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LETTER: Grassy areas of UNM north golf course should be reopened for community access

For more than 40 years, the University of New Mexico’s north golf course has had another life unrelated to golf.

When the sun begins to set, dozens to upwards of a hundred students, faculty and surrounding neighbors converge on the green space to walk their dogs off-leash in the few minutes prior to sunset.

Unsurprisingly, this green space has been a treasured oasis in the center of the city. After the flags come down, Burqueños from all over the city and all walks of life access this space to walk, run, play with their children and dogs, and sometimes to just enjoy themselves on the grass while watching the sunset.

Unfortunately, and without community dialogue, UNM and Bernalillo County officials have shut off access to the grassy areas of the course.

It is outrageous that UNM President Garnett Stokes supports restricting access to an outdoor space for students and the community during a pandemic. Is this a private golf course? No. Does it impact actual student golfers? No — there’s even a second golf course south of main campus that is dedicated solely to golfers. But do taxpayer dollars support the building and maintenance of the north campus golf course? YES.

We both have personal connections to the north golf course. Karla has been visiting this green space nearly every day for 10 years. She frequently walks the perimeter in the morning and visits in the evening with her dog. She travels to this green space from the Old Town area because there isn’t a public grassy area near her home. This is easily the best part of her day. Jenna only recently discovered the golf course during the pandemic, and it is one of the few green areas she feels safe in walking alone at dusk in Albuquerque as a young woman. For both of us, this space always feels safe and elicits a true sense of community. 

Our personal testimonials and those of countless others illustrate the special and essential nature of this space. It has been described as a place for exercise, meditation, unplugged family time, a safe sanctuary in the city, the perfect viewing spot for sunsets and balloons, and an intergenerational meeting spot.

But now that treasured community gathering space is over because of UNM and community leadership’s ill-advised decision to restrict access. 

Dissolution of this community gathering space without any public dialogue, especially during a pandemic, is disheartening and shameful. Over 200 UNM students and local citizens have already signed a petition supporting protection of this right to use the golf course at dusk for our shared community, and 100 community members joined a meeting with Commissioner Adriann Barboa on Dec. 15, 2021. The majority of the participants at the meeting supported keeping this green space open and accessible.

If you agree that the golf course should remain a positive, open space for students and the community, please email Stokes ( and Barboa ( You can email for more ways to become involved in protecting this treasured local space.

Jenna McCullough is a UNM biology Ph.D. student 

Karla Young is a community member and the mother of a UNM alumnus

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