Friday, September 26, 2008

Ciclovia Is Back in 2008: Month Long Event Celebrates Fitness and Fun in El Paso

The Parks and Recreation Department just issued this press release:

"The City of El Paso Parks and Recreation Department will be “Taking the Parks to the Streets” with the second annual Ciclovia from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. each Sunday in October. (Actual dates are October 5, 12, 19, and 26.) East El Paso will be the location for the Ciclovia as the event will coincide with the booming population in the area providing a fun, festive, family oriented event each Sunday in October.

Bogota, Columbia began the Ciclovia in 1987 by reserving selected streets for pedestrian use only. Now, nearly a million people fill the roads of Bogota every Sunday morning. Ciclovia is a temporary urban space in which neighbors regularly interact with one another and their community through exercise. Streets are closed off to car traffic so that pedestrians, cyclists, rollerbladers and walkers can take over.

El Paso, Texas was the first large city in the United States to host a Ciclovia in May of 2007. The city received awards for Ciclovia last year from the Governor’s office and the Texas State Senate as over 5,000 people participated."

Scenic Sundays was an extremely popular event. Of those who responded to a recent poll on this blog an overwhelming 63% participated most or every week in the 2008 Scenic Sunday program. Whether the City can continue to pay for the program is a matter of concern. According to Open Space Coordinator Shamori Whitt, "the Parks Department does not have the funding to take [Scenic Sundays] on internally. Police absorbed their expenses this year and cannot afford to the same for an entire year."

Mayor Pro-Tem and District Representative Susie Byrd says:

"We didn't track the number of users of the event. I do have a bunch of emails from folks who definitely appreciated it. It is not budgeted for next year. I would like it to be a year round event but the costs for policing it are very expensive. I'm working with police right now to develop a more realistic budget without compromising safety. Once we get that worked out, I would like to look for sponsors for an annual event."

Anyone want to be a sponsor? Contact Representative Byrd.

Chertoff Wall Endangers Wildlife

The Southwest Environmental Center released this statement in opposition to the Chertoff Border Wall:
"The Southwest Environmental Center is opposed to the proposed fence along the entire U.S.-Mexico border--currently being built with exemptions to state and federal environmental laws--because it will block the movement of wildlife, leading to habitat fragmentation, isolation of populations, and declining wildlife numbers--in a word, extinction. If you don't believe this is a real threat, please see the attached photos of a mountain lion attempting (unsuccessfully) to cross the border.These photos were taken this month at the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona. Surely there must be a better way to address border security and illegal immigration issues. Let your representatives know!"

Children Benefit from Nature Excursions

One of the objectives of our Newman Park Neighborhood Association is to be concerned about our beautiful desert environment. In fact, as we interact with that environment there may be some real health benefits. The following research summary came to me from a listserv of Tree, an organization that seeks to empower people to enable cities to promote urban and community forests:

Children With Attention Deficits Concentrate Better After Walk in the Park.
Faber Taylor, A. and Kuo, F.E.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Objective: In the general population, attention is reliably enhanced after exposure to certain physical environments, particularly natural environments. This study examined the impacts of environments on attention in children with ADHD.
Method: In this within subjects design, each participant experienced each of three treatments (environments) in single blind controlled trials. 17 children 7-12 years old professionally diagnosed with ADHD experienced each of three environments - a
city park and two other well-kept urban settings - via individually guided 20-minute walks. Environments were experienced one week apart, with randomized assignment to treatment order. After each walk, concentration was measured using Digit Span Backwards.

Results: Children with ADHD concentrated better after the walk in the park than after the downtown walk (p=.0229) or the neighborhood walk (p= .0072). Effect sizes were substantial (Cohen's d=.52 and .77, respectively), and comparable to those reported for recent formulations of methylphenidate.

Conclusion: 20 minutes in a park setting was sufficient to elevate attention performance relative to the same amount of time in other settings. These findings indicate that environments can enhance attention not only in the general population but in ADHD populations as well. "Doses of nature" might serve as a safe, inexpensive, widely accessible new tool in the toolkit for managing ADHD symptoms.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Mayor Pro-Tem Susie Byrd Announces Community Meetings Schedule

El Paso's District 2 Representative has announced her fall schedule of community meetings including a new format of breakfast meetings at Gerardo's (6099 Montana). Her legislative aide, Rene Leon says: "The new breakfast meetings will be very informal; there will be no pre-determined format and no guest speakers. The meetings simply will be an opportunity for residents to bring forward their concerns and receive updates from Rep. Byrd over coffee and breakfast."

Here is the full schedule of meetings:


Saturday Sept. 20 10:00 A.M. Memorial Park Library, 3200 Copper
Thursday Sept. 25 8:00 A.M. Dona Lupe’s, 2919 Pershing


Thursday Oct. 2 7:30 A.M. Taco Cabana, 4810 Hondo Pass
Thursday Oct. 9 8:00 A.M. Tierra del Sol, 4201 Alabama
Thursday Oct. 16 8:00 A.M. Gerardo’s, 6099 Montana
Saturday Oct. 18 10:00 A.M. Memorial Park Library, 3200 Copper
Thursday Oct. 23 8:00 A.M. Dona Lupe’s, 2919 Pershing


Thursday Nov. 6 7:30 A.M. Taco Cabana, 4810 Hondo Pass
Thursday Nov. 13 8:00 A.M. Tierra del Sol, 4201 Alabama
Saturday Nov. 15 10:00 A.M. Memorial Park Library, 3200 Copper
Thursday Nov. 20 8:00 A.M. Gerardo’s, 6099 Montana
Thursday Nov. 27 8:00 A.M. Dona Lupe’s, 2919 Pershing

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Neighborhood Beautification Projects Begin

Perhaps you have noticed all of the heavy equipment grading the perimeter of the storm retention ponds between Nashville and Mobile and Sacramento. You also may have seen similar work being done on Alabama and Harrison at the retention pond across the street from Clendenin Elementary School.
Some very lovely neighborhood beautification projects have begun. The designs came from Sites Southwest.
The top picture shows the areas to be landscaped along Louisiana and the bottom shows areas to be landscaped across from Clendenin. The middle picture is a "dream" image sketched for the retention pond in our neighborhood when design work was first begun.

Look also for storm water improvements soon at the Altura Pond. This is the ponding area that culminates with a dam facing the entrance to Scenic Drive at Richmond Avenue. There is about 8 feet of sediment at the mouth which needs to be removed. The work there will be done without even touching the slopes of the beautiful arroyo where foxes and even skunks make their homes.
You will also see work near our neighborhood at the Kentucky Pond, Ohio Street Pond, Tremont Pond and Magnolia Pond. All of this work is meant to slow down water run-off from the mountain that can cause flooding along I-10.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Trees and Stormwater Management

This Thursday the El Paso Water Utilities Stormwater Master Plan Community Advisory Committee will hold its first meeting at the Carlos M. Ramirez TecH2O Water Resources Learning Center. Some of us have repeatedly requested that a "tree" person be part of that committee since there are solid reasons for incorporating trees into any stormwater management plan.

Below is my email to members of the City Tree Board and other interested persons regarding the need to advocate for trees with the Public Service Board as it works to formulate a stormwater master plan. This email is an introduction to an email to URS consultant, Karen Stearns in which I direct her to online information about trees and stormwater management.

Since the new stormwater utility is of much interest to Newman Park Neighborhood Association members, I'll try to keep you updated. Hopefully, you can find time to look at some of the information below.
"Trees (and other water smart plants) should be part of any stormwater management plan. In progressive cities across the United States, trees are being utilized along with engineered infrastructures to manage stormwater runoff and erosion.

Unfortunately, as the Public Service Board of the City of El Paso begins to form a master plan for stormwater management, they do not seem to be either aware of or interested in the use of trees and other native vegetation. Recently a Stormwater Master Plan Community Advisory Committee was put together. By resolution, members of the City Council could only choose persons from a list of names given them by the PSB as “qualified nominees”. No arborist, no ecologist, no native plant person nor horticulturist was considered to be a “qualified nominee”. I am also
unaware of anyone on the advisory committee who is LEED certified.

Fortunately, there are several persons on that Advisory Committee who share interest in and a value of open space, conservation and the preservation of native habitats and the promotion and expansion of native plants.

Below is my email to Karen Stearns of the URS Corporation, the consulting firm advising the Public Service Board about stormwater engineering issues. The letter is a re-write of an earlier letter addressed to Mayor Pro-Tem Susie Byrd. In it are links to more information about the use of trees in stormwater management.

It is my hope that each of you will take some time to review the information.

I serve on the Tree Board of the City of El Paso and am a board member of the West
Texas Urban Forestry Council. I care deeply about our beautiful desert, native plants, and the use of trees in any program for stormwater management. It is my hope that the Advisory Committee will hear and understand this information and will incorporate language regarding trees in a final master plan document. To use such language will mean that the value of trees will be recognized from the inception of an ambitious stormwater management plan. It will also be a big step in the direction of smart land management with a focus on protecting our natural environment in El Paso for people and wildlife.

Please take a few minutes more to read the email below and please find some time to visit the indicated sites and glean the information.

Please share this information with others so that more and more people will come to understand and appreciate the use of trees in an effective stormwater management program.

I have also attached information about the upcoming Advisory Committee meetings. These are public meetings and public input is essential.

As more information becomes available on the use of trees in stormwater management, I will forward that information to you, if I may.

Thanks and all my best . . .

Jim H. Tolbert
915-613-4902 Direct Office Number
425-577-9808 Cell Number425-696-0279 Fax
Printing and Promotional Products and Services
See promotional products catalog at

From: Jim H. Tolbert [] Sent: Thursday,
August 14, 2008 11:40 AMTo: Karen Stearns

Hi Karen,

It was a pleasure meeting you the other day at the Open Space meeting. Thank you for your presentation to our City Council as well. I really appreciate how you handle all the various concerns and comments.

The concern many of us have and that I share as a board member of the West Texas Urban Forestry Council is this: trees (as well as other water-smart desert plants)
should be but are not currently being considered when it comes to an overall
stormwater management strategy, master plan, and infrastructure.

The fact is that research data supports the fact that trees are a valuable part of a city’s infrastructure and should be incorporated into storm water management and planning.

There are two excellent online sources that I hope you can find time to view and

The Urban Natural Resources Institute has archived its June 2008 webcast: “Stomwater Management and UrbanWatersheds” ( Since the archived file can be downloaded in a WMV format, you do not need to use your phone for the audio.

Janis Keating has written an excellent article for The Journal for Surface Water Quality Professionals – Trees: The Oldest New Thing in Stormwater Treatment, available at

The bottom line: Trees are an effective means to reduce stormwater runoff.

Along with being an efficient method for cleaning up pollutants that are picked-up by running water, trees can be used to intercept rainfall and help decrease the amount of runoff thereby limiting flooding that can damage homes, businesses and city streets and other infrastructure.

Thanks again for all your great work for the City of El Paso.

All the best,

Jim H. Tolbert"

Friday, September 5, 2008

Cuter Than Baby Rats

Actually, these Chihuahua pups are as cute as they come. Azucar is the proud mother and Newman Park Neighborhood Association Board member, Sergio Guerrero, is the proud grandfather.