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Good News: Abq's 'Rail Trail' looks promising and composting infrastructure is improving
This may be the start of a series focused on positive climate news
It’s easy to get down on all the bad news out there surrounding climate change. Heck, I’ve produced my fair share of articles that point out bad news and dangers that we face. Between temperature records being broken and slow-moving governments, the scale of the climate catastrophe can be overwhelming to think about. The road to net-zero is a steep one, so it’s important to celebrate the little wins along the way.
As much as we urge New Mexico to fight harder for the climate, we should recognize that New Mexico has done a lot of good, too. Today’s post is about two recent wins in Albuquerque’s race to net-zero.
Abq ‘Rail Trail’ project looks promising
On July 22nd, The City of Albuquerque unveiled their ‘Rail Trail’ project that will span from the Rail Yards in the Barelas neighborhood, through downtown and the Alvarado Transportation Center, and extend over to the Sawmill District and Old Town area. By locking in $36.5M from City, State, and Federal funding, the Keller Administration is piecing together one of the biggest projects since the Zoo was built. This economy-boosting project is a sign that the city is looking to pedestrianize and revitalize an area that is historically poor and dangerous for pedestrians.
The executive summary of the project describes the plans attention to economic development, art, greenery, pedestrianization, and more. It’s really packed with too many cool ideas to note here, but here’s some pictures and a video from the Rail Trail website:
A new era for historic Albuquerque neighborhoods
The neighborhoods of Barelas, Martineztown, and South Broadway are about to get major upgrades that should lead to more small businesses, impressive pedestrian infrastructure, and added value for existing residents.
Originally a separate village, the Barelas neighborhood was formally established in 1662 and predates the rest of the city. After being absorbed by Albuquerque, the neighborhood has undergone waves of economic booms and busts, isolation, and redevelopment.
The Rail Trail plans highlight the economic boosts like the railroad industry and major transportation veins in Barelas that have come and gone:
With the arrival of the railroad in 1880, Barelas flourished and expanded. The triumph of the automobile, however, diminished the importance of the railroad. The rubber wheel pushed aside the steel wheel. Route 66 and Route 85 became the main thoroughfares for the transportation of people and goods in both the east-west and northsouth directions. Route 85 traveled along 4th street through the heart of Barelas, following the path of the historic El Camino Real. Barelas took advantage of this emerging car-centric world, developing automobile-oriented services along 4th street. This era of prosperity, however, was short lived. With the construction of the interstate, the installation of Civic Plaza in downtown Albuquerque, and several urban renewal projects, Barelas was eventually cut off from its flow of customers, and businesses languished.
The addition of the Interstate system and the decline of business like the railroad industry led to the current impoverished state of neighborhoods like Barelas, South Broadway, and Martineztown. While additions like the cultural centers, zoo, Rail Yard markets, Rail Runner, and Sawmill Market have restarted the growth of these communities, the Rail Trail may someday serve as the much-needed glue that connects and supports them all.
In summary, the Rail Trail project in Albuquerque should be celebrated because it’s good for our environment, economy, and communities. That’s not to say we don’t still have a ways to go to pedestrianize Albuquerque, but it’s the type of project we need more of.
Other pedestrianization projects in Albuquerque to note:
The city recently finished a separated bike path that runs parallel to 2nd Street in the North Valley, which used to be inhospitable for cyclists and walkers.
Federal dollars will help redevelop 4th Street in the Barelas neighborhood to include several traffic calming measures, walkability, and beautification.
A Coors Boulevard pedestrianization and bus lane project is planned with $6.3M in federal funding.
Menaul Boulevard near the Big I, another neglected area since the Interstate system came in, is set for a makeover to improve safety, lighting, parks, etc.
Composting infrastructure in Albuquerque has improved
Composting is an important practice that cuts down on carbon and landfill waste, improves soil, and gets us closer to being a circular economy. The NM Healthy Soil Working Group states the benefits of composting as:
The simple act of composting enables us to mitigate climate change by keeping organic materials out of landfills where they produce methane and other greenhouse gases. Compost on the other hand builds soil which sequesters legacy emissions… When applied, compost enhances plant growth, reduces stormwater runoff and soil erosion, and improves soil fertility, structure, and water retention.
Until recently, the City of Albuquerque didn’t offer any composting service. Fortunately, they introduced a community compost bin that looks to be in concert with the NM Healthy Soil Working Group at the Barelas Senior Center Garden in June. It’s no full-fledged composting pickup service like other major cities offer, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Brad Weikel must have noticed the absence of composting and decided to build it himself. Weikel started Little Green Bucket in 2018 and is still “Albuquerque’s only residential food scrap collection business.” Little Green Bucket serves Albuquerque, Los Ranchos, Corrales, Rio Rancho, and the South Valley.
After you pick a subscription model that works for you, Little Green Bucket provides a literal little green bucket that you collect your food scraps in, they come pick it up on a regular basis, turn that waste into compost, and provide locally sourced compost back to you and nearby farmers.
As you grow into a more sustainable citizen, consider local composting businesses or community drop-off stations if you don’t want to compost yourself at home.
Do you have positive, local, climate stories that I should know about?
There’s a chance that I will write more of these articles focusing on local climate wins in the future, and I’d love to hear your suggestions. If you know of any people or organizations, public, private, or non-profit, that are making a positive difference on the environment in New Mexico, I would love to hear about it.
Either comment below or email me at email@example.com.