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West Side dog park grand opening today

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — City officials are touting a new dog park set to hold its grand opening on the West Side today for its sleek landscape, agility course and other amenities, but the new park is particularly significant to one Albuquerque widow.

Bud Warren and Lady Dog Park in Ventana Ranch is touted as the first dog park in City Council District 5, which covers much of northwest Albuquerque. The dog park, which opened to the public Thursday, emerged as a solution to difficulty in developing the area due to its base of volcanic rock, according to city officials.

In addition to the agility course, dogs will have their own water fountains, a portion will be set aside for small dogs only, and owners can enjoy the landscape of native plants and grasses, plus a new feel to what was once called Country Meadows Park.

mapKyle “Bud” Warren was a beloved, 84-year-old crossing guard who shepherded elementary school kids across a busy intersection near Ventana Ranch Elementary School for several years. In May 2012, he died of complications after being struck by an SUV while on duty, said his widow, Sadie Jo “Sunny” Rogers-Warren.

He always had his Labrador, Lady, with him, she said, and the dog’s ashes were buried with him.

She said Warren’s neighbors, parents of kids he protected and teachers all decided it would be fitting to name the park after him, and they proposed the idea to the city as the park plans were being drawn up.

“I think it’s a great honor,” Rogers-Warren said. “It just goes to show how much he was loved. And I think he was a very special man.”

The idea for the park came from the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, which was looking to develop the remainder of Country Meadows Park after developer Sandia Properties built on one acre of it, according to department spokeswoman Jen Samp. An initial idea was for a community facility, but concerns remained about the volcanic rock and what complications it might present, she said.

So the direction changed to a dog park and, with the support of the neighborhood association, the city moved forward. The dog park was built with $400,000 in general obligation bonds, Samp said.

City Councilor Dan Lewis, who represents the district, said it seemed like the perfect idea for the plot of land next to Universe Boulevard NW, north of Paseo del Norte. And even more perfect was naming it after Warren.

“A few months ago, we were reminded of the story of Bud and his life and what he did,” Lewis said. “We just thought it would be a perfect way to honor somebody in our community who really cared for the community and served that community.”

The park’s ribbon-cutting is today at 10:30 a.m. It will take place at the park west of Universe Boulevard between Ventana Hills Road and Ventana Village Road.

Rogers-Warren was married to Warren for eight years before his death, but they had been together for 12 years before then. It appears that no criminal charges were filed in connection with Warren’s death and his widow said she decided not to press the issue, even though she said people nearby volunteered to be witnesses. She said the person who hit him had kids and she didn’t want to hurt two families. There were also no news reports about his death.

Warren was a decorated veteran of the wars in Vietnam and Korea, and came to New Mexico through the Army. He retired in 1969 and worked in various positions before becoming a crossing guard. His wife said he volunteered for the post after neighbors expressed concern about the busy intersection.

He adored the children and enjoyed connecting with their fathers, Warren-Rogers said, and many of them were behind the push to name the park after him. She said she’ll make a visit this week and will bring her dog, Penny, though the visit might be bittersweet.

“I’ll probably be sad,” she said. “I still miss my husband very much.”