“It was a good life,” Jane Petchesky says, summing up her forty years on the Petchesky Ranch, where she and husband Gene raised their son, and bred and trained champion quarter horses. At age 87, she realized a change was necessary and made plans to move into a Santa Fe retirement center. As part of her estate planning, she made the New Mexico Land Conservancy the beneficiary of the 262 acre ranch property in 2004. Two-hundred forty acres of the ranch had already been placed into a conservation easement. For Jane it was important not only to ensure that the ranch remained protected open space, but that it be used as a base for broader land conservation efforts.
Gene and Jane Petchesky were successful business people and leaders in the Santa Fe community. They operated The Guarantee store, a family-owned business on the Santa Fe plaza, for many years, and were known statewide for their philanthropic spirit and love of the New Mexico lifestyle.
In the late 1960s, they bought the ranch property—located west of Richards Ave. and south of highway I-25—to escape Santa Fe’s growing urban perimeter. Gene was involved with the American Quarter Horse Association and he and Jane both enjoyed raising horses and riding. Gene was also a co-founder of the Rodeo de Santa Fe.
From the beginning, the ranch was both a labor of love and a concept ahead of its time. Situated to take advantage of the best of sweeping mountain and grassland vistas, the house used passive solar energy and a system for capturing rooftop water to irrigate their gardens and fruit trees. The home was decorated with Pueblo pottery, Navajo rugs, and furniture made by Gene.
In later years, the city growth they thought they had escaped slowly began to creep toward the Petchesky ranch, with subdivisions, road systems and development encroaching upon the Petchesky’s unspoiled views. Jane was proactive in dealing with this. She helped create the Community College District, an 18,000-acre planning area that surrounds the Petchesky ranch. She fought for significant open space provisions and a trail system for the public to use and enjoy.
The Petchesky family’s legacy to New Mexico is more than just land and buildings. Jane and Gene stand out as real examples of community citizens who had both the foresight to see impending changes long before they happen, and the wisdom to stand up for the conservation of precious resources that need to be protected.
Listen to a 2009 interview of NMLC’s Executive Director Scott Wilber on Santa Fe Public Radio’s Journey Home with Diego Mulligan. Scott discusses the Petchesky property, the activities of the NMLC, and how conservation easements work and benefit both landowners and the public. (19 min.)