Amidst New Mexico’s summer heatwave with temperatures in the 100s, concern has spiked over the inadequate maintenance and neglect of parks in communities of color and low-income areas. The poor maintenance of parks is an example of environmental racism.
“The dire state of these parks hinders the residents' access to green spaces, but also permeates into environmental racism and there is a need for change,” Enrique Cardiel, a community organizer, said.
The Regional Recreation Center/Quality of Life Grant was a state-led effort to improve amenities at public outdoor spaces in the state. While none of the funding went to Bernalillo County, Urban to Wild coordinator, Rachel Swanteson-Franz, said these efforts are to help improve equity in public green spaces.
“These efforts aim to address the deficiencies in parks, enhance their infrastructure and provide more opportunities for individuals,” Swanteson-Franz said.
Bernadette Hardy, an organizer with the Healthy Communities Coalition in the International District, called on more support from the city of Albuquerque to support the public spaces.
“Cities have the power to transform their communities by investing in programs that enhance parks and public spaces. We can create vibrant environments that uplift and inspire residents – developing a stronger sense of community and well-being,” Hardy said.
Those gathered at the “Fourth of the Lies” event in Mesa Verde Park said that parks play a key role in building community and organizing. Michael Vincent, a local resident, said that the lack of care is disheartening.
“The absence of regular upkeep and necessary attention is disheartening, especially considering the vital role these parks play in providing recreational opportunities for the community,” Vincent said.
The low-income communities are more frequently impacted by poor outdoor space. A 2020 report from the Wilderness Society in Albuquerque stated “Low-income families and black people, indigenous people and people of color in Albuquerque lack access to large, high-quality and well-maintained parks.” Parks are crucial in low-income communities, Hardy said.
"Parks serve as an essential yard for individuals in rental units, allowing them to access open spaces and engage in recreational activities that would otherwise be limited. Parks foster a sense of unity – providing a venue for community gatherings, events and celebrations,” Hardy said.
The lack of resources and upkeep available at the park limits people’s ability to enjoy the space, Hardy and Vincent said.
“The water is not only cut off to water the grass but there are areas within the park that don’t possess any sort of amenities for our children,” Hardy said.
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Well-maintained parks are especially important as a space for kids, Cardiel said, as they provide opportunities for children to connect and exercise.
“The parks provide an opportunity for all different types of people, but it is very relevant to the kids because most of them rely on a place where they can escape, make friends and connect with nature,” Cardiel said.
Weston Quintana is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @wesss_jpg
Weston Quintana is a freelance reporter and photographer for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted on Twitter @wesss_jpg