Big 'T' revitalization efforts stalled


November 6, 2019

File photo

Tucumcari Mountain's big "T," upper foreground, has faded after the mesa's new owner has restricted access and kept local high-school students from repainting it. The city last month issued a letter urging the landowner to grant access for a revitalization project for the "T."

Negotiations with a landowner to revitalize the big "T" on the north face of Tucumcari Mountain have stalled for two months, and the city commission is getting involved in an effort to jump-start talks again.

Al Patel, owner of the Desert Inn motel in Tucumcari and a member of the Tucumcari Lodgers Tax Advisory Board, said landowner Ronald Mueller hasn't returned any of his phone calls since the Rattler Reunion in August. Mueller's permission to access the land is needed to begin the project.

Patel said he's raised $6,500 in donations or pledges since early summer for a plan to find a low-maintenance solution to brighten the faded "T" on the mesa, which hasn't been painted for at least two years after Mueller restricted access there. Mueller, formerly of Truth or Consequences purchased the land in February 2018.

The city commission issued a letter dated Oct. 24 stating its support for the project. The letter will be given to Mueller.

"The 'T' is uniquely Tucumcari," the letter states in part. "The 'T' is a major part of our city logo, and other promotional items that feature Tucumcari Moutnain. The painting of the 'T' was a long standing tradition for the High School Seniors until recent years. We aim to continue this tradition in a new way with your support.

"This project has garnered the support from a large portion of our community as they see the value that this could bring to our community. It is our wish that something can be worked out between the owners of the property surrounding and leading to the 'T' and the individuals working toward its revitalization."

Patel held optimism the city's involvement would restart talks.

"Hopefully, that letter of encouragement will help out," he said. "But I think it's going to be a waiting game with him to get permission to use his land."

Patel said he'd consult with Quay County manager Richard Primrose if the letter doesn't stir any action.

"Then I can go to my last resort, which is get everybody on board and involved on social media and get (Mueller) convinced," Patel said. "I'm sure somebody in town knows him personally, where they can talk to him. We'd be trying to create a movement, basically."

Tucumcari High School's senior classes held a long tradition of repainting the "T" each year. No one seems to know how long, but Yetta Bidegain, a former owner of the mountain, said students had painted it annually when she was in high school in Tucumcari during the early 1940s.

Patel eventually will seek a dollar-for-dollar match of donations from a receptive Lodgers Tax Board. Patel also has engineers and lawyers who said they would donate their time for the project.

Patel said white paver blocks laid on the big "T" would be best low-cost solution because they're less prone to erode.

Patel also is looking at installing an electrical tie-in to the letter's solar-powered lighting system. Solar works well, he said, but the batteries tend to degrade over time, and the letter lights for fewer hours at night during the winter because of less sunlight to recharge them.


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