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City discusses new baseball fields, park

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City of Roswell Community Development Manager Bill Morris, seen during a July 2019 meeting, points out some areas of the southeast quadrant of the Old Municipal Airport property intended for recreational uses. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

Master plan for entire section of city shared

The city has until February to spend some of the money the state has appropriated for new tournament baseball fields and an all-inclusive park, and Community Development Manager Bill Morris is preparing for those projects by sharing ideas with city councilors about the master plan for the entire area.

As currently envisioned, the two clover-leaf baseball fields would be located behind Cielo Grande’s enclosed soccer fields, while the new park would be located near the front parking area of the recreation and aquatic center.

“Before we can start construction on these recreation facilities, we want to look at a master plan,” said Morris during a Thursday meeting of the Roswell City Council Legal Committee.

The Cielo Grande and recreation center area are only part of a larger city region known as the Old Municipal Airport property. The city’s commercial airport was located there until it relocated in 1975 to the former Walker Air Force Base, what is now called the Roswell Air Center.

The Old Municipal Airport property is about 640 to 650 acres. It is bounded by West 19th Street on the north, West Eighth Street on the south, North Montana Avenue on the east and North Sycamore Avenue on the west. West College Boulevard is the major road running east-west down the middle.

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The city’s ultimate development plans for the area are expected to take anywhere from 20 to 30 years to be fully realized.

As Morris explained to city councilors, the master plan now divides the region into four quadrants. The northeast quadrant from North Montana Avenue to Nevada Avenue includes the Noon Optimist ball fields, which would remain practice fields; the Chaves County JOY Center; Elks and American Legion buildings; and the newly built New Mexico Game and Fish Administration Center. Eventually the vacant areas are intended to be used for single-family homes, Morris said.

The northwest quadrant from Nevada Avenue to North Sycamore Avenue, which now includes a veterinarian’s office, a Masonic Lodge and a firehouse, is envisioned one day to include a mixed-use development designed around an art deco airport theme that would include a town plaza, retail and commercial spaces, apartments and duplexes.

Directly across West College Boulevard from that area is the southwest quadrant, which is intended to have larger parcels for single-family homes.

The southeast quadrant is where the recreational facilities are located. The existing features are Cielo Grande, walking and biking trails, the Roswell Recreation and Aquatic Center, and the partially developed amphitheater. The new features would be the baseball fields and the all-inclusive park.

The city has received $850,000 in state capital outlay funds from the New Mexico Legislature for the baseball fields, which could cost as much as $13 million to complete, according to a 2019 city Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan. The $850,000 is intended to cover the costs of design and engineering plans and construction of a roadway to the site.

Roswell also has received $1.4 million for the all-inclusive park, tentatively named Horizons Park. That was the estimated total cost of the project when it was approved for inclusion on city property in 2018.

At that time, the Autism Society and other nonprofits intended to fundraise to develop the park, but state funding came after the cause drew the support of other nonprofits and Rep. Greg Nibert (R-Roswell).

The all-inclusive park was first suggested to the city by a mother who also was a local board member of the New Mexico Autism Association. She and other parents then appeared at city meetings to express how the area needed a park that would be open to all but would be designed specifically to accommodate children with physical or developmental disabilities. It might include such features as a sensory garden, swings made for wheelchairs and a cozy dome for when children need a quiet space.

Morris said that city staff are planning special landscaping around the all-inclusive park to reduce noise from traffic and Cielo Grande users and to provide some privacy.

According to Morris and City Manager Joe Neeb, the city signed contracts to accept the 2020 legislative allocations in August, so it has until about February to spend 5% of the money to ensure that the appropriations are not requested back by the state.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.