Playas, New Mexico
|unincorporated community town|
Playas town center, February 24, 2005
It is a former company town, named after a nearby former settlement along the Southern Pacific Railroad. It was developed by the Phelps Dodge Corporation in the 1970s for employees of its then-new Hidalgo Copper Smelter, located ten miles south of the development. Over 270 rental homes, six apartment buildings, a post office, grocery/dry goods store (Phelps Dodge Mercantile), medical clinic with heliport, a bowling alley ("Copper Pins"), grill, a rodeo arena, horse stables, a fitness center, a shooting range, an airstrip and a swimming pool were built for the community, which even has its own zip code (88009). At its peak, the town had about 1100 residents and included 2 churches built on land leased from the mining company.
The smelter, which included state of the art environmental controls, a power plant and sulfuric acid plants, was closed by the company as part of a move towards new processing technologies for processing copper concentrates. Declining copper prices accelerated the closure in 1999; all of its residents were required to leave within a year, though a skeleton crew of about a dozen employees remained in the area. Before completion of razing the plant and reclamation of the site, the smelter, about 30 miles (60 km) north of the border with Mexico, was nicknamed La Estrella del Norte by illegal migrants using its lights as a beacon for crossing into the country.
Four years later, New Mexico Tech agreed to purchase the town and the surrounding 1200 acres (4.9 km²) for $5 million, using Department of Homeland Security funds secured by Pete Domenici. The town is now a training and research facility (the Playas Training and Research Center, operated by New Mexico Tech's EMRTC) for the university’s first responders and counter-terrorism programs, supported by tens of millions of dollars in federal funds. For a while, many of the vacant houses were being used by the US military forces that are assisting the US Border Patrol in the area; however, now they are being housed elsewhere.
The region, the smelter and the new facility are pivotal features in Michael McGarrity's Kevin Kerney novel Nothing But Trouble (2005).
- Playas Training and Research Center
- Animas, Cotton City, and Playas
- Isolated desert town is ready to become a target from the International Herald Tribune
- Playas Purchase Boosts Homeland Security
- New Mexico Tech Board of Regents Approves Purchase of Playas
- Photographic and site description at CLUI
- Playas contextualized in "Cities Under Siege" by Stephen Graham
Pete Domenici press releases
- N.M. Tech Focus on Security Research Creates Educational, Economic Opportunities
- Domenici secures $80 million in additional funds to support national security work carried out in New Mexico