Neighbors upset over dead fish, drained ponds, and uncertainty at former golf course

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RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Dead fish are just the latest issue for an area in the metro neighbors call an “eyesore.” Now they’re wondering what’s next for the once-beautiful former Club Rio Rancho Golf Course and Country Club. 

Many were frustrated when they said drained ponds led to hundreds of fish dying Wednesday. 

One neighbor at The Islands – which the golf course wrapped around – took a video Wednesday, showing koi fish struggling in the shallow water of a once thriving pond.

“I bought this property for the view,” Dianne Torres said. “I’m heartbroken and so is most of the community.” 

The fish fiasco is just the latest on the list. 

“I was hoping people could come adopt the fish for their private ponds. People wanted to,” Torres said. 

But it was too late. Neighbors said all the fish died by Wednesday afternoon. 

Hours later, a KOB 4 crew saw workers picking them up. 

“I think it was inhumane. It didn’t have to happen that way,” Torres said. 

They said for two years each house has been paying to keep the water levels up, and they have been hoping nothing would happen to the ponds. 

They’re frustrated on a couple fronts. They believe this was cruel, to the fish – they could have lived somewhere else. The drained ponds are another loss for the area’s beauty. They’re concerned about security and their property values and now are even more worried about what will come next for the property. 

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Joseph Lembo, who said the property of the former golf course is important for the city of Rio Rancho. 

“Albuquerque has several golf courses. This is not a little, rinky-dink town. This is huge,” he said. 

KOB 4 aired video of the overgrown trails last year, as calls from neighbors to clean up the area grew louder. 

That came after a fire burned down the country club in 2019. Authorities later charged a former employee with arson. 

KOB 4 reached out to the property owner but did not hear back before this story aired. 

Developer Steven Chavez took it over last year. It’s a 250-acre area, and many people want to know what he’ll do with it. A lot of ideas have been thrown out there – but there are no approved plans right now. 

KOB 4 also reached out to the Rio Rancho mayor’s office. A city spokesperson said the city has always thought a “private sector solution” for the property would be best. It’s not looking to buy any part of it, and they said they expect Chavez to have a redevelopment plan in the coming months.