State Land Commissioner talks lease issues surrounding Dixon's Apple Orchard | News
The New Mexico Land Commissioner said the future of Dixon’s Apple Orchard depends on a new lease that will be fair to the state’s taxpayers who own the land.
Land Commissioner Ray Powell said the current owners of the orchard wanted the San Felipe Pueblo to take over the lease, but he couldn’t justify using taxpayers dollars to support the move because the transfer wouldn’t meet the lease requirements.
"The lease requires a different set of skills than the Pueblo has, and the Pueblo really isn't interested in the orchard, they've indicated to us, they're interested in the adjoining 8,500 acres of land that have special sacred and cultural resources for their tribe," Powell said.
In an interview with KOB Eyewitness News 4 on Thursday, the Mullane family, the orchard’s owners for more than 70 years, said they cannot afford to keep it going and they need someone to take over their lease with the state.
The Mullanes said they made a deal to transfer the lease to San Felipe Pueblo, but the state wouldn’t approve a lease agreement.
Powell said the Mullane family, who has been running Dixon's Apple Orchard for the past 70 years, asked the state for $2.8 million to cover damage from natural disaster.
"We just can't subsidize their move with tax dollars that should be going to our schools kids," Powell said. "The whole thing has just been a real tragedy with the fires, the floods and the unfortunate fact they didn't buy insurance is just a real predicament,” Powell said.
Powell said damage to the orchard and its location in a flood zone is also a main reason it is so difficult to find someone else to take on the lease.
Becky Mullane explained, the family cannot recover from all the fire and flood damage, but they are pleading for help from the state so someone else can.
"I know he says it's all about money, money, money... but this place means more than money; (Powell) needs to see it," Mullane said.
It is a cultural landmark many say they will be sad to see it go to waste if nothing is done.
"I'm really disappointed," one woman said. "I'd hope that the state could find some way to maybe assist the people so it'd be a win-win lease, because it's a lot of beautiful property and fruit - fresh, local - it just breaks my heart; I hope the state will revisit it."
While Powell said the sate will do whatever it can to help, he added, if someone does not take over the lease soon it will be the end of the orchard.
"We're going to fight tooth and nail to keep those trees alive," Powell said.