UNM and Bernalillo County have kicked off renovations to the UNM North Golf Course.

Maggie Hart Stebbins, chair of the Bernalillo County Commission, said reconstruction on the golf course started Monday.

“The construction started to replace and update the irrigation system, which is about 70 years old,” she said, “and improve the walking path around the course and replace the aging tree stock.”

The improvements will offer aesthetic as well as environmental benefits to the community, Hart Stebbins said. She said the trees will help with pollution, and the new irrigation system will save water.

“There will be huge water savings, about an estimated 20 to 25 million gallons a year that will be saved through this more efficient, updated irrigation system,” she said.

In an email sent to the Daily Lobo, UNM President Robert Frank said these renovations could help enrich an important aspect of the community.

“This golf course and the trail around it are an integral piece of our city’s history that has long been embraced by the community and the University,” he said. “These improvements allow us to bring together the best of old and new.” 

The project originated in 2007, when the UNM Board of Regents proposed constructing a retirement community on much of the site.
Hart Stebbins said the project had initially met with resistance from community members near the site.

In 2012, the regents agreed to preserve the open space in exchange for a $1.5 million fee, according to a copy of the agreement. The fee would go towards “a new irrigation system; replace tree stock; upgrade course improvements such as new seeding of grasses, path and trail rehabilitation; facility upgrades (which shall specifically exclude any and all buildings); and to utilize the Fee to preserve and maintain such improvements.”

Bernalillo County Public Information Administrator Andy Lenderman said some of the funds for the project would come from a mill-levy tax that would create a fund for open space in the county.

The rest of the funding is coming from the Bernalillo County general fund, he said.

Stebbins said the open space mill-levy tax has since expired.
Bernalillo County is also asking for a capital outlay to fund a project that would make use of the water that is used to flush heating and cooling systems on main campus, Stebbins said. She said this could be the next phase of the golf course project.

“We’re asking for money that would pump that water from the reservoir and help pump it into the irrigation system,” she said. “That’s another 15 million gallons a year that won’t have to be pumped out of the aquifer.”

Tim Davis, vice president for the North Campus Neighborhood Association, said he and others in his community will be supporting phase two of the project.

“Many people in my neighborhood believe in being as green as we can possibly be,” he said. “Let’s take steps in being proactive for the environment.”

The NCNA will try to raise $50,000 to contribute to more tree-planting on the site, Davis said. He said his organization was part of the movement to get the golf course renovation project underway.

“We were members of the community who approached Bernalillo County to look at partnering with the University to look at a joint venture on this,” he said. “We saw this as a win-win opportunity.”

Stebbins said she felt the renovations were a very thoughtful and mutually beneficial collaboration between the county and the University.

“We really felt it was a win-win-win,” she said. “Win for the University, win for the county and win for the community. And I think it’s really worked out that way.”