Foundation funds land buy for Taos veterans group

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In record time, the nonprofit veterans assistance group, Not Forgotten Outreach, has completed the purchase of a 28-acre landmark Taos property with a grant from the LOR Foundation.

NFO has been working for the past year on securing the Chet Mitchell Property, or “Corral No. 5” as it is called, across the street from Cid’s Market on Paseo Del Pueblo Norte. The plot of land is an agricultural gold mine for the association, and they plan to not only preserve the property, but to use the agricultural benefits of the pasture. NFO will include several different amenities for the veterans and community they serve in the master plan for the land.

“It is an honor that the (Mitchell) family chose NFO to continue their legacy,” said NFO director Don Peters. “It’s beyond anything I could have ever expected.”

After several months of communication, NFO secured the purchase of the property with the help of the grant. No massive development projects will be built to block the viewshed in the middle of the property, and the land will be used for the public and veterans alike. Plans for the property include an Americans with Disabilities Act-approved walking path – one that people with disabilities can more easily use. In addition, a greenhouse and petting zoo are in the works.

According to Peters, the land was set to remain agricultural for several years, and many in the town feared that buildings and box stores could replace the historic acequias that crisscross the property. With the grant from the LOR Foundation, NFO will be able to preserve the agricultural integrity of the land and still utilize it for future veterans to enjoy.

“LOR is all about maintaining the economic viability of traditional working lands while protecting natural resources,” said Jake Caldwell, program officer at the LOR Foundation in a press release. “Taos residents want to see that lush pasture preserved, and Not Forgotten Outreach will use that land to improve quality of life for veterans and the community.”

Nearly 2.5 acres on the property are zoned R-14, which would allow for multifamily dwellings. Instead, NFO plans to construct small townhouse-style homes for veterans and families on the southern end of the property.

NFO will maintain a large portion of the land for farming and agricultural projects. The organization plans to have several different garden plots and greenhouse plants growing as soon as possible and wants to grow enough to have a farmer’s market in the future.

“This is all farm land for us,” said NFO Safety Officer Allen “Dutch” Shultis. “We’re going to keep it farm land because that was part of the deal. The family didn’t want condominiums coming up here.”

The LOR Foundation is a nonprofit organization started in 2007 by Ed Jaramillo and Amy Wyss “out of their belief that western landscapes and thriving communities go hand-in-hand,” according to the organization’s website. The foundation helps communities in New Mexico, Colorado, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. According to Peters, NFO’s vision and the LOR Foundation’s vision for the property matched up, which prompted the approval of the grant.

NFO has seen much success for its veterans in recent months with the addition of their respite center for military families. The center was donated to the organization by veteran Kym Sanchez in 2015 and is used as a transition and therapeutic zone for vets to reintegrate into civilian life. Adding the 28 acres to NFO’s campus is something the organization never saw happening so quickly, according to its officials.

“Kym wanted to help military families and have an impact,” said Peters. “This is an impact for generations long after we’re gone.”

Construction is set to begin on the walking path and gardens in the spring with a rough completion date of 2019 for the path. NFO held a grand opening and official announcement for the purchase on Wednesday, (Jan. 17) at Corral No. 5.

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