ALAMOSA —The Malm Trail Project is underway. with the recent approval by the Alamosa City Council, as construction is underway with a possible ribbon-cutting ceremony coming in the spring of 2020.
What many may not know is the story of the trail’s namesake, Toivo Malm. In her own words, Malm’s daughter Linda, described her father’s story as follows:
Toivo Malm was born in Massachusetts in 1914. His parents were immigrants from Finland. Both worked in local factories until they could finally buy a small farm and grow vegetables, have two milk cows, and raise chickens to sell eggs. Toivo did not speak English when he entered school. As a young man, he worked on the farm, played regional league basketball, and enjoyed ice hockey on the Nashua River. In the summer he fished and swam there. The river initially powered the city’s paper mills. During his early adulthood, he witnessed how the river turned gray and died from pollution
After Toivo graduated from high school, he drove a taxi, which is how he met his wife, a nursing student at the local hospital. They married, had two daughters and Toivo was fortunate to secure a union job at the new General Electric plant in town. He became a skilled, boring mill operator working on essential submarine turbines during World War II. Like many workers in town, he did not make much money. Every night father polished our shoes to make them last, yet when we outgrew them, we always got new ones that fit. I remember how quiet we were when he was paying bills, and how he carried the checks to the utility company and city hall to save three penny stamps.
Our parents appreciated taking their children to our free city parks. Later, the two of them often walked our town’s nature trails together. When the paper mills closed, they saw the river restored, and trails developed along with it. I remember the day my father sent me the front page of our town newspaper with a picture of a Nashua river trout.
Malm passed away unexpectedly at 64 — he died shortly after fixing a broken Christmas toy for a grandson, which exhibited his gentleness and skilled hands.
“I can make this gift because his role in my life led to my adult well-being,” Doctor Linda Malm said. “I believe his story is an American story that relates to the lives of many working people in places like the Alamosa community.”
In regards to the project itself, Linda Malm noted: “I appreciate the collaborative and dedicated work of SLVGO and the support of the Alamosa City Council in enabling me to memorialize my father.”
She added: “Creating the Toivo Malm Neighborhood Park and a portion of Rio Grande river trail that will link the city to the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge.
“This visionary project has the power to enrich the community for generations.
“I hope to visit the site when the snow clears. I am optimistic about its potential and look forward to lending financial support for its development.
“I have searched to find a civic and environmental project that reflects who my father was and what he valued.
“He could never have imagined this naming honor, but the project fits him so well.”
Doctor Linda Malm holds a B.A degree in English and Art History from Tufts University, a Lifetime Teaching Credential from U.C. Berkeley, and both an MFA in Television and Film and an Ed.D. degree in Higher Education Administration from UCLA. While in California, she taught every grade level in public schools, was an assistant professor at Cal Poly Pomona University, associate professor at the Claremont Colleges and a Dean of Arts at Pasadena City College. In conjunction with her position as dean, Malm was instrumental in the growth of student scholarships, and the development of a sustainable Artist-in-Residence Program and significant campus Sculpture Garden. When she retired, the California state legislature passed a joint resolution commending her dedication and contributions to Pasadena City College, the local community and the state of California.
During her retirement, Malm has become a published poet, was chosen as one of the writers of Los Luceros (the Robert Redford/N.M. State Film Board Enterprise) and has participated in community organizations, including serving as president of the Taos chapter of the New Mexico Native Plant Society.