The future Rio Fernando Park is a 20-acre parcel owned by the Taos Land Trust in Taos, New Mexico. Located one mile from the center of downtown, the property contains 7 acres of wetlands and wetland riparian areas that hug the Rio Fernando de Taos. The property is located in the Town of Taos, between the Rio Fernando and La Posta Road southwest of downtown. It is bounded on the north and east by La Posta Road, on the south by residential properties and on the west by Fred Baca Park and Camino del Medio Rd. This wetland connects to a broader wetland, spilling out into the adjacent Fred Baca public park and downstream to the Rio Pueblo that feeds the Rio Grande. The remainder of the property has approximately 13 acres of urban forest and land once used for agriculture and ranching. The property was owned for hundreds of years by the Romo family and was left without any management for over 25 years.
The result is a dominance of invasive tree species and noxious weeds, the degradation of the acequia (the Spanish system of open ditch water conveyance introduced 500 years ago), and overgrowth that has made much of the riparian area around the river and wetland ecologically challenged and difficult to access.
The Rio Fernando
The Rio Fernando is one of the few rivers that flows through the center of the Town of Taos, and when this park is built, it will be accessible to the public. Currently, the only access point in the Town of Taos for the Rio Fernando is a short wetland trail at Fred Baca Park. In the county, the Rio Fernando is somewhat accessible at the South Boundary Trail in the Carson National Forest, where its watershed lies east of the Town of Taos.
As it winds its way through the fields, the Rio Fernando water is diverted through a series of acequias. The Rio Fernando picks up water again as it crosses U.S. Highway 64, where the Rio is fed by natural springs (ojitos) before it comes onto the Taos Land Trust property and then into Fred Baca Park. It works its way through a network of wetlands and meets up with the Rio Pueblo west of the Town of Taos.
The property was purchased in December 2015 by the Taos Land Trust with a grant from the LOR Foundation toward the goal of restoring and conserving valuable wetlands and riparian habitat in an increasingly developed and impacted area. In April 2017, the Taos Land Trust was able to move into a small adobe house on the property that serves as its permanent office.
The Taos Land Trust has built an initial .25-mile trail on the property as part of its Parks Rx pilot program. In 2016, the Land Trust conducted 10 stakeholder meetings and focus groups to begin to develop the community vision for this property. A grant from the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA) and other funders will allow us to complete the master plan, restore the wetland, build trails and provide initial accessibility to the public.
Mapping conducted by Taos High School students under the supervision of the Taos Land Trust and Ben Wright, Sound Trees. 7/21/2017
Site Vegetation & Tree Coverage
In July 2017, four Taos High School students and a project leader were engaged in mapping the Rio Fernando site. The intent of the project was to gather important ecological baseline data through an educational framework of student internships in preparation for management and implementation of ecological restoration. Students collected data about invasive species, vegetation types, and information about the location and condition of tree species.
Over 900 trees from the 20-acre property were surveyed and entered into an ArcGIS database. Critical information collected included tree diameter, height, condition, conflicts, hazard potential, comments and photos mapped to geographic reference points. The vegetation types (split into 26 vegetation zones) proved to be the key piece of data to comprehending the property as a whole. Other findings included uncovering an old secondary acequia that runs through the site, mapping of the Rio Fernando’s riparian area, and identification of various wildlife species.