NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – What started out as a dairy farm in Albuquerque’s South Valley is now a flourishing wildlife refuge. For the past 10 years, the Valle de Oro Wildlife Refuge has kept the Mountainview neighborhood connected to the past it once knew while helping set its sights on a bright future.

Courtesy Roger Harmon/USFWS

The 570-acre refuge began as the Price’s Dairy and Valley Gold Farms, one of many dairies found across New Mexico and west Texas owned by the Price family. When the farm went up for sale in the late ’90s, the local community became worried they would no longer be able to use the land as a community space, which the Price family allowed.

According to Jennifer Owen-White, refuge manager for the Valle de Oro Wildlife Refuge, the land’s unique location means a number of structures could have taken the farm’s place. “It’s in an area that has really mixed-use zoning. So lots of industrial facilities, mixed with agriculture, mixed with housing – and so the neighbors were very concerned about what would move in on this property,” said Owen-White.

Now, with a new visitor center set for a grand opening on September 10, the story of the land’s past will be told, as well as the ongoing work being done on it. “We do want people to know that we are in a transition phase,” said Owen-White. “For land that has been actively farmed for over 100 years, to restore it to native habitat takes a while.”

(Courtesy Wendy Tanner/USFWS)

Owen-White says the hope behind the visitor center is to encourage the public to volunteer at the refuge on its mission. “Even though the refuge is 10 years old…there’s still another probably 10 to 20 years worth of work to get this to what you would really envision as a beautiful open-space or national wildlife refuge property,” she says.

The visitor center’s grand opening will be held on Saturday, September 10 from 10:00 a.m. to noon. People can visit the center Tuesdays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.