Richard Metcalf’s story in Thursday’s Journal spurred me to ride down past the old Schwartzman property this morning, down in Albuquerque’s South Valley.
It’s 500 acres of land, much of it still farmed, dating back somewhere into Albuquerque’s distant past when farming was what we did. According to Richard’s story, the Schwartzman family moved here in the 1880s, and ran a “vertically integrated” meat-packing operation on the land, from feed, to cattle, to slaughterhouse.
The bike trail runs down its west edge, between the farm and the ditch that parallels the river. It’s probably my favorite stretch of trail in the city. On a hot today (and today was a hot day), the tunnel of trees gives a mile or so of respite. It’s where Lissa saw two water turtles, shells big as dinner plates. I’ve seen muskrat down there, and it’s invariably where I see my first sandhill cranes of the fall, picking through what’s left in the chile fields. Today I saw two turtles sunning themselves, and four or five impossibly large fish in the ditch.
Up the hill to the east, you can see the big regional fuel depots, and the flight path to the airport is overhead, so it’s not like you’re out in some rural paradise. That’s part of what I like about it – a sort of quirky urban thing. Which brings us to the point of Richard’s story, which is that the land, which has been for sale for a long time, looks like it might finally sell. It’s just four miles or so south of downtown, so it must be the juiciest parcel around for development.
I’ve got mixed feelings about this. Every year, I ride this stretch from spring to fall, at least a couple of times a month, watching them prep the field, get the siphons into the ditch to water things, grow and harvest their crop. And then the cranes. I will miss that especially. There also is value in growing food close to where we live.
But if I really believe in infill – building more densely close to the city’s core rather than sprawling on its perimeter – I cannot argue that infill is great only in the abstract, but not down in the South Valley where I love to ride my bike.