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Summer is in Full Swing at Parks Along the Rail Corridor

railyard festivalPublic Parks are the places where communities bare their souls, where the character of citizens is honored, and where neighbors who live vastly different lives come together to celebrate what makes their towns special.

Fortunately, there are many parks along the route of the New Mexico Rail Runner Express where old friends and visitors can engage each other for a few hours and remember, or discover, why we choose to live here. The following parks are those kinds of places, and you are cordially invited to stop by and partake during the coming summer months.

Daniel Fernandez Park

Los Lunas

Ride the New Mexico Rail Runner Express to the Village of Los Lunas and you can’t miss this 17-acre park.

“My office actually is in the Rail Runner building,” says Marcos Castillo, recreation supervisor for the village. “I can look out my window and see the park.”

Castillo can see the park even if he has to work late. “We have a lighted softball field, a lighted tennis court and a lighted basketball court,” he says. The facility also has a recreation center with a gym, a weight room and other amenities.

“The park is really, really busy,” Castillo says. “People are continually renting out the gazebo for community events.”

daniel fernandez park webNothing, however, is bigger than the 4th of July celebration at Daniel Fernandez Park. “That draws more than 5,000 people,” Castillo says. “It’s an all-day event with bands, food, craft vendors, and at dark, we have the largest fireworks display in Valencia County.”

Celebrating the nation’s freedom is a natural here at a park dedicated to the memory of a soldier who lost his life fighting for it. Daniel Fernandez grew up in Los Lunas and was 22 years old in 1966 when he threw himself on a grenade to protect his fellow soldiers fighting in Vietnam. Fernandez was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions, and his community continues to honor him today.

Whether you want to watch the fireworks on the 4th, get physically fit on the treadmills and elliptical machines, or crush a few homers under the lights, Daniel Fernandez Park is the place to go in Los Lunas. Visit www.loslunas.gov to learn more.

Veggies and Movies and Lunch, Oh My!

Civic Plaza, Albuquerque

Maintaining the relevance of communities and public spaces isn’t always easy. Many downtown areas have been consumed by decay and fallen on hard times. A few programs supported through grants, however, can bring public venues back to life.

“Civic Plaza Presents” is a series of summer dining and entertainment opportunities bringing life to Downtown Albuquerque. Just a few blocks north of the Rail Runner’s Downtown Station, Civic Plaza offers lunches catered by local restaurants on Wednesdays between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., dinners and local craft beers on Fridays after 5 p.m., and movies on Friday nights once the sun goes down.

civic plaza 4“ABQ Food Fridays are a way to start your weekend with food from local restaurants, and beers and ciders from the city’s Brewers’ Guild members,” says Brian Hatchitt of the Albuquerque Convention Center, which started managing Civic Plaza in 2014.

This plaza is large, capable of holding 20,000 visitors, and it would be easy to feel lost if you aren’t young enough to play on the new playground or run through the water fountains without feeling silly. But thanks to a community grant from Southwest Airlines and a Downtown ABQ MainStreet grant, this plaza has a new life and is once again a place where Albuquerque’s typically gentle evenings can be enjoyed.

“This is the fourth year we have offered movies on the plaza,” says Hatchitt. The tables and chairs visitors use during the Friday feasts, the movies, scheduled concerts and occasional Shakespearian plays were purchased using the grant from the Downtown ABQ MainStreet.

The movies are offered mid-May to mid-September, Hatchitt says, and the best way to know what will be shown is to request updates from the Civic Plaza Presents Facebook page www.facebook.com/CivicPlazaPresents/.

It is also possible to purchase fresh produce grown in and around Albuquerque on Wednesdays when the growers market fills Civic Plaza. If you can’t make it on Wednesdays, the Downtown Growers’ Market is held Saturdays at Robinson Park, 810 Copper Ave NW. The mission of the approximately 75 growers who sell at the market is to show support for local agriculture and to improve the economics and health of resident and visitors.

Point your browser to www.downtowngrowers.org for more information.

Come Together

Santa Fe Railyard & Park

railyard park webIf there is an example of a park bringing a community together, look no farther than the Santa Fe Railyard. Declared a “blighted area” in 1987, today this piece of the state’s capitol is home to a Farmers Market, artist galleries, a museum dedicated to New Mexican culture, and a place for young ones.

A master plan for the railyard was approved in 2002, with archaeological surveys conducted in 2004. Construction of the buildings began in 2006, and a grand opening was held in 2008, exactly a decade ago. This assemblage of history and culture envisioned by the Santa Fe Railyard Community Corporation received a “Great Places in America” award from the American Planning Association in 2015.

Naturally, those seeking entertainment are invited to watch movies or catch a concert on summer nights, enjoy local craft beers at the Violet Crown Cinema or Second Street Brewery, and enjoy the art at SITE Santa Fe. To get your bearings visit www.railyardsantafe.com.

Within the Santa Fe Railyard, one also can find an educational park complete with a sand-play area where young children can discover the joy of construction and getting their hands dirty every Saturday morning May through August. The park is managed by the Railyard Park Conservancy, says Executive Director Christy Lee Downs and you may learn more by visiting railyardpark.org.

Story by Martin Frentzel

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