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Open Space Functions and Management

Click here to view the 2019 summary report.

To the west, five dormant cinder cones and a seventeen-mile long lava escarpment covered in Native rock art, dominates the horizon. Through the heart of Albuquerque runs the Rio Grande. The river and its bosque (forest) have been the oasis and life-blood of central New Mexico for centuries. Numerous arroyos link the Sandia foothills, Rio Grande and volcanoes.

Conservation of Natural and Archaeological Resources

Albuquerque's Major Public Open Space protects vital natural processes within the urban area. Open Space serves valuable watershed functions by promoting groundwater recharge and reducing siltation and runoff. These lands also provide habitat for native vegetation and wildlife, and a refuge from the pressures of development.
Many Open Space properties contain archaeological remnants. Ancient pueblo life can be surmised from studying these clues from the past. Open Space co-manages the Petroglyph National Monument which holds a number of petroglyphs and other remains that tell the story of ancient Native American Indians.


Open space areas serve as natural outdoor laboratories for education and research close to schools, universities and other institutions. Guided group tours can be arranged to further enhance visitor's understanding of the ecological, geological and cultural aspects contained within and adjacent to Open Space lands.


Open Space areas provide many recreational opportunities in a natural setting not commonly found in many large cities. Appropriate recreational uses are those that impact lightly on the natural environment such as hiking, picnicking, bicycling, jogging, photography, canoeing and nature study.

Urban Design

Setting aside Open Space can limit development in areas that are economically difficult for the City to serve. Open Space also provides visual relief to the urban setting by defining the edges of the City and preserving its outstanding natural landmarks. This practice encourages in-fill development while discouraging urban sprawl.

Creating a Heritage

Preserving the major features of the city's natural setting is a high priority with the Albuquerque residents. As a result, the City has one of the most ambitious Open Space programs in the Southwest. This effort began with the 1969 City/Council Goals Program. Since then, Albuquerque has acquired over 24,000 acres of Open Space land, and manages another 4,000 acres. The City has established a permanent fund for Open Space which provides much of the support for management and some land restoration. Open Space acquisitions have been accomplished largely through funding with General Obligation Bonds, gross receipts taxes, and federal grants.

Open Space Fund

In 1983, the City of Albuquerque completed a complex land purchase and trade through a three-year quarter percent gross receipts tax. A large section of the Sandia Mountains, part of the Elena Gallegos land grant, was purchased. Most of the land was then exchanged for surplus federal lands in New Mexico. These exchange lands are being sold and the proceeds placed in a permanent fund for Open Space. Interest from the Open Space fund is used for management, operations, restoration, and development of recreational facilities on Open Space lands.

Protecting the Land

Albuquerque Police Department Open Space Unit patrol Open Space areas by foot, vehicle, and mountain bicycle. These fully commissioned law enforcement officers make contact with the public to educate and insure compliance with rules and regulations. Their dual mission is to protect the Open Space lands and resources while ensuring a safe and enjoyable visit.

Open Space Police

Officers from the Albuquerque Police Department patrol Open Space areas by foot, vehicle, horseback, and mountain bicycle.

These fully commissioned law enforcement officers make contact with the public to educate and oversee compliance with rules and regulations. Their dual mission is to protect the Open Space lands and resources while ensuring a safe and enjoyable visit.

In addition to these officers, Open Space lands are regularly monitored by volunteers, who are trained to observe and protect the natural characteristics of the environment.

Serving the People

The Open Space Resource Management and Visitor Services (RMVS) Section staffs the Elena Gallegos Picnic Area and Petroglyph National Monument (Boca Negra Canyon). In addition to fee collection, the park attendants are responsible for visitor contact, providing information, light maintenance and cleaning. RMVS crews perform routine trail maintenance including erosion control and reseeding of damaged areas.

Guided group tours, volunteer projects and other educational programs can also be arranged through this section. Trail Watch Volunteers and the C.I.O.T.E. program allows the public to become directly involved with resource protection and visitor safety.

Planning is also a major function of the RMVS Section. All MPOS lands totaling over 100 acres in size requires a Resource Management Plan for that property. Planning staff also review all development cases throughout the City and County for possible impacts to MPOS lands.

Total Acreage Owned and/or Managed by the City of Albuquerque Open Space Division

As of October 2023

  • West Mesa - 16,393
  • Foothills - 2,781
  • Bosque/Valley - 5,129
  • Tijeras Arroyo - 1,292
  • East Mountains - 5,002
  • Aggregate Total - 30,597