Los Lunas expands its park system


Neighborhood parks offer opportunities to exercise and enjoy the beauty of nature. The Los Lunas Parks and Recreation and Open Space departments are dedicated to improving parks and creating enjoyable trails for residents of all ages.

"Our objective is to create a quality of life environment, not just for our young kids, but for our older population," said Michael Jaramillo, Los Lunas' community services director. "That's why we're building park trails. More mature adults tend to use the trails than younger kids. But we're definitely trying to make sure we have diverse recreational opportunities for all our residents."

The village has a total of 17 parks, 15 with playgrounds, and about 20 miles of trails on about 2,400 acres of land.

The bigger parks have trails within the park, so families can enjoy different activities but still be in view of one another.

Young people also benefit by being part of the park-building workforce. The New Mexico Youth Conservation Corps awarded the Open Space department a $42,000 grant to build or renovate an outdoor recreational site and hire local youth to help. Part of the grant requirement is that staff educate young workers.

"We teach them some building skills and trades," said Jaramillo. "Operational tools and equipment if it's power, hand tools and construction skills."

Next summer, about nine high school and college students between the ages of 14 and 25 will be hired to work with rangers and other park staff building a nature playground at the River Park.

"It's an area unlike a normal playground because the youth use their own imagination," said Jason Duran, recreation supervisor. "We give them the tools, but let them use their own imagination."

Rangers and recreation staff will cull timber, bamboo and other natural materials from the River Park area to supply the materials to build the play area.

Ideas include a forte, a log balance beam, rope bridges, log seesaws, bamboo shelters, a sandbox with archaeological tools and log climbers,

"We'll find a tree down on the river, cut it in different sections, bury poles in the ground at different heights to create a climber for the kids," Duran said. "It creates a nature play area using stuff from the river."

The playground will also access the 2.3 mile trail system in the bosque, and be used for activities in the Outdoor Adventures summer program that Parks and Recreation offer.

A large group shelter. housing six picnic tables, was built last summer with a $10,000 grant from the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.

"We're pretty excited because I don't know that there is really anything (like) the nature play area here in New Mexico," said Duran. "We're pretty excited to probably be the first in the state. On the east coast, this is the norm; this is what everybody is building over there."

Parking and access improvements will provide the student workers with experience welding, painting, and metal cutting, he added.

The NMYCC worked with Los Lunas Parks and Recreation two years ago with a grant to renovate El Cerro de Los Lunas Preserve on the west side of the village. Student workers and Boy Scouts helped construct the gazebos and other improvements.

The trailhead is a mile long, marked with black crusher fine trail gravel and leads to different trails on 1,440 acres donated by Jack Huning. It is located on the south side of N.M. 6 about two miles west of the Huning Ranch subdivision.

Some of the parks have received new playgrounds, paved parking lots, gravel trails and a few have paved bicycle and walking trails. They include Buena Vista Park on Carrisa Court north of Main Street, where an old trail was paved that previously ended at the home owners association common open space. It now connects the Fiesta neighborhood to the park.

The trail is open to walkers, joggers and bicycles, but not off-highway vehicles. It was a $40,000 project.

Huning Ranch Park on Sundance Street has 14 paved miles of trails and connects to the Jubilee trails in El Cerro de Los Lunas.

The second oldest park in the village, Neighborhood Park on Park Street off Carson Drive, has a new basketball court. The park will also receive new turf, a new playground, picnic tables, shelters, a paved parking lot and landscaping, Jaramillo said.

There are a total of 32 picnic shelters with tables throughout the park system. Most of the parks have portable bathrooms, and all the parks, except Valley View, have cooking grills, he said.

In addition to the parks, the Enchantment Little League field and building are getting $475,000 worth of improvements that include a paved parking lot and new bathrooms, thanks to New Mexico legislators.

-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.