White Rock accolades mount up

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By Arin McKenna

Council Chair Sharon Stover began her address for the new White Rock Visitor Center and the N.M.4 redesign ribbon cutting ceremony with “White Rock rocks.”

A new report from Coldwell Banker Real Estate would appear to back that up. The “Best Places to Live for Suburbanites” ranks White Rock as 16th out of 11,000 suburbs in the United States. In the state of New Mexico, it topped the list at number one. 

The report, compiled with the assistance of Onboard Informatics, evaluated communities on a range of features, such as access to grocery stores and banks as well as outdoor activities, proximity to good schools and community safety. 

“Having lived in White Rock for 30 years, it’s easy to understand why we were selected 16th out of 11,000 communities as one of the best to live,” Council Chair Sharon Stover wrote in response to some questions about the survey.

“We have access to necessities via Metzger’s for hardware, three gas stations, Smith’s for groceries, and an outstanding LANB branch where everyone knows you by your name. 

“Our special features are Overlook Regional Park and gateway access to Bandelier. White Rock is often called the ‘banana belt’ of our county, because we are further from the mountain and get more sun.

“Another amenity I value is how safe and easy it is to travel around White Rock. Our streets are wide, which makes it safe for bicyclists and joggers; our sidewalks are in good condition and people walk the loop early in the morning and late at night. I always felt fortunate that our kids could walk to school each day.”

“We have a community of people who live in White Rock who are very proud of where we live,” said White Rock Master Plan Implementation Committee (WRMPIC) member Tony Fox. “I think that showed on Friday with the large turnout for the opening of the Visitor Center. We care about each other and about our community.”

The excitement was palpable at Friday’s ceremonies. More than 100 people turned out for the event, including two sixth grade civic classes from Piñon Elementary School. 

The 3,281-square-foot facility, which cost $3,324,897, features displays about the area, a media room, a glass façade that capitalizes on showing off the area’s landscape, RV parking and picnic areas outside. The N.M.4 improvements cost $6,886,735.

“The goal of the project has been to restore White Rock to its former glory days. Many of us remember when White Rock had plenty of shopping, restaurants, businesses and activities for families,” Stover said. “All actions have been designed to bring life back to White Rock.”

Stover spoke about how the Bandelier Shuttle pilot project and the visitor center should help to capitalize on tourism. “White Rock is perfectly poised to capture new business opportunities for visitors coming to the center and the RV park to stay, play and explore all that this great community, our community–as well as Los Alamos– has to offer.”

Stover and committee members credit the Los Alamos County Council for its decision in 2008 to commit $20 million to spur White Rock’s revitalization.

Fox cited the WRMPIC as evidence of the White Rock community’s commitment. “I’ve never been on such a hard working committee,” Fox said. “It’s a dedicated, thoughtful group of people working to invest the county’s money in the best way possible. You saw the result Friday with two great projects, and there are two more in the hopper.” 

Fox was referring to plans to build a new library, renovate the current community center and expand and improve the Canada del Buey trail system. 

Fox and his wife chose White Rock for its short commute to Española, where he is employed as the Scholarship Program Officer for the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation. They liked the schools, the affordable housing and the safe and friendly environment.

“You can come home from work and have access to trails. When you walk around your neighborhood you’ll see neighbors you know,” Fox said. “I feel safe, and feel I can let my kids run around and play in the yard because it’s safe.” 

Fox and other committee members expect the new development to address White Rock’s weaknesses, such as a lack of restaurants and retail development. The town has seen a steady decline in such amenities for the past 25 years. 

“The projects unveiled at the grand opening are sure to attract those things to White Rock,” Fox said. “We’re lucky to have such a wonderful community. I’m really excited about the future of our little burg.” 

“It was the purpose of the White Rock Master Plan to catalyze development,” said WRMPIC Vice-Chair Katy Korkos. “I feel the Visitor Center has the potential to bring economic development to White Rock, and the community has the potential to make this economically viable.”

“I moved to White Rock in 1983. I wanted to open a business and I chose White Rock and Los Alamos County because it was so prosperous, nice and truly inviting,” Korkos said. 

 Although Los Alamos did not make the top 100 list, it did rank third among New Mexico’s best suburban communities.