A duet of high-altitude clacking drew my eyes upward as a pair of sandhill cranes negotiated two mammoth cottonwoods and gracefully landed on the cornfield in back of Albuquerque’s Open Space Visitor Center. A kettle of their stately compatriots were making short work of the recently cut agricultural field specially planted for their delectation.
The late winter day was in the 30s, and I knew we were fortunate to see the cranes before they undertook their yearly spring migration to Nebraska’s Platte River. Wintering along the Rio Grande Valley from Albuquerque to Bosque del Apache and south, they are one of the delights of our region.
It was my first visit to the Center and I was impressed by the facility, which had opened in 2006. Perhaps I hadn’t visited before because it was so darn accessible, a short distance off Coors Boulevard on the West Side where I live. I’d brushed it off thinking it probably was some uninspiring shack on the bosque. I was so wrong.
The center sits on 55 acres, half of which is harvestable cropland planted in sorghum for the wildlife, and half contains the unexcavated site of Piedras Marcadas, prehistoric pueblo ruins. The building was originally the private residence of Mr. and Mrs. Coda Roberson. Little evidence of the home remains since the structure has been transformed into a multi-use facility with an art gallery, meeting rooms, kitchen, exhibit space interpreting the natural and cultural resources Open Space protects, and lots and lots of big windows opening out to one of the most beautiful views in Albuquerque. The Center hosts special art exhibits and educational programs throughout the year.
Albuquerque’s Open Space program is one of the most ambitious in the Southwest. Since 1969 the city has acquired more than 24,000 acres of open space land, and it manages another 4,000 acres. To name a few plots, this includes Elena Gallegos/Albert G. Simms Park at the base of the Sandias; Rio Grande State Park including Alameda/Rio Grande wetlands; Rio Grande Nature Center; Los Poblanos Fields; and in Petroglyph National Monument a number of areas of cultural and geologic importance like Piedras Marcadas Canyon, Boca Negra Canyon, and Rinconada Canyon.
To support the city’s program, the Open Space Alliance (OSA) is a group of volunteers working with the town to preserve, maintain, and improve our natural, historical, and cultural resources. Funded solely through membership dues, the OSA provides a tax-exempt means for citizens, organizations, and corporations to donate to the city’s Open Space Division.
The cranes will soon be gone on their unending journey between nesting and wintering grounds. They will be missed as we trace their journey by the faint sounds of their passing. As the seasons transform the unparalleled views of bosque and mountains, visitors in the know will stop at this quiet place for hiking the river trail, nature study, and contemplation.
City of Albuquerque Open Space Visitor Center
6500 Coors Blvd NW
Between Montano Blvd. and Paseo del Norte at the end of Bosque Meadows Rd.
Open Space Alliance
P.O. Box 91265
Albuquerque, NM 87199