This is not about the 1963 film; this letter was first written to address the draining of the remaining ponds of the old Rio Rancho Country Club surrounding the Islands Community. I learned about it while walking with a friend and saw the pump and trucks. It had not yet been publicly communicated. It was heartbreaking. My reaction was, “What about all the migratory birds which come through here?” We had catalogued over 20 different species in the past six years.
Many people have a vested interest in what happens to the old golf course for many reasons. Some are emotional. Some, irrational. Others are angry. Most are curious — what is to come? And because we don’t know, we react. Rumor mills run rampant. The media weighs in — both good and bad.
Obtaining and sharing information is an excellent way to mitigate the rumors, concerns and emotions. So, I contacted people “in-the-know:” an Islands HOA board member (anonymous), the Islands property manager, Rebecca Hicks; City Councilman Paul Wymer; developer Steve Chavez; and his project director Jerome Gonzales; as well as the New Mexico Department of Health. Not all comments matched.
My first takeaway was a remark about how fast Chavez moved to desecrate the ponds. Then, we addressed a few rumors. No, those were not koi fish dying in the ponds. They were carp and could not be transferred to other waters as they are an invasive species to wild fish.
Second, the Islands was given an opportunity to own the ponds through a deed from prior developer Josh Skarsgard. Aquatic Consultants Inc. assessed the ponds several years ago and gave the Islands a quote to rehabilitate the ponds. According to Billy Collins of ACI, the quote was about $2 million and would be higher today. The HOA could not afford it and planned to obtain grants and get the state’s help to develop the area as a conservancy.
Finally, the ponds cannot be cited as the source of West Nile Virus in Rio Rancho. A representative of the NM Department of Health, which tracks reports of the virus, stated they are not able to directly track the source. Any still water, even a backyard birdbath, can host mosquitos. Additionally, we are experiencing a record invasion of mosquitos this year.
A side note about the bright green algae-plagued ponds. Upside — algae is an excellent source for carbon sequestration. Downside, mosquitos feed on algae.
So, what is really going on? I reached out to developer, Steve Chavez, to understand how they plan to mitigate the historical damages at the property. Note, director Gonzales, who spoke on behalf of the developer, said, “We will never please everybody, but we’re doing our best to provide a good solution for Rio Rancho.”
He asked me to send my questions. Disappointingly, they did not answer any of them. They sent me the email equivalent of a press release with no substantive information. They did not even offer a timeframe to present their plan to the Governing Body. My questions were all-encompassing, and I asked if they planned water sources for the migratory birds. Nada.
The golf course was a gem in the center of the city and also a reason for me and many people why we bought homes here. We need more transparency and sharing of information.
Without it, the developers deserve the skepticism of the community.
Sue A Prelozni
Resident, business owner