County to back off Placitas road
—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
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,”
“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.”
Commercial development, multi-family housing proposed for Placitas-Bernalillo
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
email@example.com or mail your comments to 435 Montaño
NE, Albuquerque, NM 87107.
Planning & Zoning postpones decision on Placitas
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.
• 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
• Beginning Ballet from June 18 to August 20 (ages six to
• Belly Dancing from July 7 to August 25 (ages eighteen and
• Candy Making from June 23 to June 30 (ages twelve to sixteen).
• Creating Cookie Bouquets from June 9 to June 16 (ages twelve
• 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
• 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
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
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
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
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
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