Pleasant Valley ranching traditions undergoing evolution
County approves new bridges, new uses at historic ranch
Steamboat Springs — The ongoing evolution of traditional ranching operations at the mouth of Pleasant Valley south of Steamboat Springs continued this month as the Routt County Planning Commission approved a conditional use permit for additional recreational facilities at Green Creek Ranch.
Formerly operated by Bob and Elaine Gay, Green Creek Ranch, just upstream from Lake Catamount on the Yampa River, was sold by two of the couple’s adult children to Bruce Grewcock, CEO and president of Kiewit Corp, for $25 million a year ago.
Ranch manager Bruce Enever told the commission the new owner seeks to continue agricultural operations but also wants to improve trout habitat in the section of the Yampa he controls, as well as enhancing wildlife habitat on the steeply forested property east of the river.
Grewcock also has plans to create pads and hookups for two RVs near the old ranch house, which would be converted into a “museum,” build a hunting yurt and construct a new shop. In the future, he plans to build a ranch manager’s residence. He’d also like to improve ATV trails on the property.
Of the overall ranch, 900 acres are under a conservation easement held by the Yampa Valley Land Trust.
The only dissenting vote on the motion to grant the permit was cast by veteran commissioner Troy Brookshire. He favored Grewcock’s plans, but along with members of the public attending the hearing, questioned why county planners were requiring the new owner to obtain a permit for operations in the first place.
“If this was a public facility, it perhaps kicks it up to a county review process,” Brookshire said, “but when we’re talking about the owner of a 1,500-acre ranch having to come in and get a permit for these uses, I think we’ve gone way above our typical review of private uses on private land,” Brookshire said.
He added that he views the improvements the owner of Green Creek Ranch seeks to make as accessory uses he has the power to do without going through the costly permit process.
Historic practices in a new era
Green Creek Ranch is being considered for much lighter recreational use than what is taking place at nearby Windwalker Ranch just below the Catamount Dam.
The former Gonk Jacobs cattle ranch sold to a private fishing trout operation for $21.9 million in 2007 and resold for $17.65 million in March 2012. The new owners won county approval to build a private lodge and three “cabins” lacking kitchens.
However, by 2014, the county had amended the original permit to allow tennis and basketball courts to be built and allowed non-motorized boating on a pond at Windwalker.
Last year, the county approved another change at Windwalker involving construction of a nine-hole private executive golf course that was nearing completion this fall.
Permit or not?
Earlier in this month’s meeting, County Planner Alan Goldich told the commissioners that it was the sum total and variety of uses planned by Grewcock that raised his plans to another level of regulation.
“The conditional use permit was required because of all of the elements,” Goldich said. “If it was just one, it might be deemed accessory to the ranch.”
An example, Goldich offered, is the applicant’s desire to formalize RV camping pads near the ranch house and how that fits with the county regulations that permit a maximum of 90 days of camping on private property.
Planning Director Chad Phillips added the existence of the permit provides the county with a means of responding to any future public complaints about the intensity of use on the ranch.
North Routt resident Paul Hoffman spoke against the county’s requirement of a permit in this case during public comment
“This is a single property owner that has uses by right and wants to enhance the property,” Hoffman said. “It doesn’t seem appropriate for us as a county to say you have to have a permit … There is nothing in this that is outside of a use by right.”
Yampa Valley Land Trust Executive Director Susan Dorsey agreed.
“Bruce Enever and Bruce Grewcock have been top-notch communicators in regards to the (conservation) easement on Green Creek Ranch,” she said. “All of the activities proposed for this ranch are consistent with the terms of the easement. The ATV trails are on existing ranch roads. Why it needs a CUP is beyond me.”
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