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Wednesday, May 7, 2014 - 8:31pm
El Paso (KDBC) — Las Cruces is restoring 600 acres of wilderness to its original state.
Thousands of residents pass by the restored area every day not even pausing to ponder the newly reconstructed wetlands that lay just beyond the highway.
The city and the Army Corps of Engineers are working to modify and improve the Las Cruces dam in hopes of bringing back even more wildlife and residents to this urban Oasis.
It truly is a hidden gem in the city of the crosses.
"I've never known nothing like that could exist over here as far as the desert," said Donte Rochelle. "You would have never thought such life exists in a barren land like this."
But it does. Back in 1975, the US Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) built the dam to reduce flood damages from flows originating in the Las Cruces and Alameda Arroyos.
"The Army Corps of Engineers tore down this area to build up the dam, so now what they want to do is partner with the city to go back and restore it back to its natural way," said spokes person for the city, Jennifer Martinez.
The environmental restoration project has a price tag of $1.6 million and the money is being used to plant more vegetation and provide viewing areas for visitors to safely look at the wildlife without disturbing it.
The ACOE covered 75 percent of the cost while the city of Las Cruces took on the remaining 25 percent.
"Our share, the local share of the 25 percent comes from our flood control fund," said City Manager Robert Garza. "And because its a flood control structure, we have a designated funding source to be able to take care of the costs."
Trails, vegetation and the water that forms a pond in the middle of this restored area are all part or the restoration project.
In fact the water is treated wastewater from the East Mesa Reclamation Plant. And even though this pond may look tempting to go for a dip or a fish trip, Martinez said that's not a good idea.
"One thing they will not be able to do is go fishing," she said. "We are not going to be stocking this pond with fish and they cannot go swimming. It's not a drinkable water and we really don't want people going into the water."
Garza said the idea for this project is to integrate the wilderness, the dam, and the residents of Las Cruces.
"The dam is surrounded by neighborhoods and so we want to start connecting the trails into neighborhoods that already have trails," he said. "It's going to be great for kids to ride their bikes and people to walk their dogs, just a really nice inter city open space that will be there forever."
And while visitors are excited, some are worried that this beautiful place may not last long.
"Hopefully, give the people that live here the benefit of the doubt that they are not going to come down here and destroy it like they destroy everything else in this town," said Cindy Holmes, a Las Cruces resident. "But it's good for the birds, they seem to be enjoying life."
The picture that has been attached will help you find the area. It has been encircled in green and the yellow lines are trails that either come off of the dam or neighborhoods.
The trails that lead off of the dam can lead you to the wetlands.
The blue line outlines the dam.
If you choose to take the trails off of the dam, make sure you head straight toward the apartments.
There are several trails, but if you notice on the map, there are two trails that I personally was able to walk through to get to the wetlands. I have outlined them on the map.
The easiest way to get there if you don't wan to take the trails off of the dam, go through the Sagecrest Park, on Frontier Avenue off of Roadrunner Parkway. That should lead you straight to the wetlands.
The City will receive more federal funding, about $450,000 more to complete the top of the dam and make it more runner friendly. The funds won't be available to the city until 2016.