Sandoval Signpost


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Photo credit: Robert D’Alessandro
Laughing Vendors 1972
Photographs by Robert D’Alessandro of the 1972 Fantasy Mountain Fair will be on display at the Placitas Community Library in November.

Photo exhibition displays images of The Fantasy Mountain Fair of 1972

Recollections of The Fantasy Mountain Fair

—Susan Junge, with the memory and editing assistance of PA Blalock and Sky Katona

The outdoor community event in the photographs was held at the Thunderbird Bar in Placitas, New Mexico, in early summer of 1972. Planning for it had begun months earlier after the successful “Crafty Mountain Fair” had been staged by a loosely-knit group of artists, and T-Bird customers and employees who called themselves, “The Placitas Mountain Craft and Soiree Society.” The event took place in December, 1971, inside the bar to capitalize on the newly expanded space, which included a large round window framing the Sandias, a stage, and a spacious dance floor. Crafty Mountain was the progenitor of the present-day Placitas Holiday Fine Arts and Crafts Sale.

The winter weather was harsh that time of year, and there was a desire to organize a larger outdoor fair. Some of the community had experience showing their crafts at established fairs around the state and hoped that by having a larger fair we could increase business for the T-Bird, help local artists, and have some fun. Naively, we assumed that this shouldn’t be “too hard”—ha, ha, ha.

In the spirit of the times, we started calling it The Fantasy Mountain Fair.

The Thunderbird Bar was surrounded by an adobe wall which still stands, even though the original building was torn down after a sensational and suspicious explosion and fire in 1976. This wall was meant to offer some protection to the parking area and define boundaries in the village neighborhood. The outdoor festival would take place within this space, but improvements had to happen. The wall itself hadn’t been finished in some places, the parking lot surface was badly torn up from cars and pickups driving through it in mud season, and we had no plan for how to provide shade for people. After pushing through the building expansion the previous summer, the Thunderbird Bar crew decided that the landlord, Ralph Roller, should cover two improvements — completing the wall and resurfacing the parking lot — and we would take on the task of providing the shade for people. “Roller” agreed, after his own fashion, and work on the wall commenced in fits and starts.

There was a ready supply of government salvage from open house sales at Kirtland Air Force Base and a salvage business in Los Alamos. One useful item was a large parachute that could cover our stage area. This left the problem of shading the crafts fair booth spaces that we hoped to rent out to pay for the band and other expenses. We decided to build a series of identical tents that could be divided into booths. The idea was that these tents would reflect our community’s creative approach to architecture. The job of designing them was given to Day Chahroudi, a local inventor who worked for Zomeworks Corp. at that time. Day had seen these tensile structures in his travels, and wanted to use that idea in a simplified form.

Brochures went out in the Spring to sell the unconventional triangular booth spaces. We worked on radio and poster advertising for the one-day event, now officially named “The Fantasy Mountain Fair.” The poster image featured a striped version of our emblematic Sandia Mountain view, which was designed to echo the striped vinyl canopies we were erecting around the Thunderbird Bar.

A fiasco occurred a few days before our big Saturday. Our landlord had agreed to fix the parking lot surface, but only did some minimal grading of the ruts. We insisted that some gravel be put down in case it rained. Instead of gravel, he bought in big dump trucks of round river rock, which were dumped and spread throughout the parking area, creating a crazy surface for any activity. Cars lurched through it, people stumbled, and it was very challenging to stake the twenty tents.

So all volunteers at the fair could look properly “professional,” T-shirts had been silk-screened in advance by Jim Kraft, a printmaking professor at UNM. Jim also came to the fair with his own special booth set up to print T-shirts on demand from a number of prepared silk screens. One of the big sellers was a white T-shirt printed with a silver-and-turquoise squash blossom necklace festooned around the neck.

There were a couple of favorites among the twenty more-or-less booths that fit well with the fantasy theme. An active circle of local women was learning to belly dance. They agreed to set up a large draped tent area where a rotating group of costumed dancers would be continuously performing. Another was a strawberry whipped cream dessert creation sold by a local couple who operated a sheepskin coat business, but wisely chose a more summery product to sell at the fair.

Other artists and craftsmen rented booth space—some from our community and some from other parts of the state. Poets Larry Goodell and Bill Pearlman at the microphone delivered orations punctuated by periodic advisory bulletins from PA Blalock. PA’s primary memory was being very busy, running around trying to solve people’s issues—everything from “I need a hammer” to “I need a joint.” The Oriental Blue Streak Band (or “OBS”) from Taos came down to play several sets throughout the afternoon. The Fantasy Mountain Fair proved not to be the best environment for the serious commercial craftsmen, and many complaints were registered about the booth layout, the loud music, and our own lack of expertise in keeping the day focused on selling and buying crafts.

It was also very hard to enforce our advertised admission charge. The adobe wall did get finished in time, but it was not tall enough to keep people from climbing over, or sitting on top to hear the band. A volunteer was commandeered to walk the perimeter and ask people to come around to the gate and pay. The volunteer at the gate had endless arguments with people that didn’t want to pay the minimal admittance. The line started to blur between volunteers and attendees early in the day, so by the close of the Fair, it was hard to know who was actually in charge or what they were in charge of. All in all, it was a memorable time even if none of us who were actually there can remember what actually happened!

We hope the photographs in this exhibit may refresh some memories.

Further recollections of The Fantasy Mountain Fair

—Robert D’Alessandro, 10/15/2014

The Fantasy Mountain Fair was held during the first year I lived in the village. My wife and I had moved to Placitas and were living a few houses behind the Thunderbird Bar where we heard the goings on and often jumped the T-bird’s wall at odd hours to join in the festivities.

For me, the day of The Fair was a day I won’t forget. I was from NYC, the East. I had no experience of what I perceived to be the “wild west.” What I saw was unrestricted open space and a freedom that for me fit the spirit of the times.

It was exhilarating to feel that here we could be a part of that energy. And then out of nowhere comes this Fair, attracting all sorts of people from all over. The varied collections of people I saw pouring into the small village in which I was now living was like nothing I had ever encountered before, even on the streets of NYC. There was nothing for me to do but grab my 35mm camera and jump in. What better way was there to meet these folks and learn whatever I could?

To my surprise, all my interactions were positive. Some of the people I met are friends to this day. For me, the era was about more than the negative cliché spins we continually see in the press and media to this day. For me, it grew out of the heart and the best of what our country was about.

I hope these photos help people remember that. At the Thunderbird Bar and The Fantasy Mountain Fair, I recognized what I came looking for and hoped to find in New Mexico, a place where individuality and friendship mattered more than material success. It felt like the right place to be.

The exhibit of Robert D’Alessandro’s photographs from The Fantasy Mountain Fair of 1972 will span November 2 to November 26, in the Collin Meeting Room of the Placitas Community Library. A reception will be held on November 8 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. All are invited.

County property appraisers focused on Placitas

—Bill Diven

The countywide reappraisal of taxable property remains focused on Placitas for now, according to the latest update from Sandoval County Appraiser Tom Garcia.

As of mid-October, appraisers had visited roughly half of the 1,500, or so, residential properties in Placitas. The work began in western neighborhoods and is moving eastward along State Route 165.

Across the county, appraisers have checked more than 29,000 properties with about 15,000 still to go. The new valuations for residential, commercial, and other properties over the last year added nearly ninety million dollars to the tax rolls, but not everyone saw their valuations go up.

While details are not yet available for Placitas, an analysis of 1,478 residential properties in a section of Rio Rancho Estates near Intel showed: 1,094 with reduced values, 81 unchanged, sixty increased by no more than the three percent maximum under state law for established homeowners, and 243 increased by more than the three percent.

Garcia has characterized the reappraisal as an effort to set property values at current market rates while replacing incomplete paper records with a modern computer database linked to accurate digital mapping.

“This clearly shows this is not about increasing valuations and taxes,” Chief Deputy Assessor Christie Humphries told county commissioners. The overall increase in property value allowed the property tax rate to drop for almost every property owner, added Chief Appraiser Edward Olona.

“I’m glad you mentioned taxes tweaking down,” said Commissioner Don Chapman of Rio Rancho. “The average property owner is very skeptical of these reappraisals.”

Garcia’s office recently launched an interactive map on its website that allows anyone to look up individual parcels and get public-record details on size, valuation, ownership, and taxes paid. The records will include photos, which led Commission Chairman Darryl Madalena of Jemez Pueblo to raise questions about privacy and security.

“We want to make sure county residents are safe,” Madalena said.

Appraisers are only collecting images needed to identify the property, the same information available online with programs like Google Earth, Olona responded. Any unnecessary detail, such as a license plate, is being redacted, he said.

Garcia said this is a national issue and the subject of debate among assessors.

“Where does public information start? Where does public information stop?” he said.

Humphries said the staff is currently estimating the project will be completed in April with routine reappraisals checking each property once every five years thereafter.

More ideas surface for preserving the Buffalo Tract

Signpost Staff

In recent weeks, two major players with deep historical roots in Sandoval County presented their plans for a large section of federal land in northwestern Placitas known as the Buffalo Tract.

Santa Ana Pueblo sees using the 3,100-acre Buffalo Tract as a wildlife corridor, as part of ongoing work to restore its cultural resources and the damaged habitat of the region.

The San Antonio de las Huertas Land Grant proposes using the eastern half of the Buffalo Tract for public recreation and a working history museum funded by a solar-power array on the property.

During a public event in August, San Felipe Pueblo said it also wants the Buffalo Tract as a wildlife corridor to include a sanctuary for the free-roaming horses, kicking up dust and controversy in the area. Both pueblos abut the tract and claim ancestral ties to the land, while the Placitas-based land grant says it seeks to reclaim land awarded by the Spanish government in 1765 after consultation with the pueblos.

The Bureau of Land Management controls the Buffalo Tract and three other parcels in Placitas: about two hundred acres just north of the Village of Placitas, a small section adjoining San Felipe Pueblo in northeastern Placitas, and the Crest of Montezuma, the nine hundred-acre ridge bordering eastern Placitas that may be turned over to the U.S. Forest Service.

Still to be heard from, however, are commercial interests believed to covet the tract for gravel mining, residential and commercial development, or as part of a long-talked-about Albuquerque bypass connecting Interstates 25 and 40 through Placitas. By some estimates, one billion dollars in marketable sands and gravel lie under the Buffalo Tract.

Any decision remains months away as the Bureau of Land Management finishes an update of a resource-management plan that could be released as early as January 1. That would be followed by a comment period. Converting the parcel to tribal trust land would take an act of Congress.

"We all are at a loss if developers or gravel operators get in because the potential for a wildlife corridor is destroyed," Glenn Harper of Santa Ana's Department of Natural Resources said during a presentation at the pueblo. The tract is a critical link in the movement of wildlife between the Sandia and Jemez mountains, part of the larger corridor from southern New Mexico to Colorado, he added.

For nearly twenty years, Santa Ana has restored habitat, developed water sources, limited hunting, and reintroduced wild turkeys and pronghorn antelope. Thirteen miles of the wildlife corridor is documented on the pueblo, and about 1.5 miles passes through the Buffalo Tract.

"We'd like to ensure that generations to come can see wildlife," past Santa Ana Gov. Myron Armijo said. "These animals are all important to us."

The land grant board has proposed buying 1,500 acres of the tract under the federal Recreation and Public Purposes Act, which allows such sales for use under narrow guidelines.

"There's a lot of history right there, and we feel it's very important to preserve that," land grant Vice President Rebecca Correa told the Signpost. "Part of our mission is stewardship over the land and water, and it was just a huge concern of ours, that there would be mining."

The concept the land grant unveiled at its public meeting follows months of work with a consulting engineer, and others, developing the plan that already has been submitted to the BLM. The 14-megawatt solar array, needed to pay for the land, project, and ongoing expenses, including property taxes, would be divided into 25- and 75-acre plots.

The working village, similar to Las Golindrinas outside Santa Fe, would recreate early life and be would be separate from a modern museum.

"Everything would be done the way the settlers built and settled the land," Correa said. "Above it, the museum will have the history of all of the land grants in New Mexico."

The Las Huertas grant is one of 25 still active in the state, she added. Its proposed project is near the original Placitas village, which was in the valley of Las Huertas Creek along Camino de la Rosa Castilla.

Correa said the land grant would support Santa Ana and San Felipe should either take over the remainder of the Buffalo Tract if they're committed to their proposed uses for the land.

While San Felipe waits for the BLM to release its management plan, the pueblo has begun an attempt to manage its wild-horse population by darting mares with the contraceptive vaccine PZP. The combination of drought, fewer predators in the wildlife corridor, and outside owners dumping horses on the pueblo led to the recent population explosion, according to the pueblo.

“Safely managing the population of the herd is vital to keeping it healthy,” land-management specialist Ricardo Ortiz said in a statement released by the pueblo. “PZP is safe and easy to administer, and we’re confident, based on its success in other herds, that it will help the San Felipe horses to thrive.”

PZP has been central to efforts by horse advocates in Placitas to control the population roaming here. Volunteers have been certified in its use, but have been unable to get permission from the state to administer it.

Photo credit: —Bill Diven

The Kinder Morgan CO2 pipeline is exposed in the bed of Las Huertas Creek after being uncovered by rushing water and erosion.

Check of flood damage reveals exposed pipeline

—Bill Diven

An exposed section of high-pressure pipeline is part of flood damage dating back as much as a year and left unrepaired in the pipeline corridor running through Placitas.

Other damage involves concrete erosion-control mats installed in Las Huertas Creek after major flooding in 2006 uncovered sections of two pipelines. Storm runoff in September 2013 tore up part of one mat and did slight damage to another.

Two companies—Kinder Morgan and Enterprise Products—operate four pipelines carrying carbon dioxide and natural gas liquids through this part of the corridor. The lines are buried along or near Las Huertas Creek from Camino del Tecolote on the east to the Placitas Open Space on the west and, in some places, run beneath the creek bed itself.

It is not known which recent flash flood exposed the Kinder Morgan CO2 line not quite one half of a mile downstream from Camino de las Huertas where the pipe leaves the protective concrete matting placed through bends in the creek. The three Enterprise pipelines carrying natural gas liquids cross Las Huertas Creek nearby and run outside the creek channel.

A fifth pipeline through Placitas dating to the 1950s is being renovated by Western Refining to resume carrying crude oil but takes a southerly route near Placitas village and joins the others farther west.

Before the discovery of the exposed pipe, the Signpost already was working on a story involving the damaged concrete mats in the creek adjacent to the home of Bill and Denise Patterson on Windmill Trail South.

Queries to the pipeline companies about that issue brought two responses.

Enterprise spokesman Rick Rainey said his company is in the final stages of plans to repair the mats adjacent to the Patterson home. The concrete-and-cable mats there cover two 12-inch lines and one eight-inch line and provided a cobble-like stream crossing for service trucks to access nearby control valves.

The rampaging water in 2013 tore up the downstream end of the mats leaving some of the concrete blocks as piled rubble.

“There is no exposed pipeline, and the ground cover on the pipe provides ample protection,” Rainey said. “There is no increased risk to the pipeline, and it should not be a concern to the public.”

Kinder Morgan responded saying it had inspected its line on October 21, which was the day the Signpost inquired about unrepaired flood damage.

The statement released to the Signpost the next day read, “On Tuesday evening, Kinder Morgan personnel inspected the area of concern in Sandoval County and found some minor erosion. It is our goal to work openly and cooperatively with all stakeholders, and we are working to repair this issue and will prioritize these improvements.”

The statement also said Kinder Morgan will do its annual outreach to landowners in November, going door-to-door “to interact with property owners and distribute damage prevention information.” Homes line both sides of the corridor along Cedar Creek Road on the south and Windmill Trail and other roads on the north. Farther east, the pipelines follow Camino de la Rosa Castilla and Diamond Tail Road.

After his meeting with the Signpost, Patterson decided to do his own inspection and hiked up the watercourse discovering about ten feet of the CO2 line exposed where concrete mats ended in a pour off of close to three feet. He first called Kinder Morgan, which sent one of its people out to inform him the company was aware of the exposure, and then he called the Signpost.

“The problem is they put it at the bottom of the creek bed,” Patterson said as he stood beside the visible pipe. “How do you stop Mother Nature from digging it out?”

He also noted the regular aerial inspections flown over the corridor would require a person with Superman eyes to adequately check for issues.

Kinder Morgan then issued another statement in response to Patterson’s discovery.

“Kinder Morgan personnel confirmed that the erosion discovered on Tuesday evening included a small portion of exposed pipeline in Las Huertas Creek Bed. It is our goal to work openly and cooperatively with all stakeholders, and our operations and engineering staff are currently working to repair this issue. On Wednesday, we met with several landowners in the area to discuss the situation and our repair plans. The Cortez pipeline has been safely operating for more than thirty years, and we are proud of its safety record.”

On September 30, 2004, a relief valve on the Kinder Morgan line in Placitas failed, venting 772 barrels of CO2, about 32,400 gallons, but causing little damage and no injuries, according to the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

Patterson said his rough calculations, based on the streambed profile and the speed of debris rushing by, put the 2006 flood flow at six to eight thousand cubic feet a second. By comparison, during the hurricane-strength storm that pummeled the area 13 months ago, gauges recorded the Rio Grande increasing from 2,000 cfs on September 10 to 5,340 cfs three days later. The nearly four-foot rise in the water level remained below flood stage.

While Patterson is well-known to the pipeline companies after settling on his property in the late 1980s, he takes a broad view of their operations and the parallel lines of warning posts running down his road and placed at his gate.

“It’s like this: we’re going to move energy from one side of the country to the other,” he said. “I may not like it much, but I like seeing it in pipelines rather than tanker trucks or trains. That’s safer for people… The jury is still out on whether it’s safer for the environment.”

New Mexico is crisscrossed by about 26,000 miles of petroleum-related pipelines, according to the federal records.

Another Placitas resident named Patterson, environmental engineer Dwight Patterson, sees a game-changing environmental issue for the community if a lack of vigilance and monitoring leads to a significant leak.

“The gas products, refined products, all that stuff would run through the sand and gravel like Kool-Aid and hit the groundwater, and we’re pretty much done here,” said Patterson, who is not related to Bill Patterson. “We only have one water supply.”

Dwight Patterson, who built a 26-year career and a manufacturing business cleaning up underground fuel spills, has been lobbying for an early warning system of multiple monitoring wells to detect leaks in the pipeline corridor. He also has urged for control valves on all the pipelines at both ends of the local corridor to shut off the flow if a line is breached.

Separately, Patterson has made frequent appearances before Albuquerque’s water authority board urging immediate action to clean up a fuel spill at Kirtland Air Force Base. There, a decades-long leak, discovered in 1999, allowed more than twenty million gallons of aviation fuels to penetrate the groundwater. That plume of pollution spread off the base and continues to move unmolested toward some of the city’s cleanest and most productive wells with a final cleanup plan still at least two years away.

Compounding Dwight Patterson’s concerns for Placitas is Enterprise’s plan to increase the pressure in two paired pipelines carrying natural gas liquids from Wyoming to the Texas Gulf Coast. On either side of Placitas, and elsewhere along the route through New Mexico, Enterprise is currently laying 234 miles of new pipe parallel to an older line. The 23-miles of additional pipe that includes Placitas was built in 2006

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