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.
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.