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Committee gives initial approval for new park

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City employees say they intend to survey neighborhood residents to determine what they would like to see included in a park on South Virginia Avenue. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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Roswell city administrators have taken another step in creating a new southside neighborhood park after receiving funding for the project from the state.

The city has owned the 2.7 acres at 2301 S. Virginia Ave. since 2007. The property used to be the site of Chisum Elementary School.

The school building has been torn down, and now what remains are some trees, sidewalks and some water and sewer lines.

Three members of the Roswell City Council General Services Committee voted Wednesday to designate the property as a city park so that site work and planning can begin. The entire City Council is scheduled to consider the item during its June 10 meeting.

City Councilor Barry Foster has made the park a priority for a few years, talking about it during his election campaigns for city council and discussing it with area state legislators as one of the city projects he felt worthy of state funding.

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“I am just thrilled that those kids are going to get their park,” Foster said after the meeting. Previously he had explained that kids in the area had nowhere to play unless they traveled across major streets and roads and that they often ended up playing in the streets.

The New Mexico Legislature and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in April provided $400,000 in state capital outlay funds to the city for the project, which is twice what the city had expected.

The city intends to spend about $300,000 for the site planning and work, such as grading, filling in areas with soil, installing irrigation, creating appropriate drainage, planning for and creating parking spots, planting grass and other landscaping vegetation, and installing electrical systems. The other $100,000 will be used to equip the park with playground sets, picnic tables, benches, trash cans and other items for visitors’ use.

Special Services Director Jim Burress said that city employees will talk with people in the neighborhood to find out more about the kids in the area and what families want, as they have done for other city parks.

“We want equipment that is going to be used for a long time,” said Burress. “Each type of equipment kind of has an age limit on it, so we would like to see what everyone would like to see down there.”

He and other city officials said that the survey might consist of an online or email survey as well as door-to-door surveys, since some residents might be more willing to talk in person and also might want to talk with a Spanish-speaker.

The new park will be between Keith Street and Onyx Street about a block east of South Main Street. Chisum Elementary closed in 2005, with the building demolished in 2007 or 2008.

The school was one of three elementary schools chosen for closure by the Roswell Independent School District in 2005, according to RISD school board member Mona Kirk, who was principal of Chisum at the time. Chisum students then attended either Monterrey Elementary or Pecos Elementary School.

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

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.