Silver Hill Reforestation Project – 13th Anniversary Update

Many people (and their animal companions) walk along beautiful tree-lined Silver and Gold Avenues on a daily basis. Others have bought homes or arrived as renters in Silver Hill over the past few years. All benefit from the architecture of the trees, the shade in the summer, fall colors, and the friendliness which grows out of a walkable neighborhood. The transformation of these streets 13 years ago from heaving, cracked, and non-accessible sidewalks and a few, dying trees to the scene today is remarkable and started many years ago.

In 2004, ground was broken on the long awaited re-forestation of the Silver Hill historic medians and parkways. Twenty years of advocacy, planning, outreach and fund raising resulted in a multi-million dollar restoration of Silver and Gold Avenues from Yale to Sycamore. Old dead and dying Siberian elms were removed, new curbs and sidewalks were installed, the rounded crown on the medians was lowered to prevent water run-off, and new trees and grass were installed.

Most residents were tearful watching our 70’ high canopy of elms come down, but we had watched more than half of them die over the previous 20 years and acknowledged that the few remaining trees were sparsely leafed and in most cases close to death. Thanks to our State Senators and Representative, along with a City Bond allocation provided by our City Councilor, we had a well-defined plan and funding to completely restore this important and historic Albuquerque landscape.

Over 17 meetings were held in the neighborhood to get community input. Morrow Reardon Wilkinson Miller (MRWM), a local landscape architecture firm, worked closely with the neighborhood, the City, the County, and the State Historic Preservation Office to select appropriate trees and other aspects of the landscape. The final tree palette has been a marvel of beauty and good health since its installation.

  • Four types of oak trees indigenous to, or well adapted to the high desert in which we live: Texas/Chisos Red Oak, Bur Oak, New Mexico Live Oak, Chinquapin Oak
  • Lacebark elms which gesture to the elms originally here, but without the problem of spring seeding of the notorious Tingley Eyeballs/Tingley Dandruff, the bane of Albuquerque gardeners. (The Lacebark elms set their seeds only in the fall.)
  • Soapberries
  • Chinese Pistaches

One happy result of our tree palette is glorious fall color! We have gold, red, orange, and brown hues in the fall. Another consequence of our palette is the presence of acorns, one of which – the acorn of the Bur Oak – is edible! Several residents have collected these, prepared them as flour, and made excellent pancakes.

Beauty, shade, and sidewalks that are now accessible to people with disabilities and with baby strollers have made our neighborhood a better place to live. The sense of community is enhanced, and people from other parts of town chose to walk and bike here thanks to these qualities. We are now part of the official Albuquerque Bike Boulevard, with an 18 MPH speed limit. Our reforestation keeps intact the City greenbelt from UNM’s Arboretum to Roosevelt Park.

On this – the 13 th anniversary of our Reforestation Project’s completion – we would like to thank all those who worked so hard to make it possible. Even though some of them are gone, we will always be grateful for their leadership, perseverance, and vision! Many individuals, groups, and government entities contributed to this project. There are three who must be named here:

  • Ingrid Kelley, a UNM graduate student in landscape architecture who sparked our neighborhood conversations and planning
  • Bill Cobb, the Silver Hill Neighborhood Association President whose vision and leadership saw the process through, and
  • Liz Reardon and John Pope of MRWM Landscape Architecture firm who knew the true meaning of collaboration, working with our community to plan and implement the project.
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