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.”
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 email@example.com, 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.
3 thoughts on ““Riverwalk” economic feasibility study recommendations unveiled”
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.
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.
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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