County touts benefits of path; some residents disagree

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By David Giuliani

Some residents touted the health benefits of a path for pedestrians and bicyclists along Cinder Road. Others called it a waste of money and questioned whether it would impede community irrigation ditches.

San Miguel County held its third public hearing last week on the proposed 1.5-mile path that it hopes to begin building soon.

The path is part of a long-term plan to link the city’s riverwalk, which the county hopes to eventually extend all the way to the United World College in Montezuma.

The county plans to build the first phase of the project starting 700 feet north of Mills Avenue and ending at Palo Verde. The second phase would go from Palo Verde to near where the Gallinas River crosses Cinder.

The county’s plan includes two small parks along the path — one at Memorial Middle School and the other near where the river crosses Cinder. An architect hired by the county described the planned landscaping, benches and other features at the parks.

The 10-foot-wide path would occasionally curve to add character and include lanes for pedestrians and bicyclists, officials said.

The county promoted the path as a way to provide another outlet for those seeking to improve their health.

Not everyone was enthused about the path.

Jose Maestas, a resident in the Cinder Road area, questioned whether the public hearing was even worth it, given that the county was about ready to begin the project. He called the project unnecessary.

“This is a smokescreen to spend taxpayer money,” he said.

Maestas also presented photos to the audience, showing the trash and vandalism at the current city riverwalk. He suggested similar problems would occur on the county’s portion.

County officials said they wouldn’t place trash receptacles along the path or at the parks because they feared Las Vegans would use them to dump their household trash. But they said they could arrange for crews to pick up garbage in that area.

Robert Nolan, a Las Vegas resident, also criticized the county’s path proposal, saying that there were plenty of other places for people to walk and run, including three school tracks.

“Do you know how many houses could be weatherized with that money?” he asked.

He suggested that the project was designed “to keep up with Farmington,” a northwestern New Mexico town with a riverwalk.

Richard Cozens, mayordomo of the Acequia Madre de los Romeros, said he was concerned that the pathway project would hinder the flow of acequias, which are community-run ditches. He suggested a ditch all along the side of Cinder, allowing for a few crossover points.

County Manager Les Montoya said that was a good idea and that the acequias should work with the county on getting the funding.

Other residents touted the health benefits of the path.

Michell Aragon, the wellness coordinator for the Las Vegas City Schools, presented a petition that she said contained 200 signatures in support of the path.

And Angela Baumeister, who works at El Centro health clinic, said it’s important to provide opportunities for kids to exercise, noting the problem of obesity in Las Vegas and elsewhere.

“It’s about getting off our butts,” she said.

Montoya encouraged people with concerns about irrigation along Cinder Road to give the county their contact information. He said he would have the county’s experts meet with them, so they could discuss individual situations.

At the beginning of the more than two hour meeting, Montoya said he expected the county to start construction in May. But after hearing residents’ concerns,  especially about irrigation issues, Montoya said it was likely that the project wouldn’t start until June.