Editorial: Taos News honors unsung heroes

Posted 10/11/18

For the 18th year, The Taos News honored a group of volunteers and community leaders who endeavor to make life better for everyone in Taos County. These Unsung Heroes are women and men from …

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Editorial: Taos News honors unsung heroes

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For the 18th year, The Taos News hosted Tradiciones, an event to honor a group of volunteers and community leaders who endeavor to make life better for everyone in Taos County. These Unsung Heroes are women and men from a variety of backgrounds and skills. They were selected by a committee of citizens, not by Taos News staff.

We are pleased to honor Unsung Heroes Jill Cline, Angel Reyes, Janet Webb, George and Lucille Jaramillo, Francisco “Cisco” Guevara, The Rev. Deacon Donald Martinez, Lt. Andrew Montoya, Jesse Martinez and Polly Raye.

Francis Cordova, co-founder of Taos Feeds Taos and a longtime advocate for veterans, was named Citizen of the Year. Read more about all of the heroes in our special sections in this week’s The Taos News.

Congratulations to all the Unsung Heroes and to our Citizen of the Year Cordova. You inspire us all.

Redefining a park

In the last couple of years, Kit Carson Park has become a favorite for big concerts and events, such as Dwight Yoakam and the Meow Wolf Taos Vortex. The park played host to an event almost every weekend through the summer. While the quality of those events is great, this is a good time for the town to take a step back and calculate both the benefits – and costs – to the park.

Kit Carson Park sits in the heart of Taos. The beloved 20-acre bit of green has long been a favorite with local families and visitors.

Town officials need to consider carefully what is happening to the park and the impact on surrounding neighborhoods.

We’re not saying what’s happening is bad. We are saying the town needs some exceptional planning to ensure the park serves everyone – from concert fans to elderly strollers – and isn’t loved to death.

In 2018, the town of Taos approved a draft Taos Parks Master Plan after meeting with community groups and receiving 762 responses on a survey. Of those who responded, a whopping 83 percent said they used Kit Carson Park more than the other three parks. That same survey didn’t put a performance space, like the new concert stage, at the top of a priority list.

For such a small park, it has a variety of amenities set up: playground, baseball field, basketball courts, small permanent stage and larger temporary stage. During the summer, which should be the height of the park’s beauty for those strolling through it, much of the park is now surrounded by an eye-sore: a chain-link fence used to control crowds during the numerous weekend events. And because it is in the heart of Taos, it also attracts a fair share of vagrants, homeless people and those intent on dealing and using drugs.

Questions the town and the community need to consider now after a couple of years' experience with these large events:

• Is Kit Carson Park the most appropriate venue for large concerts?

• Is there a better location, one where the town and county, and perhaps UNM-Taos, could join forces to raise funds and build a state-of-the-art performance amphitheater? Why not consider the Rodeo Grounds, already developed for crowds?

• If Kit Carson Park is the best spot, how can the town ensure the events don’t ruin the park? If so, what are the plans for installing a permanent large stage and designing the area in front to accommodate large crowds of people? How can the fencing be improved?

The town needs to ensure event promoters sign agreements that spell out their responsibilities more clearly. It needs to have a method for tracking the financial and social costs versus benefits of the concerts. Is the town receiving any money from these events toward upkeep of the park?

The town should put up a kiosk with information regarding plans for the park based on the 2017 Taos Parks Master Plan. The kiosk can display information about the town’s priorities for the park.

The town should consider attractive and glare-free lighting in the park that stays on later in the summer during weeknights, encouraging people to come out and use the park more for recreation and less for drug dealing. This has worked in other towns and cities.

Staff needs to look at the health of the park’s trees and shrubs. A summer of drought and heavy use is most likely compacting the soil, causing possibly fatal damage to the plants’ roots.

The community can do things to help, such as forming a Friends of Kit Carson Park group to host regular volunteer cleanup days, to plant and care for landscaping and to act as a kind of neighborhood watch group to ensure safety at the park.

Kit Carson Park should be the town’s crown jewel of parks even as it hosts big events.

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