By Claire Coté
On April 23, to celebrate Earth Day, 37 youth and 29 adults gathered at the Questa Municipal Park and the adjacent Cisneros Youth and Family Center for spring cleaning, tree planting, and envisioning the future of this outdoor space. The event was a roaring success! It was a wonderful day, complete with beautification work, youth-centered planning for the new skatepark, and brainstorming park improvements. Collaborators decided to keep meeting and working to beautify Questa, and so Community Connection Days were launched!
Spirits high, new friendships formed, and good work was accomplished, despite changeable weather and even snow! Many bags of trash were collected, invasive weeds removed, prairie dog holes filled, mulch spread, and seven new trees planted in honor of loved ones. (Read below on how you can donate a tree to honor someone you love.)
Questa Mayor Mark Gallegos and youth walked the park to choose a location for the new skatepark. These young people then brainstormed site improvements together, capturing their ideas on post-it notes which will be added to an “existing conditions site map” created for the occasion by landscape architect Scott Sutton.
June Community Connection Day
Where: Questa Visitor Center
When: Friday, June 18, 9:00 am – 12:00 noon, followed by community lunch sponsored by QEDF
Who: Everyone is welcome!
Bring: water bottle, hat, and sun protection, and if you have them, work gloves and yard cleaning tools; we’ll have extra gloves (donated previously by Questa Lumber and Hardware) and additional tools on hand as well.
Event Contact: Lynn Skall, email@example.com, (575) 586-2149
The SUCCESS (Students Using Courage Confidence & Emotional Support for Success) pop-up art gallery was another wonderful aspect of the day. Artworks explored a variety of introspective themes such as “transparency,” “every piece has a place in the puzzle,” “what success means,” and more.
There is a legacy of youth leadership in Questa and surrounding communities. The play and exercise equipment at the Questa Municipal Park as it exists today due to the vision and diligence of the Playground Superheroes Project—a group of eight Questa High School student interns. They were hired through a work-study program in 2013-14 in collaboration with Chevron Questa Mine, Community Build, and the Questa Economic Development Fund (QEDF).
Youth were also involved with the creation and dedication of the Cisneros Questa Youth Center and the design and painting of the mural at the Questa Public Library. The Questa Farmers Market youth interns have helped to shape the market’s physical space and operations. Members of Taos Behavioral Health’s SUCCESS program at the Cinseros Youth Center and Vida del Norte Drug Free Coalition’s Active8 members are continuing this legacy of youth leadership as core participants in the new Community Connection Days.
Community Connection Days will take place in and around Questa through October, 2021, on the third Friday of every month. The first gathering was held on May 21 at the same park, with more planning, improvements, and irrigation system upgrades; as well as at the Questa Farmers Market site, to clean up the area for its opening day on May 30.
The June 18 Community Connection Day will also focus efforts in downtown Questa, from 9 am – noon, with work time in the morning and a fun lunch to follow. lunch to follow, sponsored by the Questa Economic Development Fund. Meet at the Farmers Market site.
These Community Connection Days are the direct result of the collaborative synergy that brought about the successful event on April 23, which grew out of an informal youth mentorship group initiated by the Vida del Norte Coalition at William Borges’ prompting, in the fall of 2020. It focused on skill-based mentorship opportunities, youth-centered community building, and supporting intergenerational connections.
Project collaborators include LEAP (Localogy), Vida del Norte Coalition, Taos Behavioral Health’s SUCCESS youth program, Village of Questa, Trout Unlimited, and QEDF. Funding for the youth-led park beautification and planning event on April 23 was generously provided by the LOR Foundation, QEDF, and individual tree sponsors; additional in-kind support and donation of refreshments and supplies was provided by Taos Bakes, Questa Farmers Market, North Central Food Pantry, and many volunteers. We thank you and look forward to more wonderful days together, through this summer and fall! Information about Community Days can be found at: www.leapsite.org or by calling (575) 224-9066.