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Community Connection Day on May 14 to beautify the shared community spaces around the intersection of Hwy 38 and 522

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Photo by Claire Coté Youth participants weed the iconic QFM truck bed garden during last May’s Community Connection Day.

Spring Cleaning Questa’s Outdoor Markets and Parks

Photo by Gaea McGahee Bennie Gallegos removing elm shoots behind Visitor Center, during last September’s Community Connection Day.

By Claire Coté and Gaea McGahee


Join this year’s second Community Connection Day on May 14 to beautify the shared community spaces around the intersection of Hwy 38 and 522. Ahead of graduation and the summer season, we will clean up the Veterans Memorial Park, the Questa Farmers Market and Visitor Center site, and nearby areas. And you are invited!


Community Connection Days are collaborative, intergenerational work days supporting community action and celebration in and around Questa. When everyone—elders and youth—team up to accomplish projects together, we renew connections and a sense of belonging. We completed our first event for 2022 on April 30 at the Questa Municipal Park.


There are three more Connection Days planned this year; each is an opportunity to be with friends and make new ones, to care for and improve our public spaces, and envision together what we want for our community.


Action Plan and Work Zones


Veterans Memorial Park, Perovich Property, and Visitor Center


An important part of the cleanup day will be sprucing up the Veterans Memorial Park, the corner across the street, and the Visitor Center, all highly visible and visited areas during Memorial Day and throughout the summer season. Trash pick-up, raking, cutting back elm trees, sweeping sidewalks, and clearing garden beds of last year’s growth will make these spaces beautiful. “These areas at Questa’s main intersection are typically the first impression on visitors to our area; thanks to everyone for coming out to help make Questa shine,” said Lynn Skall, Director of the Questa Economic Development Fund.


Questa Farmers Market
For over five years now, community volunteers, Questa Farmers Market interns, youth campers, and local and visiting organizations have put their time and energy into developing and improving the market site. This continual effort bears results; we renew and expand gardens each season to create inviting spaces for vendors and customers. This year we’re continuing improvements to the area just north of the established market to prepare it for the Questa Art Market. Garden projects will include tree planting, creating pathways, spreading wood chips, and weeding and planting.


Casa de Cultura
Adjacent to the market and Visitor Center is an historic home (with a huge beautiful apricot tree that started growing around 1902), an active acequia, and various outbuildings—future site for Casa de Cultura, a “center for creativity, consciousness, and community.” This property is owned by Estevan Rael-Galvez, who is working with local nonprofit Localogy and artist and landscape designer and Casa de Cultura site leader Scott Sutton, to bring about the vision for Casa de Cultura. Part of the long-term plan is to develop a community orchard and garden, an outdoor kitchen for farm-to-table events, and a nature-based outdoor classroom with a small amphitheater for music and film screenings. There is much to be done on the property but we’ll begin on May 14 by “working the grounds and planting trees,” says Scott.


Long-term Efforts
Beautifying our public and community spaces takes many hands and ongoing, collective effort. Acknowledging the people who work to keep our community clean is important; from Good Samaritans who pick up litter along roadsides, to leaders with vision and fortitude to create community spaces on otherwise unused land, such as the Veterans’ Memorial Park or Questa Farmers Market. Sometimes individuals themselves are unknown, but their impact is broadly felt. Working together to keep our community beautiful means making small, individual choices in our daily lives; finding a trash can for our litter, pitching in to pick up others’ refuse along roadsides, reusing a refillable bottle instead of buying plastic water bottles, or carefully tarping our loads on the way to the dump.


We celebrate Larry Sanchez as part of the organizing team for this collaborative clean-up event. He’s a past civil servant and long-time community and veterans advocate. From 2002-06 Larry was on the Questa Village Council and in 2009 he was appointed to the Taos County Commission by Governor Bill Richardson. During this time, he was involved with Questa’s Community Clean-up and Beautification Committee. “I started with the cleanup effort in the Questa area and then got on board with acknowledging the veterans and worked to establish the Veterans Memorial Park,” says Larry. The Committee was established when Emanuel Romero was Mayor of Questa (1998-2002) and that’s when Larry joined. Current Mayor of Questa John Ortega and his fellow council members are revitalizing the dormant Community Clean-up and Beautification Committee and they’ve asked Larry to be involved again. “We’ve got such a beautiful place and we’re a close-knit community,” says Larry. “The cleanup helps us prepare for tourism and visitors, and also welcomes people who are coming home to celebrate graduation, Memorial Day, visiting, or vacationing.”


Community Connection Days were born out of the youth-centered beautification day a year ago at Questa Park; six monthly Community Connection Days followed in 2021. This consistent coming together, people showing up for one another and our shared spaces, is part of ongoing, collaborative, community-wide “creative placemaking,” which is about collectively creating quality public spaces that support our health, happiness, and well-being.


Thanks to all involved for making this community effort possible.


Thanks to these collaborators: LEAP, Questa Farmers Market, Village of Questa Clean-up and Beautification Committee, Localogy, Questa Economic Development Fund, Vida del Norte Coalition, North Central Food Pantry, Taos Bakes, and many community volunteers. And thanks to these funders: Chevron Grants for Good through the Taos Community Foundation and individual donors.


Claire Coté is a multidisciplinary artist, community archivist and director of LEAP (Land, Experience, and Art of Place), and Questa Stories, which are both programs of local nonprofit Localogy. Born and raised north of Questa, Claire lives with her husband Chris and two daughters in Sunshine Valley.


Gaea McGahee owns Yoga Sala at the south end of Questa. She leads two programs of the nonprofit Localogy: Sala Reach, which aims to cultivate health through movement, and Questa Farmers Market, working to support local livelihoods. She was born and raised in southern New Mexico, and migrated to Questa in 2013.

Authors

  • Claire holds a Bachelors in Fine Art and Cultural Anthropology from the University of New Mexico (summa cum laude, 2004) and a Masters in Art and Ecology from Dartington College of Arts in Devon, England (distinction, 2008). Claire's anthropological training and global travels inform her work. Her respect for the diversity of planetary ecology and the geo-socio-cultural particularities of Place are the basis for her commitment to environmental and social justice and life-long learning.

  • Gaea McGahee is the organizer of the the Questa Farmers Market growersmakers@gmail.com, https://questafarmersmarket.org/ and is the owner/operator of Yoga Sala in Questa. http://www.yogasalaquesta.org/, yogasalaquesta@gmail.com