It has hosted luminaries from Arnold Palmer to Johnny Miller over the years, and has been the home of professional and collegiate championship golf tournaments. And to the residents of the University of New Mexico's nearby neighborhoods, it represents a commitment shown to the university that's now being shown back.

It's a little piece of green in the midst of a concrete community, and it's going to stay that way for years to come.  UNM President Robert Frank and Board of Regents President Jack Fortner were part of a press conference on Tuesday announcing a new partnership with Bernalillo County Commission that will protect the UNM North Golf Course as green space for the next 15 years.

UNM's Board of Regents and the Bernalillo County Commission approved an agreement to include the 76 acre, 9-hole course as part of the county's Open Space program. The county will invest $1.5 million in Open Space funds to improve the irrigation system, restock and maintain trees, plant new grasses and upgrade the popular pedestrian path around the course. The improvements to the irrigation system could save up to 20 million gallons of water annually. The design work for trails and paths complies with NCAA requirements for cross-country conference and championship events.

"UNM is pleased to partner with Bernalillo County and the north campus neighborhoods in this innovative approach to preserving a treasured piece of green space enjoyed by the campus community," Frank said. "This agreement is a prime example of how the University is committed to working closely with our communities to enrich the quality of life we all share."

When the North Golf Course was created seven decades ago, one of many projects created by the Works Project Administration during the Great Depression, neighbors and other members of the UNM community dug up trees from their homes and donated them to be planted along the golf course path. A personal investment of time in the decades since has passionately bonded the local neighborhoods to this green space.

Bernalillo County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins, whose district includes UNM and the North Golf Course, worked with neighborhood associations and the board of regents for over three years forging this cooperative plan for the historic course. Under the agreement, the neighborhood association has the right to use the area up to twice a year for community recreation or athletic activities.

"Great Universities and great communities can work together to make great things happen," Hart Stebbins said.