Baseball season means fields all over the Albuquerque area are flooded with players. “That’s what keeps me coming every year,” explained Hector Aguilar, President of the Atrisco Valley Little League.
But in the South Valley, something else is also flooding the little league fields. Aguilar says the fields his kids play on stay wet long after a rain storm passes.
“Just an example, we have our little girls in softball, we should be in our back field which is flooded,” Aguilar told KRQE News 13. “They’re up here in the front because there’s no way they can practice back there.”
You can’t really see the problem from the road. It’s the back baseball fields that are on much lower ground and hold onto rainwater.
Bernalillo County officials say there’s a perfectly good reason for it. “Atrisco Valley Little League and also a lot of our other parks in the county actually have a dual purpose, dual use,” explained Larry Gallegos, Public Information Officer for Bernalillo County.
“One, their first job is a flood plain or a flood retention pond in the case of big rains. Second, they’re a park,” Gallegos said.
Gallegos showed KRQE News 13 why the park was built the way it is. “It’s right between two neighborhoods,” he explained.
When heavy rains come, the Atrisco Valley Little League Park’s first responsibility is protecting surrounding neighborhoods from flood waters, Gallegos said.
The back ball fields are right next to a drainage system that pumps water from the park into the Rio Grande. But with a good rainy season, the water can stick around.
“Because of the area, we’ve had to cancel several games in the back field,” said Aguilar. The county argues it’s a worthy tradeoff.
“It’s much easier to reseed a ball field than to have to rebuild somebody’s house because they completely were flooded out,” said Gallegos.
But what about sprouting weeds, muddy fields, and mosquitos? Aguilar said storm runoff can also bring more trash into the park.
“I want them to have a nice playing area,” the little league president said.
The county only has one maintenance worker assigned to Atrisco Valley, and he’s responsible for a second park too. Any work orders the little league submits, the county maintenance responds to, Gallegos said.
“These guys are hard-working, and they are so proud,” said Gallegos of the county parks maintenance workers. “When you talk to them they say, ‘Did you see my park?’ They’re always happy to show you their park because they really take ownership, and they do a really great job.”
A complete revamp of the park to upgrade the drainage system would be expensive.
Gallegos couldn’t give an exact cost estimate, but said it would cost the county more than the $65,000 it received from the 2018 legislative session for park maintenance, infrastructure, and repairs.
For now, Aguilar and Gallegos agree, it’ll keep taking a team effort to keep the park clean and playable.
“It’s for the kids,” Aguilar said.
Bernalillo County, the City of Albuquerque, and the Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo Flood Control Authority (AMAFCA), each own multiuse parks that serve a dual purpose for flood control.
A maintenance map for drainage facilities in the Albuquerque metro area can be found here. All facilities in blue are owned by AMAFCA.