Parques de Chihuahua

At the risk of making everyone’s eyes roll out of their heads, I realized I forgot that I wanted to do a post on the parks (parques) of Chihuahua, Mexico. My goal is still to finish this series in January, so here we go with #11, the parks of Chihuahua, Mexico!

This first park was across the street from a fairly wealthy neighborhood. Sort of plain, but at least it has trees. It’s also nice to see that they aren’t wasting water on the grass.

This next one is a fairly big park located in an older part of town. It is well used in the evenings, but I only have a picture of it at midday. People everywhere, chatting, playing, loud music booming from parked cars. Food vendors set up along the sidewalk, selling popsicles, elotes, and other delicious things. Somebody cleans up the trash every morning. Obviously a well-loved place for gathering.

A little park located near an upper middleclass neighborhood. This photo was taken at the same time of year as all the others, so you can tell how much they are watering to get the lawn that green.

This park is located behind a locally famous seafood restaurant. I suspect that both are under the same ownership because there were several large square pools (not pictured) teaming with fish.

It also featured a little petting zoo, which was sort of sad because the animals didn’t have very much room. It was clean, at least, and the animals otherwise appeared healthy and well-cared for.

This is where things got more interesting for me. We’ll spend the rest of the post on a large, fairly new park that was created next to a man-made lake in 2012-2013. The lake is the result of damming the Rio (River) Chuviscar that runs through the city to help with flood control during the “monsoon” season. This is a huge park and we only spent time on the eastern side in the part called Metropolitano Presa El Rejon Parque. Presa means dam, parque means park, and rejon means lance or spike.

Arriving, I was excited to see an extensive planting of agaves backed by palo verde trees next to the parking lot.

I spent some time looking through agave photos online trying to identify these to species. No luck though, sorry. I was surprised at the lack of gravel for mulch. It was all just uncovered, leftover fill from constructing the park ten years ago.

Peeking over the agaves to the lake behind.

Looking further east, the soothing sound of gas-powered weed whackers (kidding) filled the air. You can just see one of the maintenance crew workers standing towards the middle of the photo. Those structures on the left are little food-vending kiosks. You can also see the playground behind the kiosks and a giant metal sculpture looming over everything – that’s where we’re headed next.

We passed a little workout area on the way up the hill. This park was full of activity with a constant stream of runners, bicyclists, and people out walking their dogs.

I’m afraid I’m not a fan of most public art displays, and these wood sculptures were no exception. They were scattered around here and there, and I couldn’t see any particular theme. Just not my thing. Though I acknowledge the skill it took to make them, I would rather see natural, unsculpted driftwood.

They weren’t particularly well placed either, such as this next one on the left, that was facing into an encroaching bush. There was also a half-hearted attempt at rock mulch in several spots. It felt as if they found out halfway through the installation that their calculations were wrong and didn’t have enough in the budget to finish the project.

I did appreciate the fact that were a lot of native and non-native drought tolerant shrubs planted throughout.

Texas sage (Leucophyllum frutescens), one of the few shrubs I could identify. You can see where the rock mulch was thicker on the right than on the left. I think maybe it was supposed to be purposeful/artful here because there is a long winding line of edging sticking up that separates the two sides (just visible to the right of the grass in the foreground).

Looking back.

Looking east again. That building on the other side of the lake is a giant waterslide. People also kayak and fish here.

Near the playground, there was a display of native Chihuahuan Desert animals. I don’t know about you, but a bunch of lifeless, concrete animals would not have excited me as a kid.

There was a seating area with a lot of weirdly shaped, uncomfortable modern chairs (you can sort of see them in the foreground) and a hard concrete bench. I was more interested in the row of cactus framed by two mesquite trees.

A little food cart area with a native Tecoma stans blooming on the left.

Admiring the agaves, sotol, and desert trees on the way up to the giant metal sculpture. Maybe A. parryi?

View towards the northeast part of the city at the top of the hill.

The large, rusty metal sculpture at the top.

Heading back down to the parking lot by a different route, we got funneled into this gabion wall corridor. The walls were so tall that I couldn’t enjoy the desert plants that were planted on either side. Even though I am about a foot taller than most people living here, I had to stand on a bench to get the photo on the right. The path was wide, but felt claustrophobic and I really dislike the aesthetic of gabion walls – to my eye, they come across as a jumble of construction debris or those bins of rock sold by landscape companies. I also hate the chicken wire holding it all in place, preventing you from ever planting anything or from easily pulling out any weeds that blow in (obviously less of a problem in this arid environment though).

Stretching my arms up over my head, I was able to get this decent photo of the plants, sotol, ocotillo, and prickly pear. Why on earth would anyone spend all that time and money putting in a nice desert landscape, and then place it out of view?

This next, newish planting was sloppy. An Agave tequilana partially buried by wood mulch with exposed flaps of landscape fabric. Definitely something we’ve all seen done by landscaping companies up here in the US too. If you are going to cut corners and costs, the plants always seem to get the short end of the deal.

Back to the parking lot, this side bordered by another gabion wall. The little yucca planted in the black bin was cute, but oddly placed in a location where people arriving from the parking lot use it for a trash bin. I pulled out some trash for this photo, but couldn’t find a real trash bin nearby. Again, poor planning.

Overall, I was impressed by the number of native desert plants that were worked into the landscape. This is probably the premier park of the region, certainly the nicest I’ve encountered on our travels to Chihuahua. Given the sheer size of the park – with walking paths and activity centers scattered around the entire lake, you know this required some amount of planning and a significant investment. I just wish that some things had come together a little more cohesively and that the installation had better quality control.

I’m going to try to knock out the last two posts on Mexico over the long holiday weekend, but we’ve got a potential ice storm on the way. If that happens, the power will probably go out and everything will get delayed. Supposedly we will be dropping down to 14F, so it’s a perfect time to spend indoors, curled up with the cat next to the woodstove.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Kris P

    The park with the man-made lake was definitely the most interesting. I suspect the lake and its related recreational activities are a major draw. I actually liked the carved wood sculptures better than most of the art I see in parks.

    I can’t say I’ve been impressed by many public parks in my own area. The most impressive one I’ve seen in recent years is Tongva Park in Santa Monica and the last time I visited it I was disappointed. Were the parks you visited in Chihuahua open free to the public? Were there any botanic gardens offering a wider range of plant collections in the region?

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      Sadly, there don’t seem to be any botanic gardens in the area. I did find plans from 2011 for a botanic garden to be installed on the north side of that same lake, but it never got built. Most of the places with garden (jardin) in their name in Chihuahua are either kindergarten schools, entertainment venues, or restaurants. I’ll keep looking when we go down there though.

  2. danger garden

    Agaves, finally! They’re fabulous, so toothy. I’ve got no idea what they are either. I’m with you on the art. That money could have been better spent elsewhere. I do love the metal planters around the cement animals, although the CMU stacked and scattered about isn’t such a good luck.

    It’s currently (11:30 am) 13 degrees here with high wind and snow. At least we have power, I hope yours stays on.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      It certainly is surprising that agaves aren’t more popular down there given how widespread they are in that region. We lost power just as the temperatures plummeted here. Lucky for the woodstove, but it took a while to get the generator situation figured out. I hate the ice.

  3. Beth@PlantPostings

    It’s beautiful and the Agaves are really impressive. The walking paths and structural elements are nifty, too.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      They did a pretty good job. It was the best of the landscapes we saw down there.

  4. Anna K

    I actually like gabions, but I absolutely agree with you… why so damn tall? Being how sun-shy I am, those parks felt very uncomfortable to me, despite an abundance of gorgeous sculptural plants. It’s like I don’t feel like it’s a “park” until there is tree cover.
    In architectural philosophy, there is a concept called ‘Genus Loci’ which essentially means ‘spirit of place’. While in school, we were asked what Genius Loci we most closely identified with. My spirit place was (and still is) standing ankle deep in moss in the middle of a Swedish forest, with “sun dust” trickling down, visible only in the occasional ray that penetrated the tall green canopy. I guess that’s why those dry parks felt so inhospitable.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      I remember from my years of living down in NM, that it felt so harsh and uninviting to be outside during the middle of the day. Parks definitely take on a different aspect without trees. I imagine some of those trees along the paths will eventually grow and fill in over time. I’m definitely a secluded forest on a mountain next to a stream -type of guy myself.

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