Central parks would expand under town plan

Written by on July 19, 2019
(Courtesy Photo) Renderings prepared by the University of New Mexico of a possible splash park in an expanded Gough Park.

(Courtesy Photo)
Renderings prepared by the University of New Mexico of a possible splash park in an expanded Gough Park.

A half-block piece of property adjacent to Penny Park that went on the market last year looks to have jump-started the town of Silver City’s long-term vision for a coherent, park-filled town center.

The plan under development would see downtown’s Big Ditch Park linked to a greatly expanded Gough Park and the Penny Park playground — and from there to a future visitor center and trailhead for the Continental Divide Trail in the historic Waterworks Building on Little Walnut Road.

The project would make use of a parking lot south of Gough Park that’s been owned by the town since 2002 — property purchased from Bank of America and presently partially under lease to Washington Federal bank.

“There’s a concept out there that because we’re going to get the Washington Federal bank building back, and the [motor bank] block back in about three years, we’ve been starting to look at what we could do with the additional property to enhance the community,” said Silver City Town Manager Alex Brown, who has been contemplating some version of the plan for most of his two decades in town government. “We could expand the park, maybe close 12th Street. I had the UNM Department of Architecture, [Professor] Tim Castillo and a few of his students do a study.”

The back-burner plan got a boost earlier this month when the town purchased the Penny Park-adjacent property for $126,000. A building on the land is likely to be the temporary home for the CDT visitor center that will eventually occupy the “rock house” at the old Waterworks Building, just north of Jose Barrios Elementary School. And in the long term?

“Some people have suggested expanding Penny Park,” Brown said.

“The timing is right for that,” said District 4 Town Councilor Guadalupe Cano, whose district includes the park. “It’s a good purchase, and it’s land that we can use for a new purpose. The expansion of Penny Park would be good, because that’s a part of the community that people really enjoy.”

The property, which was owned by the estate of Art Veeder, a Silver City man who passed away last summer, originally went on the market last year, but didn’t generate much interest.

“Bobbie Neal approached the town because she was the executor of the Veeder estate, and the family wanted to get rid of the property, so her and her real estate agent approached me wanting to sell the property,” Brown said. “The price was a little bit too high, so that’s where it ended.”

Neal revived the conversation earlier this year.

“It was obvious that the town should buy it, and they acted interested, but [Brown] never did do anything,” Neal said. “And then we reduced the price, and I contacted Alex and told him what the new price was.”

The property included a site-built building fronting Grant Street, with two mobile homes located behind it along 13th Street.

“I told them basically … the town had no use for the trailers, and we got an appraisal for the land without them,” Brown said. “They didn’t want to mess with the trailers, so they gave us everything at the same price.

for the [removal of the] two trailers, and then we’ll do some cleanup, evaluate the property and move forward.”

The town’s purchase reconnects land that was once all under the Veeder’s ownership.

“They gave part of that property to the town when they were first building Penny Park,” Neal said.

Proceeds from the sale will benefit various members of the Veeder family, as well as Mr. Veeder’s former caregivers and the First Methodist Church, Neal said.

Meanwhile, town leaders now must get to work on realizing Brown’s dream.

“In the next few months, Alex wants to form a committee to start talking about the expansion of Gough Park,” Cano said. “I know I have a lot of ideas in my own head, and I’m excited to see what the community thinks — especially now that we’re trying to expand the use of Gough Park.”

Preliminary drawings show that the present Gough Park will see few changes, with the exception of the possible relocation of the basketball courts into the new section of the park.

“Some ideas are to build a splash park, a small stage and screen for outdoor performances and movies,” Brown said. “It’s just to expand the park, so that it can be used by everybody, and draw transplants, visitors and locals.”

For her part, Cano would like to see basketball courts joined by other sports courts.

“I’d like to see a huachas court, and a pickleball court,” she said. “Senior Olympics is near and dear to my heart, and I’d like to see a place in the center of town that’s available for them to play all the time. The park should be usable by everyone, from babies all the way up to seniors.”

And then there’s the revamped park’s role as a hub for the area’s many trails systems — trails that span both the Silver City community and the country.

You’ll be able to “access the Big Ditch behind the police station,” Brown explained. “We’re looking at a colored sidewalk or something to connect Gough Park to the Big Ditch Park, and then on the other side do a similar thing to Penny Park and then to the rock house — that being the trailhead for the CDT — and you can then go out to the CDT from there.

“We’ll be able to take advantage and tie it all in, and make it a huge driver for quality of life and economic development for the community.”

The town has put the parks project on its infrastructure and capital improvements plan for the coming year — “it’s number five right now,” Brown said. “I think the first real presentation on it was today — I met with [Lt. Gov.] Howie [Morales] and talked about it and explained it.”

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