Small piece of hot air balloon history has new future in Los Ranchos

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“A year ago, this was only a dream. Today, it’s a reality,” Los Ranchos Mayor Don Lopez said.

Last week, Los Ranchos village leaders signed a purchase agreement for the historic home of balloon pilot Maxie Anderson. The nearly 25-acre property sits on Rio Grande Boulevard and includes one of the metro’s last remaining plots of open farmland.

“You’ve got well over 100 acres of open space here. That makes it a jewel in New Mexico,” Mayor Lopez said.

The property is adjacent to the Los Ranchos Agri-Nature Center and roughly 80 acres of farmland owned by the city of Albuquerque.

Lopez says the Anderson family approached village leaders about buying the property last summer. He says the family wanted to find a way to preserve it as an open space.

To him, it was an offer he couldn’t refuse.

“This should not be developed into a suburbia,” Mayor Lopez said. “If the village of Los Ranchos and the region doesn’t preserve this, you will never be able to bring it back. It will never come back like this.”

Lopez takes great pride in preserving Anderson’s historic home.

In 1978, Maxie Anderson and other balloon pilots successfully flew across the Atlantic Ocean. He’s the same Anderson in “Anderson Abruzzo Balloon Museum” and his balloon, the Double Eagle II, is the namesake for Albuquerque’s Westside airport.

“His family living here, even after that, is a legacy,” Lopez said. “It just proves that when people have that kind of vision, that kind of thought and they want to make it happen, they can do it. So we’ve done the same thing.”

Lopez suggested many Los Ranchos residents had an interest in protecting the property from potential development. Last fall, voters overwhelmingly approved a bond proposal to help finance the nearly $8 million price tag. Plus, village and state lawmakers are helping foot the bill.

Village leaders say they’re still figuring out what to do with the property but they plan to keep the family’s mansion. In the future, they could hold public meetings there or use it for museum-like purposes.

As for the farmland, Lopez says it will remain a demonstration farm. However, he admits the village already has other ideas on how to use the space.

“I think some kind of a fall festival here would be possible. It could even be a matanza,” Lopez said. “We’ve already told the City of Albuquerque, this is a perfect balloon landing site at the Balloon Fiesta.”

Lopez expects the property will be fully open to the public sometime in 2024.