LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - The year was 2001.
In September of that year, hundreds of mothers, uncles and grandfathers grabbed their power tools and constructed Unidad Park in less than two weeks. Children left their handprints on ceramic tiles in the park and their names on wooden slats that surround the property.
"It's phenomenal to see its growth," said Jayce McCormick, who worked on the project as a freshman at Las Cruces High. "In the last 20 years, I myself have grown in this community. I have raised my children in this community. I have brought my children to this park."
"This project is very near and dear to me," said Sonya Delgado, the city's director of Parks and Recreation, who was working at Meerscheidt Recreation Center during the project. "This park is an icon for this community."
However, the park has greatly deteriorated over the years. The aging wooden structures show wear and tear across the property.
"Our team did everything they could over 20 years to keep it together," Delgado said. "However, with the southwest sunshine and our harsh summers, it dried it up."
In 2018, voters approved a bond of nearly $17 million to renovate parks across the city, including Unidad Park. The new playground structures at Unidad Park will have material that is similar to wood but will not deteriorate as quickly, Delgado said. There will also be a new splash pad.
The park was built in the days that followed the attacks on September 11, 2001. Two large wooden structures at the entrance of the park commemorate the victims.
"By coming together to build something so amazing for our community, we built our resilience, our fortitude and our gratitude for Las Cruces and for each other," said Barbara DeLeon, the city's chief administrator who built the park with her young sons in 2001. “The name of the park said it all for me. It brought our community together.”
We all have so many fond memories in Unidad Park! I was so excited in the first grade when my parents got a wooden slat with my name on it. Grateful that city staffers will preserve the kids' names in the park 😊 pic.twitter.com/xMi8gGv5Rr— Kate Bieri KVIA ABC-7 (@KateBieri) December 9, 2021