A meeting in Mountainair Saturday on a town square was attended by only one of six candidates running for the town council.

That was incumbent councilor Barbara Chung.

The meeting was hosted by Community By Design, part of the New Mexico Mainstreet Program’s Frontier Communities initiative.

This meeting followed an earlier one in December last year, which provided a framework for this meeting, a collaborative process known as a charette.

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Using transparent paper, participants drew their design ideas overlaid on a Google map of the area provided by Community By Design planners. Photo by Leota Harriman.

The idea was to come up with ideas for a piece of property owned by the town of Mountainair, which faces the Shaffer hotel on one side, and butts up against the alley side of part of the town’s business sector, sitting diagonally across from the town hall and the Manzano Mountain Art Council. On the other side is the Salinas Pueblo Missions building.

After presentations by the design team, participants broke up into smaller groups to plan and draw their concepts for how the property might be used as a public space.

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After breaking up for planning, four groups presented their ideas to the whole group, with significant areas of overlap in their ideas.

The “town square design process,” as Community By Design dubbed it, starts to look for funding sources in February this year. One of the benefits to the community of working with N.M. Mainstreet is that the cost of design services is borne by the program rather than the town.

Additional “stakeholder” meetings will be held in February, March and April, with an open house to unveil a conceptual plan by Community By Design planned for April as well.

All four groups were united in their dislike of fencing around the area, with suggestions including boulders or other barriers to keep vehicles out.

All four groups suggested water catchment as a priority, describing the road in front of Shaffer Hotel as a “river.” Those suggestions included swales, acequias or other features that would capture water and use it onsite.

There was broad consensus on incorporating historic aspects of the town’s culture, like the railroad, in the final design.

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Native plants featured heavily in all four plans as well, although Chung advocated for artificial turf as a ground cover. Chung found herself at odds with the larger group over this idea, like a child-friendly water feature.

“We are a rural, deprived area,” said one woman. “Why should our children suffer?”

“They’re going to play in it,” said another.

“It’s a totally different issue if they can put their feet in it, or get their mouth near the water,” Chung said.

In the end, the designers said they would add a generic type of water feature, deferring the decision on what kind of feature that would be.

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The property in question is outlined in yellow. Below it on the photo is the historic Shaffer Hotel; to the left is Salinas Pueblo Missions; and just above is the alley behind the business district on U.S. 60.

The main concept was for paths connecting the various features of the town, like Salinas Missions, the shopping district and the town hall and art center.

Other ideas included using the wall of the building on the property to show movies, a movable stage for concerts, a railroad caboose as a play feature for children, shade structures, gateways around the park to welcome visitors in, a water feature and benches.

The group also suggested creating a space that could be used for a farmers or arts market, and ways to make that visible to passersby.

After each group presented its ideas, Charlie Dean from Community By Design facilitated a session to condense the ideas to the common factors and areas of agreement.

The design firm will now work on its concept and identify potential funding sources for development of the property.