While native vegetation and wildlife are thriving in the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park in El Paso’s Lower Valley, the historic wetlands landscape is slowly evolving and much work remains to restore the site to its former splendor.
Public feedback may help further rehabilitate the native ecosystem and enhance the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park. A recently completed feasibility study from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recommends investing $12 million for restoration opportunities. That amount includes $80,000 to incorporate limited recreational features.
The park has come a long way since 2012, when El Paso Water and the University of Texas at El Paso’s Center for Environmental Management joined to lead the transformation of dry lands to the area’s once formerly lush aquatic ecosystem along the Rio Grande.
EPWater secured river water rights and installed a pipeline for reclaimed water to help recreate wetlands in an area that was once a former Rio Grande floodplain.
In the study, the Corps recommends investing $12 million to create new emergent wetland and shallow marshes, restore cottonwood-willow riparian habitat and native floodplain grasslands. By restoring native vegetation communities, the proposed project would provide habitat for displaced native animal communities such as birds, fish, small mammals, amphibians and reptiles.
The plan also calls for investing $80,000 toward the addition of recreational features, such as improvements to existing access and trails, interpretative signage and a trail shelter.
Park Program Coordinator and Manager John Sproul is pleased with the Corps’ plan to build on the ecological restoration work at the park but would like to see additional recreational amenities included – such as wildlife viewing blinds.
“The birds in the park are very skittish,” he said. “We need a structure so that the visitors can see the birds, but the birds can’t see the visitors.”
EPWater Civil Engineer Associate Javier Dominguez also expressed the need for additional amenities.
“We are excited by the plan but are concerned that visitor numbers are underestimated, which resulted in minimal budgeted recreational amenities,” said Dominguez, EPWater engineer for the project. “For example, we’d like to see more in the way of benches and canopies because our summer temperatures regularly reach into the triple digits.”
With the plan finalization and promise of federal funding, hopes are high for realizing the Wetland Park vision, which volunteer-support group Friends of the Rio Bosque describe as a unique natural landscape where visitors can experience and learn about the biologically rich ecosystems once found in the river valley and become inspired to be careful stewards of the natural world.