Home News COVID-19 Situation County’s COVID-19 risk puts Arbor Day, other events in question

County’s COVID-19 risk puts Arbor Day, other events in question

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The county’s COVID-19 risk could mean changes to or even cancellation of upcoming events, including the city’s annual Arbor Day giveaway.

The state wants a halt on activities funded by state grants that would require people to leave their homes in counties in the Red Level of the COVID-19 risk assessment system, Thalia Pantoja-Gruis, marketing coordinator for the city of Roswell, told the Keep Roswell Beautiful board of directors in its virtual meeting Monday.

That could include the city’s annual Arbor Day event as well as volunteer cleanup activities that Keep Roswell Beautiful organizes or assists with, she said.

Chaves County is in the red, but has shown improvement in its gating criteria since the beginning of the year. The most current assessment, on Feb. 10, showed the county with a test positivity rate of 7.26%, just a little more than 2 percentage points above the 5% threshold for the Yellow Level. That data will be updated Wednesday.

Keep Roswell Beautiful received a $23,155 grant in August from the New Mexico Tourism Department’s Clean and Beautiful program to fund events such as the annual Arbor Day celebration and the Great American Cleanup.

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The funds were also used to purchase cleaning supplies the organization loans out to other local groups wanting to conduct cleanup events.

“So any of those kinds of cleanup things, the Great American Cleanup, Arbor Day, are all within question right now,” Pantoja-Gruis said.

Pantoja-Gruis said she would be speaking to state officials later in the week to clarify if the events could still be conducted in a COVID-safe manner.

If Chaves County is in the Yellow or Green levels, the activities will be allowed, she said.

The city has conducted Arbor Day events including a tree and shrub giveaway and educational programs starting 30 years ago, when it became the first city in New Mexico to receive the Tree City USA designation from the Arbor Day Foundation. Last year, with pandemic health orders in effect, a drive-through giveaway at Cahoon Park was organized.

Arbor Day is April 30 this year.

The Great American Cleanup, coordinated by Keep America Beautiful, is March 20 through June 20 and includes a variety of community cleanup, education and recycling projects throughout the country.

If a county remains in the Red Level, organizations with state grants can make a budget amendment request to divert money to COVID-safe events, Pantoja-Gruis said, but she will wait to make that move, especially with the Arbor Day event.

“I’m really pushing to wait as long as possible to see if we can or cannot host the event before we move any of those funds over,” she said.

She did give the board several ideas to consider diverting money to if public events do have to be canceled, however. She said the amount could be between $7,000 and $8,000 depending on what events are cut. That would likely be enough to hire an artist for a mural project, she said.

More beautification projects at the Spring River Zoo, such as helping finish pollinator gardens, would be another possibility, she said.

Meredith Hildreth, planning and zoning administrator for the city, suggested yard signs to recognize residential or business properties that have cleaned and beautified the property.

Pantoja-Gruis also told the board an intern has been hired. An announcement will be made when all the paperwork for the paid position has been completed, she said.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.