Looking back: 2020 was a year of building on past plans and coming together as a community

Railroad agreement, downtown project among positive developments that took place in challenging year

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times

AZTEC — The year 2020 was a year of building toward goals, coming together as a community and planning for the future in San Juan County.

The year saw local governments build on foundations that were laid in the past while community members joined forces to find solutions during a pandemic. 

Here are a few of the things accomplished this year:

A partnership to help create a railroad

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez signs a memorandum of understanding with San Juan County, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, to collaborate on a railroad.

The year began with what officials described as a historic partnership between the Navajo Nation and San Juan County with the goal of creating a railroad spur connecting the Farmington area to Gallup. A memorandum of understanding was signed in February. That led to the county receiving $2 million in federal funding to study building a railroad. The county hopes to partner with an industry like petrochemical manufacturing to make the railroad a reality.

More:San Juan County receives $2 million of federal funding for railroad planning study

A vision becomes a reality in downtown

Workers prepare a section of West Main Street included in the second phase of the Complete Streets project.

This year marked the near completion of the approximately $12 million downtown Farmington Complete Streets revitalization project that had been in the works for years. The City Council chose to fund the majority of the project using refinanced bonds in 2017. The city hosted a virtual grand opening on Dec. 18 that can be viewed on Facebook. During the grand opening, City Manager Rob Mayes said the vision for the downtown revitalization goes back about 30 years. Mayes said the vision received official support and acknowledgement in 2002 when it was placed as the priority goal in the comprehensive plan. 

More:City officials target Thanksgiving for substantial completion of Complete Streets project

The project brought a visual change to downtown, reducing the number of lanes, widening the sidewalks and adding roundabouts. But it also included less-visible changes such as the addition of public wi-fi and an outdoor speaker system.

Community comes together amid COVID-19

Marcel Alen of Just Click Printing in Farmington operates a series of computerized embroidery machines to sew protective masks.

As COVID-19 hit the area, community members came together to find solutions to various problems caused by the virus.

A mask shortage hit the country, and San Juan Regional Medical Center found itself facing a shortage of personal protective equipment. When word got out, the community stepped up. People began sewing fabric masks, and the San Juan College Makers Space used its 3D printer to make face shields. 

As the Navajo Nation faced high numbers of COVID-19 cases, people from around the country donated money, food, water and other supplies.

Outdoor recreation makes strides 

Cameron Swarts waits for a fish to bite, Monday, Feb. 17, 2020, at Lake Farmington.

Efforts to increase outdoor recreation opportunities and to develop an outdoor recreation economy continued. The San Juan College Enterprise Center helped four new outdoor recreation businesses, and Farmington approved an agreement to lease a vacant city-owned building to two outdoor recreation businesses — Black Bear Unlimited and Desert River Guides.

Desert River Guides plans to begin offering guided raft trips down the San Juan and Animas rivers in the summer of 2021 and will lead one-hour, half-day and full-day trips.

Meanwhile, Black Bear Unlimited provides fabrication and support to the off-road and rafting communities, including custom raft fabrication. 

While Farmington was chosen to host the New Mexico Outdoor Economics Conference, the event was moved to a virtual setting due to COVID-19. However, local leaders still participated in the conference, and the city hopes to host the event in person in the future.

More:The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic was a focal point during the Outdoor Economics Conference

Painted pianos bring music to Aztec

Artist Bonnie Adams chose to focus on the healing power of music as the theme for the piano she painted.

When Aztec City Commissioner Rosalyn Fry had the idea of placing painted pianos in the downtown district, the community stepped up and donated the instruments. Local artists painted unique designs on the pianos before they were placed in locations throughout the downtown. The pianos brought music to downtown through the summer and have now been moved indoors for the winter.

County works to bridge gaps in mental, behavioral health services

San Juan County began work identifying the gaps in the mental and behavioral health services about three years ago. That work led to the opening of the Mental Wellness Resource Center earlier this month. A virtual grand opening was hosted on Dec. 10 on Facebook. The resource center will help people find services that they need. 

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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