AZTEC — Plans to expand the River Walk have some residents concerned about the city of Farmington's proposed annexation of San Juan County land.
At Tuesday evening's San Juan County Commission meeting, city of Farmington officials presented plans to annex about 888 acres of county land southwest of the city's limits.
Larry Garcia and Robert McEwan, who both own about seven acres in the proposed annexation area, attended the meeting to express their concerns.
"I don't have any difficulty with the city," McEwan said after the meeting. "I think the city is a wonderful organization."
He said what concerns him is the plan to extend the River Walk to Westland Park in western Farmington. The trail system currently connects Animas, Berg and Boyd parks.
Future plans are to eventually extend the river trail system west to Westland Park by La Puente Place and northeast by Piñon Hills Boulevard and East Main Street.
Officials with Farmington's Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department have been working with nonprofit organization River Reach to develop the trail system.
In 2011, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar designated the River Walk a National Recreation Trail. Both the city and River Reach add to the trail systems through purchased and donated land.
Garcia asked the commission who ultimately would get to vote on the annexation. Commission Chairman Jack Fortner said the city will vote on the annexation.
"I think that what they just did here was a formality," Fortner said of city officials' presentation to the commission.
He said the commission will submit an opinion on the annexation, but, ultimately the county has no control over whether or not the land will be annexed.
The city of Farmington has hosted two open houses and sent surveys to property owners to gauge reaction on the annexation. The annexation would bring the city an additional $110,000 to $730,000 in gross receipts taxes in the first five years.
Garcia's concern is the city will force him to give up some of his land as the trails are expanded.
After the meeting, Garcia said he had to sell two acres of his land when the New Mexico Department of Transportation built the bypass on U.S. Highway 64. He said the department paid him $4,200 for the land, which he feels was less than it was worth.
McEwan is also afraid he will be forced to sell his property to expand the River Walk if the city annexes the land he lives on.
"I am a very key piece of property to this project," he said after the meeting.
He said the Animas River runs through his property, and he is worried a portion of his land will be taken to create an addition to the River Walk that would connect the Animas and Berg Park areas to Westland Park.
McEwan said a good portion of his land is actually under the river, and he raises a steer each year, which he slaughters to eat during the winter. He is nervous that if his property was used to add onto the River Walk he would be unable to raise the steer.
Another concern he mentioned to commissioners was he might have to put up a privacy fence along the trail, blocking his view of the river.
"All I want is to feed my family, enjoy my property and live my life in peace," he said.