Plugging into White Rock

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Proposed complex includes RV parking

By Carol A. Clark

Editor’s note: This is the third in a four-part series about Capital Improvement Projects moving forward in Los Alamos County.

Travelers heading to Bandelier National Monument could soon stop at a new White Rock Visitors Center Complex along N.M. 4 if county council approves a Phase 2 Design and Construction application June 8.

The project is part of the larger White Rock Master Plan approved by the council more than two years ago. The master plan lists various projects intended to be catalytic in revitalizing the White Rock downtown area.

A parcel of land deeded to Los Alamos County from the Department of Energy on the north side of N.M. 4 is included in the plan.

Steve Brugger of the county’s Community Development Department is the county’s liaison to the 17 member White Rock Master Plan Implementation Committee, first appointed by county council in 2008. He explained that the proposed White Rock Visitors Center Complex consists of three components. “Construction would occur just west of the fire station and front on State Road 4,” Brugger said. “It includes not only a new, larger visitors center, but it would add 16 new RV parking spots and a transit hub, one function of which could be to run shuttle service for visitors to Bandelier.”

Chair Steve Boerigter of the implementation committee’s Catalytic Project Subcommittee, tasked with bringing the visitors center project forward, said RV overnight parking was a critical need defined in the early days of the project. Many travelers would like to stay near Bandelier with their RVs, he said, but because of a lack of power and a sewage “dump station” at the park, they have been unable to do so.

Boerigter explained that White Rock would welcome those overnight stays because it could turn the Bandelier “day trip” into two days or more, which could translate into additional revenue for White Rock from travelers dining at local restaurants and shopping at local stores.

“Economic development strategies stem from a strong community desire to revitalize the commercial core of White Rock and create a community identity,” he said. “This project is a major step forward in implementing the master plan for White Rock.”  

Kent Budge chairs the White Rock Implementation Committee. He describes public participation in the master plan two years ago as “phenomenal,” and said many residents may now be wondering about the current status of the projects that were outlined in the plan.

“I want to reassure the public that the master plan is alive and well and moving forward with not only this project, but changes to State Road 4, along with a proposal for a trail plan for the Cañada del Buey, Budge said. “The study and conceptual design that have been in the works these last few months highlight the desire we heard from residents to have a high quality mixed use development that is community based and capitalizes on the county acquisition of the land parcel (A-19) along N.M. 4.”

Part of the plan includes changing the Sherwood/N.M. 4 intersection to realign and improve traffic flows into the site, Boerigter said. The N.M. 4 alignment study is a related Phase 2 CIP project that the county council will consider later in June, he said.

Boerigter emphasized that the current design leaves room to grow and said the visitors center could eventually become an even bigger area attraction if that happens.

The current schematic design reflects a visitors center totaling approximately 3,300 square feet. But the master plan includes room for potential expansion to create more of an orientation center that could be supported by Bandelier and other organizations, which could host programs at the center to open up a whole new area of tourism for White Rock.

“White Rock is perfectly located along this major highway to accommodate that kind of expanded service and we are really excited about this project,” Boerigter said. “It’s just the first in a series of several projects slated to move forward in the years to come. The council has committed to a $20 million placeholder in the county’s budgets specifically for these projects. The visitor’s center could be constructed within the next 18 months, and we feel it would be a positive step forward in realizing the goals of the county’s economic development plans to revitalize White Rock.”

County council is set to consider the proposed new White Rock Visitor’s Center Complex and RV Parking project at

7 p.m., June 8 in council chambers at the Community Building.