ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Controversy is brewing over a huge chunk of land in the middle of Albuquerque. Not all neighbors are on board with a sprawling plan to transform farmland off Rio Grande into a park that’s been decades in the making.

The city used federal dollars in the late 70s to snap up the open space to preserve it as Albuquerque grows. Now, people are reacting to the city’s plans to support wildlife habitat there and offer outdoor recreation for families.

“We’ll have shrublands and grasslands and a much larger wetland area,” Open Space Superintendent Colleen McRoberts said. “It’s going to be really vibrant and it will support a much wider array of wildlife year-round.”

The resource management plan for the Candelaria Nature Preserve is designed to protect 170 acres in the North Valley between the Bosque and Rio Grande Blvd. near Candelaria. It proposes adding park access and facilities for nature studying and wildlife viewing. Officials say there would be limited foot traffic for guided tours; more accessible trails and bird blinds; and education programs with opportunities for hands-on activities, like planting and weed removal.

These plans in the works since 2016 were presented to the Environmental Planning Commission Thursday for review. People in opposition to the project spoke up, addressing concerns with dirt, noise and trash; wanting to limit the use of herbicides; and issues with cars parking along Rio Grande.

People in the previous discussions about the plan said they worried the addition of a bathroom would attract the homeless.

“This has been used as a dump for some time,” Steve Ewing from Albuquerque stated during the public comment section of the virtual meeting. “There’s a need for contamination to be addressed and soil samples to be taken.”

After a four-hour discussion, the commission voted for a continuance, giving the Open Space division just over a month to make revisions to the plan to address those concerns. If the EPC signs off on the plan in January, it would then go to city council.

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