RIO RANCHO, N.M. — The Alameda Drain, which Diane Sholtis calls the “backbone of the North Valley,” is getting a makeover.
Bernalillo County recently held an open house at the Raymond G. Sanchez Community Center to show off the design for Phase I of the Alameda Drain and Trail project.
The project aims to encourage walking, biking and equestrian use along the Alameda Drain from Montaño Road to Osuna Road.
“It is going to be, in my opinion, the showpiece that gets funding for the rest of the project,” Sholtis, the project engineer for Bernalillo County, told a room of about 20 people.
Construction on the project is expected to start by September and will take around six months to finish, she said. The initial phase will cost $1.4 million – 85 percent of which comes from federal funding and the remainder from county matching money.
The project, and master plan, is part of a four-party collaboration between Bernalillo County, the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, the City of Albuquerque and the Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo Flood Control Authority.
“It really is a partnership between all of us to make this corridor a destination area,” she said. “A lot of love has gone into what you see in front of you.”
The project will create a new multi-use trail alongside the drain with appealing aesthetics, while preserving drain functionality and sustainability.
Ken Romig, landscape architect on the project, designed those aesthetic features, which will include sculptures from regional artists, bioretention planters to absorb and treat stormwater, cascading water features and a “dripping bridge” that will use a solar pump to circulate water from the drain to the underside of the bridge.
“It gives you the sense of water – the sound of water,” Romig said. “Hopefully, it will just obliterate the sound of the city for a moment.”
Romig also added fruit-bearing trees and edible plants along the trail design, like apples, plums and asparagus.
“There’s a big movement now for foods that can be gathered all across urban environments,” he said. “It’s perpetuating that whole idea.”
Aside from aesthetics, Sholtis said a big part of the project was being sure the drain was still accessible by the Conservancy District.
“We had to honor that,” she said. “We are interested in trying to do some innovative designs within the drain that will not only increase the beauty of the drain but also alleviate some of the maintenance that MRGCD has.”
That includes fire retention, trees and landscaping, she said. All is to be done with the consideration that the drain’s main responsibility is “being a drain.”
Yasmeen Najmi, planner with the Conservancy District, said the biggest concern was making sure MRGCD could still service and maintain the drain, so it doesn’t deteriorate, flood or back up.
“It’s going to be a great pilot project for us because we’ll be able to see, ‘How much does it cost to actually do this?’ and ‘Is it feasible to do on our other ditches?,'” she said. “We’ll get a lot of information from this project.”
Luke Smith, the local public agency coordinator with the New Mexico Department of Transportation, said Phase 1 will set the stage for the rest of the project.
“The area’s begging for something like this,” he said. “People want this, they’re excited.”
Smith, who’s job it is to sign off on Phase 1, said the project should have no issues gaining final approval.
“Yeah, we’re doing it. One hundred percent,” he said. “I think this is going to do a lot of good.”