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Park emergency road plan scaled down

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Fire officials clarify importance of first responder access route to Overlook Park

By Carol A. Clark

The potential for crisis during the Fourth of July extravaganza at Overlook Park is driving fire officials to create an emergency access route. At least 8,000 people attend the annual event put on by the Kiwanis Club of Los Alamos.

“The reason that we believe it’s necessary to have an additional ingress and egress in that area is because it’s the site of the largest event in this county. We’ve got a chokehold at the main entry and God forbid there’s a catastrophic medical event in which we’ve got to transport multiple patients,” Fire Chief Doug Tucker said. “We have to look at the worse case scenario and prepare for such an event.”

The county’s initial plan to build a $25,000 emergency access road through wilderness land leading into Overlook Park has been significantly scaled down, following a public informational meeting May 16 at which about a dozen residents voiced opposition.

“It’s vitally important that we have access to the area to get our crews in so they can get the patients out,” said Fire Marshal/Assistant Fire Chief Michael Thompson. “At the same time, we understand the importance of ensuring minimal impact to the area.”

The county issued a news release Friday stating that staff “clearly heard citizen opinion to the proposed new emergency access into Overlook Park.” As a result, an alternativew option is being considered that would minimize modifications to existing open space.

“The proposed improvements would drop to an estimated $8,000,” said Public Works Director Kyle Zimmerman during an interview this morning.

The project would be limited to establishing an “emergency use only” dirt pathway from east of Grand Canyon and Meadow Lane to the transfer station south of the soccer field parking lot that would accommodate ATVs with “med-beds.”

This would include the installation of a drainage culvert, improvement to an existing gate at Meadow Lane and installation of a new gate at the transfer station.

The county also said it will be looking at the future addition of an “emergency use only” lane adjacent to the existing main entrance to Overlook Park.

Residents interested in learning more about this new alternative can attend a Parks and Recreation Board meeting at 5:30 p.m., Thursday at White Rock Town Hall or a Transportation Board meeting at 5:30 p.m., at 2101 Trinity Dr., Suite 2A, Thursday. The same presentation will be made at both meetings and recommendations to the board will be solicited.

An additional public meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. next Monday at White Rock Town Hall to present recommendations from Thursday’s  meetings and to inform the public of the path forward.

Although the proposed alternative does not address staging issues for Atomic City Transit, it does provide a secondary emergency access, which is the primary concern for the July 4 fireworks event.

For additional information, contact the Public Works Department at 662-8150 or lacpw@lacnm.us.