After a decade under state ownership, state officials say they are finally making strides toward turning Los Luceros into a visitor destination.
Several plans for managing the 150-acre property have fallen through since the property was purchased for $2.5 million in 2008, including an early effort for a film institute headed by Robert Redford.
But Patrick Moore, director of the New Mexico Historic Sites division, which oversees the property under the Department of Cultural Affairs, says the division is guiding Los Luceros out of a “stand-still mode.”
He said the department has been forming relationships with local organizations, received some temporary funding this year for the property and is hoping to secure recurring state money during next year’s legislative session.
“Nobody’s been able to cement that vision (for Los Luceros), which is what we’re doing now,” he said.
Susann Mikkelson, the property’s new manager who was hired last month, described Los Luceros as a “site in the making.” She said the hope is for it to become a community-centric space.
Currently, tours of Los Luceros are conducted by appointment through the property’s local support group, Los Amigos del Rancho Los Luceros. Parties can also rent its facilities, including River House, for weddings, meetings or retreats.
Mikkelson said rentals may slow down as the state is currently remodeling some of the spaces. The River House balcony is being updated for safety reasons and one of its facilities has a commercial kitchen that the state is working on getting recertified. She said work is also being undertaken to provide internet access.
“The property hasn’t been open, so it hasn’t had the attention it would have gotten if it had been staffed and open,” said Mikkelson, though she did note that a farm employee has been tending to the site’s agricultural land for years.
By the end of this year, Mikkelson said she hopes to establish regular open hours for visitors to come through and tour public areas of the property, particularly the historic two-story hacienda.
There have already been recent on-site activities, such as the now-annual Harvest Festival, during which visitors can come and pick apples in the ranch’s orchard; watch sheep-shearing demonstrations using the Los Luceros flock; and see wool-spinning demos thanks to the Española Fiber Arts Center.
Los Luceros also is partnering with a group of local volunteers who are using the ranch’s agricultural land to conduct a series of heritage grain trials.
“We hope people will continue to share their ideas and be patient with us, (and) we’ll incorporate what we can,” she said. She added, “I can tell you a lot more in six months. I’ve been here a little over a month. There’s a lot to be developed.”
According to Moore, Mikkelson was hired on a temporary basis using money from one-time funding approved by the Legislature. That money also went toward the aforementioned renovations and reassignment of one of Moore’s staffers to the site starting this month. His goal is to keep Mikkelson on permanently and hire more staff. That idea is pending approval of a recurring $750,000 from the state Legislature that DCA is requested within its budget.
Permanent funding, Moore said, would also go toward operational needs, maintenance, and formally establishing educational and interpretive programming.
“The fact that the state of New Mexico doesn’t have any historical sites or interpretations north of Santa Fe, how can we call ourselves a tri-cultural state without tapping into telling those stories?” Moore said.
He hopes state leaders see the importance of further developing Los Luceros. “You take a step back in the past when you’re out there,” he said.