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Celebrating 30 years of protecting open space

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A male roadrunner takes to the air near the working farm at the Open Space Visitor Center on the West Side. A party will be held there today to celebrate the 30-year anniversary of the city's Open Space Division. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

A male roadrunner takes to the air near the working farm at the Open Space Visitor Center on the West Side. A party will be held there today to celebrate the 30-year anniversary of the city’s Open Space Division. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

Albuquerqueans can enjoy walks in the bosque, hikes near the West Side volcanos and picnics in the Foothills because, decades ago, the community urged the city to protect these places from development.

Today, the city of Albuquerque will celebrate 30 years of its Open Space Division with an event at the Open Space Visitor Center, 6500 Coors NW. From 5 to 8 p.m., there will be music and a cake, and attendees can bring chairs, blankets and a picnic dinner.

Pictured is Embudito Canyon, which is part of the Sandia Foothills Open Space area. The city's Open Space Division is celebrating 30 years of protecting environmentally and culturally important land throughout the Albuquerque area. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Pictured is Embudito Canyon, which is part of the Sandia Foothills Open Space area. The city’s Open Space Division is celebrating 30 years of protecting environmentally and culturally important land throughout the Albuquerque area. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

“Since its beginnings in 1984, the Open Space Division has been working to preserve environmentally and culturally important lands throughout the Albuquerque area,” Barbara Baca, director of Parks and Recreation Department, said in a city news release.

Among its open space properties is the stretch of land in the bosque where city dwellers can ride their bikes or horses, walk, run and explore the wooded area next to the river.

The area surrounding the volcanos on the West Side offers hikes and views of the petroglyphs. The 640-acre Elena Gallegos open space property has seven picnic areas and trails at the base of the Foothills.

Open Space superintendent Matt Schmader said he gets calls from other cities asking him for advice on starting an open space program.

“I tell them really you need to go back in time,” he said. “About 50 years ago, the city started acquiring land. By the ’70s, Albuquerque had about 9,000 acres.”

By 1984, that had grown to 29,000 acres and the city formed the Open Space Division. He said it was this decision that has preserved some of the city’s best properties for outdoor enjoyment.

An open space area, Schmader said, can be accessed within 15 minutes from anywhere in Albuquerque. He said Albuquerque is a community that cares about its natural environment.

“It was a community-based effort,” he said. “The citizens were interested in protecting our most beautiful areas.”

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