WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), along with U.S. Representative Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.), are lauding a grant award of $750,000 to the City of Las Cruces to renovate Apodaca Park. The funding was made available through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) that the lawmakers helped secure permanent authorization for in 2019.
The National Park Service’s grant will allow Las Cruces to continue renovation plans for Apodaca Park to add new features and make ADA-accessibility improvements. Work will include replacing a pool with a sprayground, adding group picnic shelters with accessible picnic tables, upgrading the playground including safety surfacing, developing a multi-use trail with exercise stations to connect the new playground with the rest of Apodaca Park, and installing an ADA-compliant restroom.
“Neighborhood parks bring the outdoors into our communities. This grant, which will facilitate access for people of all abilities to beautiful Apodaca Park, will enrich Las Cruces,” said Udall. “My father, Stewart Udall, helped create LWCF because of projects like these, which is why I helped lead the fight to permanently authorize the program. As Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that funds conservation efforts, I am proud that we have significantly increased our investments in LWCF in recent years, and I’m going to continue fighting to ensure LWCF is permanently funded so that communities across the country can always protect their neighborhood parks and wild places for their children.”
“Our neighborhood parks give families a place to enjoy the outdoors, while reaping the health benefits of an active lifestyle. I am incredibly pleased to see Las Cruces receive this funding to create a better, more inclusive community experience at Apodaca Park,” said Heinrich. “I was proud to help lead the bipartisan effort to permanently authorize LWCF and we are now fighting to permanently fund this incredibly effective conservation program to ensure that the outdoor spaces rooted in our communities, like Apodaca Park, are accessible for all families to enjoy.”
“Apodaca Park is a cornerstone of the Las Cruces community and serves as a gathering place for many--from the Las Cruces Vaqueros baseball team to the families and children who enjoy the park on a regular basis. This important investment will make necessary upgrades and developments, while also making the park more accessible,” said Torres Small. “I was proud to support the bipartisan effort to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and will continue to fight for its permanent funding to ensure our communities have access to our state’s beautiful outdoors.”
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has helped create and protect urban parks and open spaces that enhance recreation and outdoor opportunities in urban and rural communities alike. It's funded through revenues from federal oil and gas leases on the Outer Continental Shelf and does not use taxpayer dollars. As part of the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, which was enacted into law last year (Public Law 116-9), Congress permanently authorized LWCF. However, expenditures from LWCF continue to be subject to federal appropriations. Udall and Heinrich are part of a bipartisan group of senators who introduced the Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act to remove the requirement that LWCF funds be appropriated annually, instead, making $900 million available each year without action by Congress. With Udall and Heinrich’s support, the most recent funding bill for fiscal year 2020 included $495 million for LWCF, a nearly 9% increase over 2019 and the highest overall funding level in 17 years.
In New Mexico, LWCF has invested more than $312 million to protect public lands and open spaces and increase recreational opportunities. New Mexico's $9.9 billion outdoor industry - built around places that have benefited from LWCF - is a significant economic driver in the state, supporting 99,000 jobs and $2.8 billion in wages.
"Cities across New Mexico need every tool available to increase the outdoor recreation opportunities in their communities. Being able to provide quality parks, playgrounds and safe places for youth and their families to play outdoors is a fundamental building block of a healthy community. The City of Las Cruces is grateful that through LWCF, we are able to make significant improvements to our local parks and better the life of our residents. Las Crucens of all walks of life will benefit greatly from the upgraded playground equipment and ADA accessibility at Apodaca Park," said Las Cruces City Councilor Gabe Vasquez.