BELEN — The grass is greener at Eagle Park these days, and the public is once again able to enjoy the open space on the west side of the city of Belen.
After months of reseeding, painting and irrigation system upgrades, the park’s fields were reopened for use last Saturday, Oct. 16.
Josh Kerns, the parks and recreation director for the city, gave a handful of city officials and community members a run-down of completed improvements at the park and future projects Saturday morning.
The city is working to spend $784,000 in capital appropriations for park renovations.
Kerns said about $300,000 was previously appropriated to reseed and rework the irrigation system for the soccer/football fields and meadow on the park’s west side.
“The seeding took and it’s going well. We have a couple of flag football games going today,” Kerns said on Saturday.
The picnic tables under the park’s 10 shade structures have been repainted and the shade structures themselves are being renovated. The bathroom, next to the playground, has also been freshly painted and is being repaired, Kerns said.
“It will be usable and functional on the days the community center isn’t open,” he said.
As work continues on the park, the temporary fencing around the perimeter of the meadow and playing fields will remain, he said, to protect the new grass and irrigation system.
There will be three pedestrian access points through the fence — on the north end by the skate park, on the west side by the veterans memorial and on the south side by the playground and bathrooms.
As the renovations and repairs enter their final stage, permanent pipe and cable fencing around the meadow and soccer/football fields will be installed.
“There will be two access points for vehicles, so emergency vehicles can drive in, but they will be locked unless there is a need,” Kerns said.
Two unused softball fields in the southwest corner of the park will be made into a special events area for large events such as the Hispano Chamber of Valencia County’s annual Matanza and the city’s Fourth of July celebration.
Another large event held at the park is the annual St. Patrick’s Day Balloon Rallye in March, which usually sets up on the grass playing fields.
Kerns said he’s waiting to see how the grass does over the winter before making any final decisions about where the 60-plus balloon event can set up.
“They will need the grass area for as many balloons that will be out there but it will be a little different due to the fact that they won’t just be allowed to drive out there,” Kerns said. “They will have to be escorted so they do not drive over and break any sprinklers.”
Other planned improvements include a walking path around the meadow and soccer/football fields, he said, so people who want to walk laps won’t have to be on the access road. Money has also been allocated to pave the upper parking lot between the playground area, and the new special events area and to replace the playground equipment.
The city has put $25,000 into improvements to the skate park on the north side of the park, including a new half pipe.
“We had it but were having a hard time finding the time to put it together and install it,” Kerns said. “So members of the skating community did that for us, which we really appreciate.”
The tennis courts have also been resurfaced and striped for pickle ball games, he said, a cost of about $75,000.
Another $15,000 has been set aside for 40-50 trees and an irrigation system along the entrance road up to the community center, he said.
East of the tennis courts, a new archery park is going in — a $30,000 project.
“It’s lower than the surrounding area and we will build a wall to protect people in the area from arrows,” Kerns said.
Belen City Councilor Frank Ortega said he was very excited to see the work being done on Eagle Park, a project nearly three years in the making. The city has also received $450,000 in capital appropriations for the Veterans’ Center at the park, which will pay for the renovation of a portable building into a conference room, adding restrooms, lighting and a veterans memorial walk, Ortega said.
Engaging with parents in the community to make sure they knew about the improvements needs to be a priority, said Belen Councilor Robert Noblin.
The park was getting back to the way it used to be, said Councilor Ronnie Torres.
“That’s thanks to Josh’s direction. We have a good team to keep it going,” Torres said. “I’m glad we’re looking after everyone, from the veterans to the skating community.”
Eagle Park Renovations
$200,000: Pave top parking lot
$108,000: Pipe and cable fencing around the meadow and soccer/football fields
$105,000: Walking trails around the meadow and soccer/football fields
$100,000: Park maintenance building
$80,000: Playground equipment
$75,000: Special events venue
$75,000: Tennis court resurfacing
$30,000: Archery park
$30,000: Shade covers
$25,000: Skate park
$15,000: Irrigation for drip system along entrance road
$15,000: 40-50 trees along the entrance road
$15,000: Signs for individual areas (tennis courts, basketball courts, skate park, special events venue, archery park, main gate)
(Also included in the total is a cushion of $88,000 for engineering and cost increases.)
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.