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Preserve balloon landing sites, councilor urges

Balloons take to the sky at the 2017 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Balloons take to the sky at the 2017 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Balloons take off during the 2017 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. A task force to examine ways to preserve balloon landing sites has been proposed. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Balloonists who search for a place to land during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta have grown more concerned as the city’s growth continues to eat up potential landing sites.

“Every year there’s landing sites lost,” said Scott Appelman, president and CEO of Rainbow Ryders, the official balloon ride company of the fiesta.

City Councilor Don Harris introduced legislation earlier this month that would create a task force to examine solutions and make recommendations to ease the problem.

Councilor Don Harris

“This is the most important economic development and tourist attraction in the state of New Mexico,” Harris said. “It’s vital for our economy, and it’s vital that we put our heads together to make sure the balloon fiesta is viable for the foreseeable future.”

The resolution specifically mentions the “steadily infilled” corridor along Interstate 25 from Comanche/Griegos to Alameda.

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta Balloon Landing Task Force would include officials from state and local governments, and representatives from various city departments and the fiesta.

Among the solutions that will be researched are tax incentives for property owners to provide temporary landing fields and acquiring land for balloon landings and other recreational uses.

In 2007, the city purchased land on Osuna NE and turned it into Vista del Norte Park, which doubles as a balloon landing site.

Harris said perhaps agreements could be made with “big box” stores; they could be reimbursed for the use of their parking lots and delayed opening times.

Appelman and fiesta spokesman Tom Garrity said they support the resolution.

“The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta appreciates what the councilor has done in introducing the legislation,” Garrity said.

The resolution is currently in the Finance and Government Operations Committee.