Las Cruces has nearly 1,000 acres of parks
Editor’s note: This is the first of a series of stories about city parks in Las Cruces.
By Mike Cook
Las Cruces Bulletin
We all know about Pioneer Women’s Park in downtown Las Cruces, Apodaca Park, Young Park, Veterans Memorial Park and a few other city parks in Las Cruces. But local residents might be surprised to learn there are 85 total parks and counting in the city — three are in development in the Metro Verde area of northeast Las Cruces, City of Las Cruces Parks and Recreation Director Mark Johnston said.
Some city parks have been around
nearly a century; others are brand new. If you add up everything that’s been developed, “We’re fast approaching 1,000 acres,” Johnston said.
The city’s per capita acreage of park space is below the national average, he said, but the total number of parks is higher than normal.
And that does not include the Las Cruces dam, which was built for water retention and community safety and now is being converted into a city park that totals 640 acres. The Butterfield Shooting Range, west of Las Cruces past Las Cruces Airport, is another 400-plus acres not counted in the developed total, Johnston said; along with the archery range at the old landfill site off Lohman Avenue, which comes in at more than 100 acres.
All counted, the city has 140 public spaces, Johnston said, including the downtown area and city hall and its neighbor, Thomas Branigan Memorial Library and their environs.
JOHNSTON There also are 60 play areas in the city, each containing play structures valued at $75,000 to $150,000 apiece, which Johnston said represents “a lot of investment in the community.”
Johnston said the city has regional parks, which are primary gathering places for local residents and visitors. They include the Hadley complex of more than 100 acres, Apodaca Park and Young Park. The city also has community parks, smaller neighborhood parks, undeveloped parcels that may become parks and sub-classes of each of these, including mini-parks.
Mini-parks range in size from one-quarter to onehalf acre and were designed for small neighborhoods. They often include an open lawn area, a picnic area and play equipment. Many were created by land developers when they built homes and created housing developments, he said.
The City Parks and Recreation Department has more than 100 full-time employees, Johnston said, along with 150 to 200 parttime and seasonal employees. Johnston has been department director for 11 years. He also spent more than 30 years in parks and recreation in Kirtland, Washington.
In addition to the operation and maintenance of all city parks, the department also has charge of city recreation facilities and programs, including the aquatic center and athletic fields across the city; youth services, including the city’s after-school programs, summer recreation, the city’s Juvenile Citation and Weed and Seed programs.
“To me, the parks are the economic draw of the city,” Johnston said, bringing “more tourism than any other sector.”
Pioneer Women’s Park, 500 W. Las Cruces Ave., may be the city’s oldest park.
According to documents from the Las Cruces Woman’s Improvement Association (WIA), the park was deeded to the city by the WIA (the association is singular, but the park is plural) on June 11, 1924. It probably had existed for more than 30 years prior to that as a WIA property, having been plated in September 1897, some 14 years before New Mexico became a state.
The transfer contains one restriction: “… said restriction is that this property must be forever maintained as and for park purposes upon failure to so maintain this property for park purposes the title shall revert to the WIA.”
The original deed was misplaced, and a corrective deed confirming the transfer was signed by Las Cruces Mayor Joe Camunez on Jan. 18, 1982.
The 2.1-acre park contains a gazebo that is often the site of weddings, candle- light vigils and other family and community events. It also contains a play area, a water fountain, four tables, benches, walking trails and many trees. Directly across Reymond Street from the park is the WIA building, soon to be the headquarters of the new nonprofit Film Las Cruces.
If you want to visit the Parks and Recreation Department, it’s not located at city hall. It’s at 1501 E. Hadley Ave., across the street from the Hadley sports complex. Call the department at 541-2550.
For more information on Pioneer Women’s Park, visit http://www.las-cruces. org/en/departments/ parks- and- recreation/ parks/parks-listing and http://prescriptiontrails. org/pioneerwomenspark/ Pioneer- Womens- Park. pdf.