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A major re-design and landscape for parking areas at the Village Office complex at the northeast corner of Corrales Road and East La Entrada can be expected by the end of the year. The project planned since last year would use some of the proceeds from the sale of municipal bonds approved in 2020. Village Administrator Ron Curry said late last year that he expected a thorough make-over for parking areas near the Village Office to begin by summer and be complete a few months later.

He said then that preliminary earthmoving for the project, to be done by Public Works crews, could get underway by mid-2022. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXX No.22 January 8, 2022 “What’s Ahead for 2022?”) Those parking areas are immediately in front  of the Village Office building, outside the building that houses the Council Chambers/Municipal Court,  and space on the north side of that structure, across from Wells Fargo Bank.

The project likely would include spaces in front of the old Community Center, behind the Corrales Senior Center. That would include the concrete slab in front of the Community Center that —in the earliest days of Village government— was a basketball court where fire department volunteers exercised. A  little later, the same slab supported a mobile home salvaged from the County landfill where it had outlived usefulness as the dump’s office.

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Landscaping for the re-designed municipal parking areas is expected to be enhanced as the projects nears completion. The garden and landscape in front of the Village Office has been planted and maintained by volunteers, many of whom are Sandoval County Master Gardeners.

A preliminary plan for the parking lots produced last year showed new plantings on the north side of the building that houses the Council Chambers, courtroom, court office and Corrales MainStreet office.

But recently Curry said those initial plans are being revised.

Started by Judy Jacobs and a handful of volunteers nearly 20 years ago, the municipal complex landscape’s upkeep and further development languished for awhile when she relinquished leadership of the project over a family member’s treatment at the hands of Corrales police. She said she was thankful that the directors of the Parks and Recreation and Public Works departments stepped in to keep the plants alive.

Jacobs started the landscaping effort as an Earth Day project in 2003. Donations from Intel and Corrales Comment acquired the first plantings.

At the time, Jacobs explained the basic idea was to show villagers what could grow well on Corrales’ bottomlands, because much of the Albuquerque-area “desert gardening” demonstrations and literature focus on sandy soils.

“With the exception of a few plants, almost everything in there is adaptable specifically for clay soils. Most of what we are told about for plant choices apply mainly to sandy soil, and very little information is available for clay soils,” Jacobs explained.

She said the Village Office gardening project started when Chris Allen served as Village Administrator. Sandoval County Master Gardeners program was invited to consider the site as a project, but “they didn’t feel it was something they could take on successfully, mainly because potential landscape areas didn’t have water to them.”

So when the Corrales Public Works department rectified that, “I happened to be looking for a project at that time, and Sandy Gold approached me about it. I said, ‘Sure, I’ll help, ‘ but never intending to be in charge for 11 years,”Jacobs recalled.

Intel volunteers planted most of the trees and shrubs that first year. “Over the next couple of months, I planted most of the rest of the shrubs, and it kind of expanded as Master Gardeners would come along with ideas and energy,” she added. “Most of the rest of the beds are mixed borders with perennials and shrubs —not so many trees because most of the planting areas are fairly narrow.”

Many of the first plants came in as transplants from Jacobs’ garden and those of other volunteers.

“Our primary goal was to provide a plant list for people who live in the river valley with its colder temperatures and heavier soils,” Jacobs explained. “This is the land of Johnson grass, bindweed and elms, not the four-wing saltbush and sagebrush which grow on the slopes around us.

“Cold air falls down these slopes and settles in the river valley, contributing to a shorter growing season and colder winter temperatures. And the soil in the valley holds water much longer than the sandy soils around us, so many xeric plants will not tolerate these conditions.”

She said gardeners new to Corrales can be confused by trying to grow plants the way gardening is recommended by experts who assume the students are working with coarse sandy hills or mesa land.

“The plant list for valley land is much different,” she pointed out.  “With the clay soils we have here, after a summer monsoon rain our soils can stay soaked for a month,” killing off plantings better suited for sandy conditions.

 In 2007, they essentially re-built the garden area on the street side of the old fire station, now used as the Village Council Chambers and courtroom. They installed a demonstration “dry stream bed” to show how a garden can incorporate a stormwater ponding area.

To control weeds, they laid down a landscaping fiber and then they built the stream bed stone by stone.

After 20 years, the garden areas around the Village Office complex contained more than 100 plant species.

Bark mulch averages about two to three inches thick.

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