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Pedestrian bridges top parks spending proposal in Santa Fe

SANTA FE – Three new pedestrian bridges to replace the old ones at Fort Marcy Park, redoing basketball courts at John Griego and Young parks, and replacing “Rosie the Elephant” at Bicentennial Pool are among the recommendations Santa Fe city staff is making for use of the remaining $800,000 in unspent funds from the $30.3 million parks and trails bond approved by voters in 2008.

While most of the projects were a part of the original implementation plan for the bond funds, replacing the bridges are a new addition. Their construction would use up three-quarters of the unspent amount, costing $600,000.

Parks and Recreation Director Rob Carter told the city’s Public Works Committee on Monday the bridges, to be made of steel and wood, were added to the list after safety concerns arose during last year’s burning of Zozobra. He said the middle bridge was found to have “bowed” due to the weight of all the people who stand there to get a good view and make a quicker exit from the event, which drew more than 40,000 last year.

Asked if the bridges could be replaced in time for this year’s Zozobra, scheduled for Sept. 2, Carter said that they would not, because the change would require a public hearing and would have to be advertised in advance.

When the same question came up again, Public Works Director Ike Pino said there was a “very slim chance” that one bridge could be replaced by then.

Carter said that filling in the arroyo over which the bridges cross with dirt, eliminating the need for any bridges, was considered, but that would cost about $3 million.

Other recommended projects include replacing the basketball court and adding sidewalks at Young Park at a cost of $72,000, replacing the basketball court at John Griego Park at a cost of $46,000, and spending $14,500 to install solar lighting at Frenchy’s Field.

The department is also recommending $20,000 be spent to replace the elephant fixture at Bicentennial Pool.

Nicknamed “Rosie,” the concrete elephant last year became a symbol for the parks and trails bond spending. A recently completed audit found that the city had misspent about $2 million of the bond.

Finance Director Oscar Rodriguez told the Journal last year that one of the problems with the bond implementation was that instructions for improvements were sometimes vague or incomplete. In Rosie’s case, workers were asked to “fix” the elephant, designed to spray water in the children’s pool. Lacking further detail, all they did was paint it.

Carter said Monday the pool really requires “a more up-to-date spray structure.”