be in order. The number of crumbling properties ripe for rejuvenation, including many right on Date street, and your astute observation about our golf course, lends credence to the concept that we have tasks and possibilities already at hand. I hope the community can coalesce around some ideas to improve what we have before spending money we don’t on projects that benefit few.

  2. In yesterday’s city commission meeting during public comment, it came out that the golf course has increased fees by 62 percent. With mostly the senior population supporting the course, this figure puts some members out of the picture which will reduce the number of users even more. Sierra del Rio prices are far higher (which I had not realized, as it is a private course) and can be found here.

    One speaker said the selling point on the city’s new fees was “unlimited golf,” but in his next sentence brought out that this population is not playing “three, four games a day.” This renders that selling point moot.

    It’s easy for me to say repurpose the T/C course (which is nine holes only, not the 18 I was thinking it was). But we could really make this a more accessible area for public use with repurposing it—even if we made it a membership deal where we pay an annual fee to use it as a parkland, but perhaps this would be unenforceable. I wonder if a deal might be worked out for those using the T or C golf course to play at SDR or join there at a lesser fee for senior memberships.

    There were 11 public comments by email on the car bridge vs. walking bridge over the Rio, including discussion of habitat, environment destruction, that the ATVs are off-road much of the time (that’s what they’re for, right?). Every comment was against this “improvement,: its wild costs, etc., so people are paying attention to how the public areas of the city are used. I agree hugely with the city’s needing restoration rather than indebting it further for new development.

    It would definitely be a tourist draw to have a dedicated parkland for cyclists, hikers, families—all would be drawn to take advantage. Our citizens also need an accessible greenspace in which to walk, cycle, to be safe in (no traffic). It seemed an 18-hole course could have been divvied up, but I erred in thinking there was that much space available.

    So this is a dilemma to which we need to bring creative, “upleveling” solutions. I’ve lived elsewhere in places where a street would be blocked off at certain hours for public use, like bicycles and walkers only from 8 to 10 a.m. Might this work?

    We need a forum and some surveys (votes?) on use of our outdoors. Ralph Edwards Park is too small. The streets are not really safe with our many blind spots of hills and valleys and the increasingly speeded-up traffic.

    Lots for consideration here. I do believe many more are paying attention. I have met three people this past week alone who just moved here and have kids. Not looking to build Central Park Southwest, but our climate and tourist capacity lend themselves to finding some venue to provide outdoor recreation opps. Sorry to be long-winded. Just want to see T or C have the most advantages possible for residents and visitors.

    Bottom line is we’re not going to make up the difference between $269 and $41K via member fees.

    Many thanks for your reading this. I look forward to more discussion.(Mark, love the bumper sticker idea!! Great wording!)

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