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‘So many opportunities’: What will become of Burn Lake in Las Cruces?

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico -- What was once a glistening lake in west Las Cruces is now a pit filled with trash and brush.

“I want to make sure people are excited to come to this park," said Councilwoman Johana Bencomo, who said improving Burn Lake is a "top priority."

Back in the 1960s, Burn Construction bought the land and removed more than three million cubic yards of dirt for highway construction, according to a 2011 presentation by the City of Las Cruces Public Works Department.

When it filled up with drainage water, the city rezoned the land and created a lake for public use. It has a capacity of 283 acre feet, or more than 92 million gallons of water.

“I think this land provides so many opportunities," said Bencomo, who was elected to office in 2020.

In 2004, the city detected botulism at the lake after more than a dozen birds were found dead, according to the presentation. In 2005, the remains of a missing 23-year-old girl were discovered inside the lake, inside what was once her car.

Inside the now empty lake, there is drug activity, according to the Las Cruces Police Department. When ABC-7 visited the space Tuesday with Sgt. Erik Hechler and Sgt. Manny Melendez, there were also tents, blankets and pillows. One living space had childhood toys.

"When you see something like this, and when they have to live in an environment like this, it’s disheartening," said Sgt. Melendez.

Bencomo said the pit will likely not have water again because the waterbed is too low, but she is optimistic about future uses for the space.

“It’s not going to be easy, it’s not going to be quick, but it doesn’t mean it can’t move forward," Bencomo said. “We should definitely not give up.”

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Kate Bieri

Kate Bieri is ABC-7’s New Mexico Mobile Newsroom reporter and co-anchors ABC-7’s weekend evening newscasts.

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