In Colorado’s San Luis Valley, the city of Alamosa has been searching for a way to improve livability for its residents by connecting the community to the Rio Grande, which flows through the city’s backyard but can be difficult to access. Western Rivers Conservancy found a perfect way to do it, while simultaneously protecting a mile of the river for fish and wildlife.
Last year, we committed to purchase 204 acres of scenic riverfront from two landowners who share the community’s vision of a public park astride the Rio Grande. The land, with its bucolic views up and down the river, is now slated to become Alamosa Riparian Park and promises to be nothing short of a community treasure once our efforts are complete.
Although Alamosa is surrounded by the beauty of the San Luis Valley, residents have surprisingly little public access to the river through town. The City recently surveyed residents about open space, and the response was clear: residents are looking to the Rio Grande to boost community health and wellness, and they long for new trails and recreation opportunities along the river.
Recognizing this need, WRC began conversations with the Chefas family about selling part of its holdings for inclusion within Alamosa’s park system. In January, we purchased 185 acres from the family, along with an adjacent 19-acre parcel, and will transfer these to the city, which plans to add them to its park system in 2019. These new public lands will anchor a network of bike and pedestrian trails that will be integrated into city’s trail system.
Our work in Alamosa is part of WRC’s broader effort in the San Luis Valley, where we are conserving increasingly rare, intact habitat along the upper Rio Grande and its tributaries, while providing much-needed public access to a great western river.