By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — The arches are history. The Yellow Brick Road is in yellow brick crumbles. Gone are the trees that shaded then-small grandson Alexander the Great as we shared our first waltz during a downtown fiesta.
My favorite block of the Las Cruces Downtown Mall now looks bald and forlorn, but the aftermath of what now looks like an urban war zone should be worth the wait, revitalization planners promise.
As she watched one of our loveliest old trees come down, Flo Hosa Dougherty stood ready with a list of about 50 artists who plan to transform the wood into some creative art pieces.
And much as we mourn those old Chinese pistaches and other trees, things are still on track to save what many of us think may be Las Cruces’ most beautiful tree: that big, wonderful Chinese pistache near White’s Music Box, on a stretch of the Downtown Mall scheduled for the next phase of revitalization efforts.
After a January Las Cruces Style column led to an outpouring of protests from tree fans, Mayor Ken Miyagishima expressed his support for efforts to save it and opined that a tree in the middle of the mall road might even become a tourist attraction.
This month, Assistant City Manager Robert Garza said saving the tree “will remain a high priority. It is located close to the center of the available right-of- way, so it is conceivable to design a median around it and allow it to remain.”
I was happy to hear Garza’s estimate that we may be “putting in more trees than are being removed.”
I’m sorry the cottonwood grove battles on Interstate 10 haven’t gone as well. I hope public and private outcries in support of preserving trees in desert lands will continue to grow.
I’ve been heartened to see the almost-instant landscape transformation at the new U.S. Courthouse, which now boasts rows of pretty young trees flanking the sidewalk along North Church Street, along with plump and prosperous-looking clumps of ornamental grasses that waved a cheerful green salute as I took an early morning tour of the new federal building and its impressive art collection.
Landscapers have also done a great job with the new Las Cruces City Hall grounds, a nice little reversal on the old Joni Mitchell tune. Where there was once a paved parking lot for the old SoLo supermarket, there are now little pockets of paradise: trees and shrubs and flowers.
Driving into work, it hit me that 2010 will go down in local history as a big year for our changing urban landscape, as Downtown Mall spruce-ups continue, the new city hall and federal building open their doors and new restaurants and art galleries spring up.
When the Las Cruces Museum of Natural History moves in, my favorite block will have three museums, two theaters, some great galleries and a world-class bookstore.
A few blocks away, Mesquite Street’s burgeoning number of galleries and artists’ studios could make it our version of Santa Fe’s Canyon Road.
And that’s just the beginning. This month, I stopped in at the Cutter Gallery, and peered out their windows at the almost-done Las Cruces Convention Center on University Avenue.
On Thursday, at University and Espina, it was time for the official groundbreaking ceremonies for the new Center for the Arts at NMSU. And up the street a few blocks, they’re getting ready to move into the almost-completed new American Indian Center, I learned from Justin McHorse, director of NMSU’s Indian Programs.
Sometimes, progress can be very hard on the corazon y alma (heart and soul) of places like Las Cruces.
But if we do it with heartfelt creativity and an eye for preserving the things we love (and all the trees we possibly can), we could end up with a win-win situation, a soulful city that keeps getting better as its getting bigger.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450