Eliza Kretzmann is the executive director of the Railyard Park Stewards, a new organization dedicated to the caretaking of the Railyard Park and encouraging broad community use and stewardship of the park. Interested in volunteering? Email the Railyard Stewards.
SFR: What’s your commitment to the park?
EK: We’re a partner with the City of Santa Fe to provide enhanced care and programming for the park. While the city does the same great basic maintenance that it does for all the parks, we do specialized horticulture and vine training and, this year especially, a lot of weeding. We also believe in an ongoing dialogue between public space and community, so we work with elementary kids, YouthWorks, the Santa Fe Mountain Center and many other groups.
Do other Santa Fe parks have similar steward organizations?
There are parks in Santa Fe that have strong volunteer groups. We’re a little bit different in terms of the complexity and range of public interaction with the Railyard. Central Park in New York has a steward group that really saved the park at one point and rallied the community to make it vibrant. This is new in Santa Fe, but there are very successful public/private models around the nation.
What is a park and why is it important?
That’s an answer that’s different for every park and every community. This is not like New York where we really need that nature as an escape—we are surrounded by beautiful places for reflection—but it is accessible, urban and something different. Sometimes it’s hundreds of people gathering or watching a movie; sometimes it’s five people working on the community gardens, doing the weeding. Over 15 people have individual plots and there’s a big, shared community demonstration garden. It’s a really visible, vibrant way for the community to see how to connect to the space. A lot of connecting happens here, which is something I think a lot of the community has yet to discover.
How has the park impacted the transient population?
There are still some people who essentially live in the park. That’s something that we are grappling with. I interact with the homeless almost every time I’m here. We’ve had homeless volunteers and some interesting discussions, but not every interaction is positive and there’s been some nervousness between different populations. Can the park serve the homeless population in specific ways and, if so, what ways? Those are things that we’re not in the stage to answer yet. We’re kind of
making that road by walking it.
The children’s play area is cool because it’s not completely coddled, which is rare.
People like Ellyn Feldman, co-founder of the [Santa Fe] Children’s Museum, helped to shape the design. It’s meant to engage kids physically and mentally and to be exciting. And you can see it; the kids really respond.
What are your primary goals in the next couple of years?
We have our basic mission of keeping the park beautiful and vibrant. Then we’d like to capitalize
on meeting community needs like green jobs training, youth engagement, service learning and hands-on education. We’ll also be forming a committee to consider and approve temporary art.
How will you avoid the kind of bad public art that tends to plague the city?
Well, there’s a conservation easement that does not allow permanent public art. There’s always a danger for bad public art, but we plan to have a careful process built on inclusivity and excellence.
Is the recycled water system making this park extra green?
That’s actually another issue that we are working to resolve. The system has some electrical issues and is not working right now. That’s something we’re all anxious to have resolved because this park was designed to be very water efficient and, without that system, it’s not fulfilling its potential—but we’re getting there.