An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988


County to back off Placitas road study

—GAYLAND BRYANT, SANDOVAL COUNTY SPOKESMAN

On May 20, Sandoval County Commissioner Orlando Lucero said County staff will back off any plans for a new road to serve the Placitas area until, “at the very least,” the Bureau of Land Management completes its land use planning for the area.

“My job is to listen to the needs of residents. I have heard the concerns raised by many residents regarding the corridor study that was being proposed by the County Development staff,” said Lucero. “I have requested staff to not move forward with any plans for this road until BLM completes its study of the area, at the very least.”

Lucero said he had received “numerous” calls and letters from area residents both before and after a BLM land-use forum held in Placitas on May 3, 2008.

“I’ve heard two basic concerns very loud and clear,” said Lucero, whose Commission District 1 includes the Placitas area and the east side of the mountains.

“First, residents who contacted me told me they do not want any road through or near their community that would connect with NM 14,” Lucero said. “Second, I heard time and time again that the current road into Placitas—NM 165—is adequate now and will be acceptable well into the future.”

Lucero said concerns about the road corridor surfaced when County Development submitted a report earlier this year indicating staff would begin working on a corridor plan around Placitas to link I-25 with NM 14.

The study envisioned an approximate fifteen-mile-long corridor from I-25 near Algodones and east across mostly BLM holdings north of Placitas. It would have continued to the San Pedro Creek area on the east side of the Sandia Mountains before intersecting with NM 14.

County Development Director Mike Springfield said that based on Lucero’s request and comments from area residents, staff would delay any planning for the road until the BLM completes revisions to its Rio Puerco Field Office Resource Management Plan.

The BLM plan will encompass three major parcels of land under BLM ownership, including about five thousand acres north of the Placitas Open Space, a portion of which was included in the County’s proposed road corridor study.

“BLM’s planning process will take approximately four years, from what we understand, and won’t end until spring 2012,” Springfield said. “That process will include significant public input and an environmental impact statement.”

Springfield said his staff was in the “very beginning stage” of planning the road corridor and that it had not been approved by the County Commission.

“We certainly agree with Commissioner Lucero’s request and will not initiate further planning for a secondary road for the Placitas area until the BLM planning process is completed,” Springfield said.

“We never envisioned that the proposed road would be a bypass route for the metropolitan area,” Springfield said. “What we were just starting to plan was a two-lane County road that would provide access for County residents who live in the northern part of Placitas or on the east side of the Sandia Mountains,” Springfield said. “It would never be considered as a freeway or bypass road.”

Springfield said the County’s planning staff believed that secondary access for the Placitas area could warrant consideration once the BLM study was completed.

“We do believe the importance of the corridor will increase as gasoline and fuel costs continue rising, and as air pollution in the area becomes a greater concern,” he said. “And, we’ve long believed it is important to have a secondary access into Placitas, especially for emergency purposes.”


Signpost cartoon c. Rudi Klimpert

Development map

Commercial development, multi-family housing proposed for Placitas-Bernalillo area

—TY BELKNAP

The line between the “Placitas area” and “upper Bernalillo” continues to blur as a new urbanism fills in the US 550/NM 165 corridor. Transportation (the Rail Runner and the highway), proximity to Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and recreational opportunities all contribute to the lure of development along the corridor. Opponents question sustainability, while complaining about traffic gridlock and intrusion upon the once-rural environment.

Three developments are planned for the Placitas area off NM 165, just east of I-25. The controversial Piedra Lisa townhouses, along with commercial development, are planned for a strip of land off US 550, extending from the Rail Runner station to Camino del Pueblo in Bernalillo.

At a special meeting held on May 8, the Bernalillo Town Council reconsidered the April denial of a zone change requested by developers to allow mixed retail and residential in the Piedra Lisa Development (see May 2008 Signpost). Touted as much-needed affordable housing, the Planning and Zoning (P&Z) staff told the council that although housing is not listed in the S-U zoning ordinance, it is not specifically prohibited. P&Z director Kelly Moe stated that his office is not trying to evade the zoning laws—which are open to interpretation on a case-to-case basis. This time Councilor Eddie Torres changed his vote in favor of the change and Mayor Patricia Chávez broke a tied vote, allowing the change, and presumably the townhouses. This action may provide a precedent for future development.

The Bernalillo P&Z Commission has not been convinced that S-U zoning allows for housing. Opponents of the change demanded that the town either change the ordinance or obey it as written.

Last year, the Town Council of Bernalillo approved the annexation of acreage off the frontage road north of NM 165, and the P&Z Commission has given preliminary approval to the 145-lot Sole Tuscano subdivision. The commission awaits engineering plans regarding the extension of sewage and water lines across the freeway.

At a contentious May 6 meeting of Bernalillo P&Z, the commission tabled the proposed annexation and concurrent Special Use zoning classification of the 217-acre Petroglyph Trails Subdivision (in the Placitas area off the frontage road north of NM 165) owned by the Delashe, Inc. The 134-lot subdivision was approved by the Sandoval County commission last year. Developer Tom Ashe made the case for S-U zoning that would allow uses including retail, light industrial, offices, warehouses, and townhouses.

Ashe contends that aging residents of the Placitas area will increasingly be in the market for townhouses and condominiums—a type of housing not now available—so they can continue to live in the area without the burden of maintaining a large house and yard. Converting the subdivision to mixed-use development through the county process would be more complex and possibly expensive. The possibility of town sewage and water is another advantage. Developers would pay for the extension of town infrastructure. Ashe said that he was advised by the Town Planning and Zoning staff that S-U zoning allows for the uses listed above, but the P&Z commission elected to table the proposal until they were provided with legal clarification.

Ashe told the Signpost that the traffic issues were addressed as required by the county for the Petroglyph Trails Subdivision. Delashe paid for the addition of several turning and deceleration lanes. In order to reduce congestion, they plan to extend the eastbound turning lane on exit 242 northbound all the way to the highway.

Rumor has it that the state highway department is considering a cloverleaf approach to traffic control at the mile 242 interchange.

Also, at the May 8 meeting, the Bernalillo Town Council considered action on an ordinance extending the town’s corporate limits and implementing initial zoning to S-U for a master-planned retail shopping and business center on the property just below the Piedra Lisa flood control dam south of NM 165 at exit 242.

Preliminary planning for this development started over a year ago when the council heard a presentation from its financial advisors concerning the advantages of creating a tax-increment financing (TIF) district. As presented, a TIF district would have been a separate political entity controlled by the town for the purpose of increasing the area’s capacity for collecting property and gross-receipts taxes. The town would be able to issue a bond on the district to develop infrastructure (roads, sidewalks, signage, etc.) to attract private development of stores, restaurants, and other businesses that would contribute to town revenues.

Since then, S-U zoning and Transit-oriented Development/Mixed-use have become a catch-all classification to give developers a freer hand in moving the area toward more urbanization.

The council had several questions regarding safety of development below the dam. Built in the 1950s, the Piedra Lisa Dam underwent a $2.8 million refurbishment in 2008. Sandoval County and the Town of Bernalillo share financial responsibilities for the dam with the Coronado Soil and Water Conservancy District (CSWCD).

CSWCD chairman Will Ouellette was at the council meeting to voice concerns regarding the development, but was not permitted to speak. He says that the town and county have yet to comply with their financial and administrative obligations. Furthermore, Ouellette says that in the unlikely event of a dam failure in a catastrophic flood, Bernalillo could be flooded with up to two feet of water.

Town attorney George Perez said that the town would not take on any liability by annexing the property. He said that town would simply be agreeing to provide services to the development, but the developer would be liable. A representative for the developers said that the safety of the dam is a concern and that they were “still looking at different scenarios.”

Town Administrator Stephen Jerge stated that the CSWCD had no legal restraints over the town’s decisions, but that town staff would attend a meeting of the CSWCD on May 15 to discuss issues. The council elected to table the vote on annexation until after the meeting.

After the May 15 meeting, Ouellette told the Signpost that the CSWCD approves of the annexation, but still opposes the proposed development which could include an 86,000-square-foot grocery store, three restaurants, fast food, offices and retail outlets, and one thousand parking spaces.


Flood Control Authority launches website

The Eastern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority (ESCAFCA) has launched a website to educate and inform people about flood control in the area, the need for it, the cost, and what people can expect the new authority to do if the ESCAFCA bond issue is passed in November. The website is expected to launch on June 1, 2008 and is accessible at www.escafca.com.

The home page features pictures and video footage (compliments of the Sandoval Signpost) of the summer flood in 2006 that destroyed parts of Placitas, Bernalillo, and Algodones. Additionally, there is a frequently asked questions (FAQs) section, maps of the flood control districts, and information on proposed projects that will be designed if the funding is approved in November.

“Our goal with the website is to have a resource for people so they can have their questions answered, understand why we need flood control, and have a mechanism to communicate with us,” said Sal Reyes, ESCAFCA Chairman. “People can also sign up for our e-newsletter and will be kept abreast of future plans and meetings.”

Voters in Bernalillo, Algodones, and Placitas will have the opportunity to vote on a bond issue in November to fund ESCAFCA.


Las Placitas Association hosts BLM land-use forum

—SIGNPOST STAFF

Las Placitas Association (LPA) hosted a public forum on the Bureau of Land Management Resource Management Plan (RMP) revision on May 3 at the Las Placitas Presbyterian Church.

The BLM’s Rio Puerco field office oversees lands extending over six New Mexico counties, including Sandoval. Three tracts of BLM land adjoin or are included in the Placitas area: 1) Approximately five thousand acres just north of the Placitas Open Space; 2) Approximately two hundred acres north of the Overlook Subdivision; and 3) the newly acquired Crest of Montezuma area, just east of the Village of Placitas. The RMP defines allowable and non-allowable land uses for all lands in the management district. The previous RMP for this area was written in the mid-1980s. The BLM is now inviting public scoping input regarding preferred uses of these lands, which could include making the land available for “disposal” or trade to another agency jurisdiction; mineral extraction (most likely gravel mining); special conservation area (based on special cultural/historical, scenic, or other natural resources); or recreational uses. Inclusion of these lands within the proposed west-wide energy corridor system is also up for review. The period for receiving public comment to include in the “Public Scoping Report” ends on May 30, but BLM officials have stated that they will continue to accept comment until September when they publish the report.

The Las Placitas forum included BLM staff and various elected officials or their representatives from Sandoval County up to the U.S. House of Representatives.

For more information on the RMP process, please refer to the BLM web link at: http://www.blm.gov/nm/st/en/fo/Rio_Puerco_Field_Office/rpfo_rmp_revision.html. Please refer to the LPA website at http://www.lasplacitas.org/issues_blm.php for more information on the May 3rd forum and LPA’s other activities on federal land issues.

At the forum, the pews were full, with 250 or so residents spilling into folding chairs in the aisle. LPA president Reid Bandeen welcomed the crowd, outlined the issues, described the meeting agenda, and introduced the officials.

Government officials offered remarks about pristine environments, quality growth, government working for the people, energy needs, open space, wildlife corridors, loop roads, wild horses, and land grants. They then took seats in the chancel and opened the floor to questions from the public. The discussion was not limited to the RMP plan. In their opening remarks, representatives from the offices of U. S. Representatives Wilson and Udall said that that the flawed process of the dreaded west-wide energy corridor was being reviewed, and there was a chance that it might not be forced through public and private lands in Placitas. The congregation applauded enthusiastically.

The BLM is federally-mandated to consider multiple uses of its lands—including mining, grazing, oil drilling, and other revenue-producing ventures. BLM Albuquerque Field Office Manager Tom Gowe fielded a question about how the public benefits from the private use of public land. He said that the BLM brings in more money to the federal government than any other agency—other than the IRS. He said that a small amount of this income comes back to the BLM districts of origin.

Gravel mining has been the most controversial use of the public lands. The BLM put off a decision on mine expansions proposed in 2006 until the new RMP is complete.

Advocates for wild horses were well-represented at the meeting. They wanted to know if officials would support a wild horse park or preserve on the five thousand acres north of Placitas. State Senator Steve Komadina (sponsor of a memorial calling for a study of the Wild Horse State Park concept) said he thought it was a good way to preserve western heritage, but that more public input was necessary because it might compete with other interests such as hiking and cattle grazing.

Senator Sue Wilson Beford said that it seemed to be in keeping with some BLM criterion, but lacked environmental analysis.

Senator Kent Cravens said that it would be a shame if future generations “never got to see a wild horse, or wild cat, or elk, but you have to balance science with nature—it depends on what you give up to get what you want, and whose toes you might step on.”

Tony Lucero of San Antonio de las Huertas commented that Placitas is called an “animal-friendly village,” but that advocates should find common ground and put more energy into preserving the rural lifestyle of the village.

State Representative Kathy McCoy thought it was a “terrific idea,” but questioned whether the seven hundred signatures represented a mandate from the majority of Placitas residents.

County Development Director Mike Springfield answered a question about a loop road through Placitas to NM Highway 14 in the East Mountains. He was practically chased from the chancel by a hostile audience when he suggested that the road was desirable to provide a second route into Placitas for safety reasons and to relieve traffic “saturation” on NM 165.

Speakers from the audience assured Springfield that NM 165 was not saturated and that they opposed the road because it would destroy the rural ambiance of Placitas.

Representative McCoy said, “This is the worst idea I’ve heard in five years.” She said that the road was widely opposed in the East Mountains. Senator Wilson Beford said that this was the first she had heard of such a road. Senator Komadina said that he favored a loop road to divert traffic around Bernalillo and Albuquerque, but that he would push to have the road built at the existing NM 22 to the north. He also thought that it would make sense for the proposed energy corridor to follow the same route. (Sandoval County has since abandoned plans for the road until the RMP is complete. See related article, this Signpost.)

BLM Resource Management Planner Joe Blackmon complimented Placitas residents for their passionate advocacy for the protection of public lands. He said that the BLM staff shared this passion, and encouraged the continued public comment as the best way to affect the decisions about how the land would be used. Blackmon pointed out that it was early in the RMP process and that the BLM was still seeking public input on alternatives.

Tom Gowe said that the west-wide energy corridor was a reality, but he didn’t think it would go through the Placitas area. He encouraged residents to keep the pressure on elected officials. Gowe said that he was recently informed of the possibility of a geo-thermal entry corridor which would also traverse the state.

Another resident pressed for an opinion regarding the appropriateness of a horse preserve. Gowe reiterated that decisions would not come for some time and that the BLM would be hosting more meetings to seek public input.

If you would like to add your input, you may comment by email at nm_rpfo_comment@blm.gov or mail your comments to 435 Montaño NE, Albuquerque, NM 87107.


Planning & Zoning postpones decision on Placitas mixed-use development

—SIGNPOST STAFF

The Sandoval County Development Division is considering a master planned, mixed-use development in Placitas. The Cashwell Family, as Placitas partners, has owned a 103-acre parcel that has fronted NM Highway 165 since the mid-seventies. They want to improve this vacant parcel under the requirements of the MP (Master Planned District) Zone classification. The application proposes “establishment of a sustainable community plan that will provide carefully balanced land uses appropriate in scale and density and framed in a neighborhood context that will fit the fabric that makes Placitas special. This parcel is well-suited for a mixture and variety of land uses, including commercial/retail services, which are scant in this corridor and would be a much-welcome addition where the benefit will be less trip generation to Bernalillo and beyond.” The parcel is located between the Ranchos de Placitas and Overlook subdivisions.

The parcel in question is currently zoned RRA—rural, residential, agricultural. The developers have done preliminary analysis regarding water and liquid waste. Water availability is an issue and would ultimately govern density and build-out of the site. The application also contains proposals for neighborhood businesses, permanent open space, rain-water harvesting, xeric landscaping, wastewater re-use for the landscape, cluster housing, and green building. Each building would have a solar panel array and indirect lighting features. A portion of this site has been targeted for public service and nonprofit community use, including a multi-generational activity center, a community pool, a Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office substation, improved fire station parking, and a transportation node link for Sandoval County Easy Express.

The development looks good on paper, but it faces intense opposition by Placitas residents, who overflowed the commission chambers at the May meeting of the County Planning and Zoning Commission. They presented a petition containing close to four hundred signatures and approximately forty-five letters in opposition to the rezoning plan. Six heads of home owners associations and communities in the immediate area, and then a number of individuals, expressed their views concerning the unsuitability of commercial and/or high-density residential development at that particular location and the underutilization of present commercially zoned property in the Village of Placitas and especially in Homestead Village (See the Gauntlet, this Signpost.).

The P&Z Commission voted to delay that ruling until its December meeting, when and if new Placitas Development Plan is completed. In April, Division of County Development Director Michael Springfield withdrew a request for approval of a resolution to place a moratorium on land subdivisions and zone map amendments in the eastern portion of the Placitas area. Springfield told the Signpost that his division originally sought the moratorium because of controversy over development of the area. It was also withdrawn due to controversy.

The Development Division plans to begin a long-range development plan for the Placitas area, to be completed in December. Plan issues include population growth, water issues, preservation of Placitas Village, acequia issues, infrastructure improvement, open space, transportation, subdivision, and proposed commercial amenities. Community meetings will begin in July.


Bernalillo briefs

• The Town of Bernalillo Public Housing Resident Council will hold its First Annual Rotary Park Flea Market Gala on June 14 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The event will include over one hundred booths in the pavilion, festive DJ music, food concessions, and two bouncing tents for children. Anyone wanting to sell (or recycle) household and garage items may rent a table. Local artists and craft artists are welcomed. The cost is $20 per table and two chairs, available on a first come, first served basis. Proceeds will benefit the Public Housing Resident Council. For information, contact Ida Jaramillo at 867-4938 or Nancy Colbert at 867-2409.

• Referrals are now being accepted by youth service providers that assist youth between the ages of fourteen and twenty-one. The Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) has awarded adobe restoration projects within the town. For more information, contact Maria Rinaldi, Community Development Director at 771-7133.

• The Bernalillo Growers’ Market opens on July 11 and is held every Friday through October 24 from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m., south of OLOS Catholic Church on Main Street. Contact Bonnie Hill at 867-9054 for more information. The market is a nonprofit organization that receives support from the Town of Bernalillo MainStreet program

• The Town of Bernalillo will be hosting the First Annual Old Route 66 Classic Antique and Custom Car Show on July 26 at Loretto Park from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Plan to attend this free, fun-filled family event. To obtain a car entry or vendor application, contact Felicia Rodriquez at 771-7121.


BLM report offers “road map for energy relief”

A Bureau of Land Management (BLM) report is the third in a series of congressionally-mandated scientific studies of U.S. onshore federal oil and natural gas resources and limitations on their development. All onshore federal lands throughout the United States believed to have energy potential are included in this latest study. These public lands are estimated to contain thirty-one billion barrels of oil and 231 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The BLM administers leasing of onshore federal oil and gas resources.

The inventory found that sixty percent of the onshore federal lands that have potential as domestic sources for natural gas and oil are presently closed to leasing, making sixty-two percent of the oil and forty-one percent of the natural gas inaccessible for development. An additional thirty percent of onshore federal oil and forty-nine percent of onshore federal gas may only be developed subject to restrictions over and above standard environmental lease terms, including seasonal timing limitations. The study found that in the inventory areas, just eight percent of onshore federal oil and ten percent of onshore federal gas are accessible under standard lease terms.

The 279 million acres inventoried are managed by various federal agencies, including the BLM and other agencies in the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Forest Service, which is part of the Department of Agriculture. Some of these acres are split estate, where the subsurface mineral resources are federally owned, but the surface is privately owned.

“Public lands have a significant role to play in meeting our domestic energy needs securely and affordably,” said BLM Director Jim Caswell. “Current technology allows us to develop energy resources without adversely impacting the environment or permanently diminishing other non-energy resources found on public lands.”

The latest inventory expands on earlier reports published in 2003 and 2006 pursuant to the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 2000, or EPCA. The new report was prepared under the direction of the BLM. Co-authors, contributors, and reviewers include the U.S. Geological Survey, the USDA-Forest Service, and the Department of Energy and its Energy Information Administration. Copies can be obtained by writing to the Bureau of Land Management, Office of Public Affairs, 1849 C Street NW, MS-LS 406, Washington, DC 20240.


A piece of Sandoval County pie

Joshua Madalena

County Line—

Sandoval County offers summer jobs to young people

—JOSHUA MADALENA, CHAIRMAN, SANDOVAL COUNTY COMMISSION

Getting married, the birth of a child and, maybe, that first car are among the many life-long memories none of us forget. Another is our first job and the experiences gained from the earliest opportunity to earn our own money by providing needed work for others.

Of the many services and programs available to Sandoval County residents, few are as life-shaping as the County’s Summer Youth Employment Program. It’s a highly effective way to help our youth earn salaries while gaining experiences that will form their work ethics well into adulthood and even into retirement decades later.

My first job was as varied as some of those offered by the County program. I was a summer hire for an employment services company and performed a variety of duties ranging from helping to elderly to cutting firewood and maintaining landscaping. I even learned to make adobes—a skill that proved useful years later when I built my home.

Sandoval County’s summer youth program helps create those memories and work habits in our youth today.

In exchange for my labor as a young summer worker, I earned a minimum wage salary of a couple of dollars an hour that, for a 13-year-old, was more than adequate. Times—and prices of all goods and services—have changed considerably since I was a working teen.

This year, the County’s summer youth program will provide hourly wages of $5.85 to about 100 young adults, ages 14-17 years. They will work twenty hours weekly and provide needed services that will help County and local governments and not-for-profit agencies continue assisting residents.

It’s a program the County Commission has funded for many years and one that I strongly support and highly endorse.

Applications for this year’s program opened in March and youth selected for the program were notified of job placements last month. Work begins with a mandatory orientation session in Bernalillo on Monday, June 2, to help the young employees understand expectations and requirements of the program.

At the end of the program on July 25, supervisors will provide the young workers with job evaluations and discuss their work performance with them.

Adult supervisors are key to the success of our Summer Youth Employment Program. They are responsible for training the younger employees and provide on-the-job direction and oversight.

To assure the teen employees receive more than a paycheck, they will be assigned a wide variety of jobs that expand existing skills and teach new tasks. Duties may include washing dishes at senior centers, typing and filing in offices or working with summer recreational programs.

Some workers will be assigned to jobs with local government agencies in the County’s incorporated communities. Others will provide landscaping maintenance, work with elected officials or assist in various other areas of County government such as public works, personnel or senior programs.

No matter what the task, each job is important for government agencies and not-for-profit organizations. Each job also shares the goal of providing our youth with the opportunity to obtain experience and skills for building future careers.

In exchange, I have high expectations of participants. Good, hard work and an effort to make a contribution in the workplace will be required.

Questions or comments for Commissioner Madalena can be mailed to him in care of Sandoval County Administrative Offices, PO Box 40, Bernalillo, NM 87004.


Rio Rancho offers summer programs

Children will soon be on summer vacation and the city’s Parks, Recreation, and Community Services Department has countless programs and recreational opportunities available for a wide variety of ages.

The following classes will be offered the Sabana Grande Recreation Center (4110 Sabana Grande Boulevard). The staff at the center is currently taking enrollments.

• Basic Drawing Class from June 13 to August 8 (ages sixteen and up).

• Beginning Ballet from June 18 to August 20 (ages six to eleven).

• Belly Dancing from July 7 to August 25 (ages eighteen and up).

• Candy Making from June 23 to June 30 (ages twelve to sixteen).

• Creating Cookie Bouquets from June 9 to June 16 (ages twelve to sixteen).

• Hip Hop ‘Til You Drop from June 18 to August 20 (ages ten to sixteen).

• Little Rembrandts from June 14 to June 28 (ages four to six).

• Tie Dye from June 4 to June 25 (ages ten to fourteen).

The department is also offering two opportunities for Sports Plus Day Camp. This program is designed around sports-related activities for children ages eight to twelve. Kids will participate in hiking, daily fitness, archery, survival training, bowling, ice skating, swimming, fishing, traditional sports, and more. Session 1 will take place between June 2 and June 27. Session 2 will run from July 7 through August 1. Both sessions take place Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The cost per session is $400.

The department is currently registering those interested in participating on the Sundance Swim Team. The program is for ages six to seventeen and will begin on June 4. The fee to participate is $70 per child, with each additional sibling incurring a fee of $50. Practices will take place from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m., Monday through Friday at Rainbow Pool located at 301 Southern Boulevard.

For more information, call (505) 891-5015. Registration and fee payment can be done at the Parks and Recreation offices located on the first floor of Rio Rancho City Hall (3200 Civic Center Circle NE).


Susan, Randolph and Julia Seligman

Susan, Randolph and Julia Seligman—three of many family decendants honored at Sandoval County Historical Society’s memorial garden dedication in April

Historical Society dedicates memorial garden to honor Bibo, Block and Seligman families

—SIGNPOST STAFF

On April 27, the Sandoval County Historical Society held a dedication ceremony of the Seligman, Bibo, Block Memorial Garden. Martha Liebert, archive director/program coordinator for the Historical Society said that the desert garden honors “the lives and labors of the pioneer mercantile families who made such historical contributions to our local communities commercially, politically, and socially.”

The garden was designed and installed at the DeLavy House in Bernalillo by grounds chairman Tom Wilson. It includes a plaque near the center, naming the three families and two benches built by current Historical Society president, Gary Williams.

The ninety-four-year-old patriarch of the Seligman family, Dr. Randolph Seligman, attended the dedication, along with approximately thirty family members. Seligman opened his solo practice in Bernalillo in 1950. He delivered 7,500 to ten thousand babies throughout his career, including Martha and Joe Liebert’s three sons.

Here is the text of Martha Liebert’s dedication speech:

We gather today to honor the lives and labors of your families—the Bibos, Blocks, and Seligmans, who have made such historic contributions to our communities—commercially, politically, and socially.

It all started with Lucas Rosenstein, who came to America in 1812 from Westphalia, Prussia, to avoid the Napoleonic draft. It was his tales of the wonderful new land that prompted the mass exodus; one after the other, as they came of age, they followed his lead to the New World.

First came Nathan Bibo, the harbinger of the commercial revolution in New Mexico. His nine siblings followed him in good order and worked for old friends from Prussia, the Spiegelbergs, who had a large trading operation in Santa Fe. In 1870, Willie Spiegelberg sent Nathan to manage his Fort Wingate store, where he soon became a sub-agent for the Navajo tribe.

By 1871, Nathan had come to Bernalillo, bought land, and planted a vineyard. In 1873, he opened the Bibo Mercantile, and the next year got the job of postmaster, built stables, and ran the stage mail line. He had great hopes for the future development of Bernalillo, when in 1875, the ATSF came looking to buy land for a transcontinental center. Jose Leandro Perea, the local land owner and sheep king, jacked the price to $425 an acre for land that was valued from $2 to $3, so the Santa Fe went south to Albuquerque and it consequently boomed, while Bernalillo remained small and quiet. In 1880, the railroad came through with a line anyway and brought a boom and gold rush in the San Pedros and the Sandias.

Nathan joined the gold rush, but in 1884, he left the mercantile with his brother Joseph and sister Lina and went to California, where he married Flora Abrahams and set up a mercantile. However, the timing was bad and he was wiped out in the San Francisco quake of 1905. He returned to Bernalillo to live and sold insurance there.

Bernalillo had been a crossroads for trade because of its location on the Jemez and Rio Grande, which was an east-west/north-south junction of trading trails dating to prehistoric times, so Nathan was following in a long-established tradition of trading. This new group of traders, however, had to cross an ocean and learn new languages (English, Spanish, Keres, and Navajo). They were literate in a basically illiterate community, open-minded culturally in a prejudiced society. They acted as bankers, scribes, and legal advisors; wrote letters; and did legal papers, etc.

To these men whose lives and talents had been restricted and rejected in the Old World, it must have been little short of heaven to find that in the New World, they were limited only by their imagination and intelligence. The sky was the limit, and here they could live long and prosper—and they did. They created a dynasty, and you are the living results. Families and faith were their strength and keystone.

During their lives, we went from a barter system to a monetary one. Trails became roads and rails. At the height of the mercantile period, they had ten stores.

Since Nathan left, Joe and Lina Bibo were running the Bern Mercantile. In 1899, Siegfried Seligman came to work for the Bibos, followed soon by his brothers Julius, Carl, and Ernest. Carl soon went to Grants and bought out Simon Bibo’s mercantile. Ernest went to Santo Domingo with Julius, and after becoming a partner, Siegfried ran the Bern Merc in 1903.

Siegfried was an innovator; he had the first electricity and gas heat in his home. He bought a surrey with fringe on top with coupons of Arbuckle’s coffee and he had the first automobile in Bernalillo—a 1912 Buick.

Their wives were socially active. Blanche started the Women’s Club in Bernalillo and many were active in hospital foundations. The men were members of the County Commission and the school board. Always civic-minded, they played a major role in the growth of the area.

A visit to the Bern Merc was as exciting as a three-ring circus to rural children who were isolated on ranches, far from town. As a special treat, a child would get to come with Dad in the buckboard to get the month’s supply of food and seed, get their grain ground, and see the sights. The wide-eyed child might get a peppermint stick from Siegfried if he was lucky.

The mercantile sold everything from coffee to coffins, Studebaker wagons to shawls and overalls. They even imported exotic birds and bells and shells for the Native Americans and ran a pawn operation.

A word about the garden we dedicate today: All are new plantings and will grow and fill in and serve as an oasis after we are long gone. One plant in particular, a yucca, by special request of Randy, because the Santo Domingo pueblo gave each of his family Indian names of part of the plant. His father Julius was tsyo-tyume; Randy was acho wa (seed pod); and Jack was ah-sonah (stalk).”

 

 

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