Wildlife trail or commercial development for Rotary Park?

by Haruhuani Spruce | May 31, 2021
5 min read
"Lovely peace and quiet": present-day Rotary Park in Truth or Consequences near the temporary dam site Source: Sierra County NM Trails

While locals have been visualizing an extension of the Healing Waters Trail and wetlands restoration for Rotary Park, according to a recent article in the Sun, Truth or Consequences city officials have been drafting a competing plan to encourage commercial development in this little riverfront oasis. Their “Riverwalk” plan is a ghastly insult to our historic hot springs neighborhood, to downtown businesses and surrounding neighborhoods—to everyone who loves the current quality of life that we have now in T or C.

Like many of us, I came to T or C, almost 20 years ago, because I was drawn by the power of the gigantic hot springs here. In my world, the hot springs and its guardian mountain, Turtleback, are living entities that can heal. This desert bowl enshrining the land between these two great entities has remained open—in the face of careless development in so many other beautiful places—due to its great power.  Some call the space between the springs and the mountain a “vortex.” I would not have come up with that term myself, but I feel it is appropriate.

Ancient peoples revered this land for uncountable time. Almost as soon as white people arrived they began desecrating this sacred place.  They drained the marsh where, it is said, seven hot springs once emerged, guarded by the native peoples. White people then built bordellos and gambling houses on top of their landfill, leaving only a small remnant wetland at the edge near the river.

Even with such disrespect, this area that is now called Truth or Consequences has maintained a powerful presence in the minds of those who live here and who come here for healing. We have for decades been known as a place where many who are tired of the crass indifference of the larger society can find refuge and acceptance. Our idiosyncratic character is our strength.

The remnant marsh still hosts many species of plants and animals, and helps to maintain the integrity of the river biome.

Nestled along the banks of our part of the Rio Grande, the open land here has become a major stopping point for many species of migrating birds and home to many species of wildlife who, like the people who come here, find refuge, a place where they can thrive, even as this crowded world encroaches more and more upon the traditional web of nature that sustains all living things on our planet.

Conceptual drawing of wetland restoration of Rotary Park
Unrealized concept for a wetland restoration project at Rotary Park

Truth or Consequences is well named. Though the pressure for development is unceasing, T or C remains uniquely itself. Some have called the phenomenon the “Apache curse,” revenge for desecrating the springs in the first place. Whatever the reason, I have seen one organization after another arrive here with big plans for development that somehow never materialized. Truth. This place is sacred. Some of us can see this. The power of this place is such that only the things that are supposed to be here are the things that happen.

As the larger world becomes more chaotic, we in T or C are currently seeing a large influx of new, intelligent, creative people who love the affordable, relaxed and quiet place they find here. There will be more new arrivals.

I would guess that most T or C residents do not want more lights, noise and traffic. We do want our existing businesses to thrive as they form the basis for our lively community. We would like to see the many empty storefronts here filled with interesting, locally owned businesses. We will welcome tourists who come to experience the beauty that we have to offer.

There are some sound economic reasons for going with the nature preserve/trails idea proposed by the “Turtleback Trails” project, a citizen-led planning effort to improve recreational access to the riverfront. T or C has a growing national reputation for being the funky, quirky little town that it is, for the non-corporate artists, restaurants, people and wall-artful buildings here. A nature preserve including the wetlands and the land across the river, plus the hot springs, plus the great inns and good restaurants and brewery here (all much better than Socorro)—not to mention the many wonderful healers and massage therapists—make for a great travel destination/tour. People could visit the Bosque Del Apache’s fabulous cranes preserve, then head down to T or C for the lake, the hikes, the lovely peace and quiet and all that we have here, not to mention side trips to likewise quaint and beautiful Monticello, Hillsboro, Kingston and other stops on the way to the majestic Black Range.

I can even imagine walking tours at night from the motels down to the river to view the amazing starry skies that we enjoy here. This tourist boost would preserve the unique flavor of T or C that is the reason so many of us love this place, while giving a much-needed boost to our local small businesses. I think it would attract new businesses as well—small, unique businesses instead of the one-size-fits-all mass-produced outlets that can be found anywhere else.

Please, let us come together to prevent one more desecration. Please let us create, instead, a preserve for wildlife with access for people to the Rio Grande that will stand into the future to preserve the precious, irreplaceable quality of life that we are able to enjoy here.


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“Riverwalk” Presentation/Input Session

Truth or Consequence's riverfront

Thursday, June 24, from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
City Commission Chambers
405 W. Third Street, Truth or Consequences

This is the first opportunity for the public to be briefed and comment on on the “Riverwalk” Economic Feasibility Study, commissioned two summers ago from Wilson & Company, civil engineers, by the City of Truth or Consequences. Not to be confused with the community-led “Turtleback Trails” planning effort, which is focused exclusively on improving recreational access and amenities along the riverfront, the Riverwalk study aims to identify possible opportunities for commercial real estate development at Rotary Park, Ralph Edwards Park and a proposed “recreational hub” at the existing Highway 51 tube and paddle launch.

To prepare to provide thoughtful comment, you may view a first draft of a “concept map” of the three proposed development zones, obtained by the Sun via an Inspection of Public Records Act request, and learn more about both the Wilson & Company study and the Turtleback Trails project in the Sun’s indepth report on both planning efforts, “Healthier and Wealthier: The “Turtleback Trails” Vision of Green Riverfront Development.



Free T’ai Ch’i Chih classes in June

t'ai ch'i graphic

Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 a.m. sharp
Park next to municipal pool, Truth or Consequences

T’ai Ch’i Chih is a gentle, meditative movement. Classes of 35 to 40 minutes will improve body balance and quiet the mind. Each session will cover the opening moves, plus six to eight moves of the method (for 20 to 21 moves in total).

Volunteer class leader Carol Borsello has Medical Qigong Level II certification and 25 years of natural healing studies, including massage. Although she is not certified to teach TCC, she is eager to share her healthy hobby with others.

“Come try it out,” Borsello says. “Reinforce good balance and raise your energy level a notch or two!”

Tondo Rotondo: The Circle Show

Nolan Winkler's painting "World Without End, Amen"

June 12–August 15
Rio Bravo Fine Art Gallery, 110 N. Broadway
Truth or Consequences

Tondo (plural “tondi” or “tondos”) is a Renaissance term for a circular work of art. This exhibition features artists represented by Rio Bravo Fine Art, in conjunction with other guest artists from New Mexico and Puerto Rico, all of whom have created a variety of imaginative art using the circle as their starting point. There are paintings on circular canvases, sculptures that take the circle into the three-dimensional realm and photographs with a circular perspective. Illustrated here is Nolan Winkler’s “World Without End, Amen,” diameter 20 inches, one of the paintings in the exhibit.

The exhibition’s opening reception will take place on June 12, during Second Saturday Art Hop, from 6 to 9 p.m. Regular viewing hours are Wednesday through Saturday, from noon to 5 p.m.




Foundation for Open Government determines T or C's fees to deliver requested electronic documents not allowed under state law

Truth or Consequences has recently begun to charge a fee of 25 cents per page to deliver electronic records requested under the Inspection of Public Records Act. FOG responded to a citizen request to determine the fee’s validity.

Reader Ron Fenn of Truth or Consequences commented: Thank you for informing on this important “right of the people” to know how our government is acting and spending our money.  Mr. Swingle needs to look at cutting costs (personnel) not penalizing residents to reduce the decades old budget deficits.

T or C still mum about problems with city’s water wells, despite only two of eight working properly

A legal ad in the Sierra County Sentinel’s May 21 edition was the first public notice and acknowledgment that two more wells in the city’s eight-well field are in trouble. Four others are offline, raising questions about the city’s water delivery capacity and the water department’s transparency about the health of the well field.

Reader William West of Truth or Consequences commented: If Wells 6 and 7 are leaking “liquid” or water with oil and metal filings, it seems possible, if not likely, we are drinking the same. If a property with a well is sold, the condition of the well water is part of the seller’s disclosure to the buyer. If T or C water is suspect, either because recent consumer confidence reports were not made public or there are capacity or quality problems with the water the city provides, should these concerns be a part of all property disclosures for sales in the city going forward?

It seems to me that fixing basic needs such as clean water, reliable electrical supply, effective stormwater handling and a transparent and aware city council should come before any consideration of “putting lipstick on a pig”-type projects such as the “Riverwalk.”


4 Comments on “Wildlife trail or commercial development for Rotary Park?”

  1. Residing in the neighborhood between downtown and Rotary Park, I would not like to see commercial development at Rotary Park. There would be traffic in our residential streets. And the run-off from pavement and/or construction into the river seems environmentally unsound. I have no idea what sort of commercial development is proposed, but I can’t imagine it getting past an environmental impact study—which there ought to be, of course, for anything that goes in that location. I agree with Dr. Spruce. Wetlands restoration and a hiking trail. Investment in projects that make this town more its true self, not something it isn’t, will help us thrive.

    1. I no longer live in T or C but I would hate for the hot springs area to be changed. The wetlands restoration would be great.

  2. I totally agree. We must avoid the trap of turning this amazing place into a Disneyland of entrepreneurship. Yes, there is a place for folks who have art and craft and food for sale, but that place is not in the middle of the natural wonder that is this remarkable bend in the “Great River.” The hot springs are wondrous, but let’s not overshadow the riverine valley that the springs help create. It is also a place where migrating birds refuel on their annual migrations both directions.

    If we cover those wetlands with hot dog stands and trinket sellers, we’ll become like every other tourist trap. No one will want to go out of their way (and we are truly “out of the way” for just about anyone going anywhere!) to buy trinkets and souvenirs. We have all these distinctive natural features that are truly something worthy of experiencing—let’s nurture them and make them accessible. People will come and after they’ve seen and experienced them. Then they’ll come back into town to buy your stuff and stay in your hotels.

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