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STARS to host open house at new ranch

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Showcasing the new $6 million STARS Ranch property and 27-bed lodge, the nonprofit will host an open house and expo from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Friday.

Open to the entire community, the day is designed as a drop-in event, said Susan Petersen, the development director for STARS, or Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports. If needed, they will limit people inside the building at any given time.

The original plan for a big grand opening celebration in June was derailed by COVID-19, as was a spring and summer packed with visiting clients.

After shutting down in mid-March, STARS did resume some programming in late June. They weren’t able to keep the camps booked back-to-back for the summer, but have been hosting clients in the equestrian program, as well as a few other summer activities. And STARS is preparing to work with all three of Routt County’s school districts for the adaptive physical education program.

There were a few camps held in January and February — right as the building became ready for occupancy — which gave the staff “a little sense of how everything worked,” said Petersen.

One of the first things visitors see once inside the lodge’s entrance is a screen with the ski report, hanging on the wall of an elegant and welcoming lobby.

To the right is the grand hall, an expansive dining and gathering room with a fireplace on the far end and a view of the ski mountain outside the massive windows. The room is versatile and has a ping-pong table and a giant projection screen for movie watching. Adjoining the grand hall is a commercial kitchen.

To the left of the main entrance is a long hallway with overnight rooms on either side, each one sophisticated while comfortable and designed with a clean simplicity to accommodate people with a wide variety of disabilities.  Six of the rooms are designed to sleep three people, and three are set up as family style rooms, “so that people with disabilities and their caregivers have a place of respite,” Petersen said. There are nine fully accessible bathrooms in the lodge — an attribute of which even large hotels only typically have a few.

If you go

What: STARS Ranch open house and expo
When: 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 21
Where: STARS Ranch, 35465 U.S. Highway 40

“The whole point of this,” Petersen said, “is to have a place of hope and healing and have a place people can gather and stay.”

The 9-acre property borders open space and, despite being very close to town and the ski mountain, is set back from the highway and has a peaceful, rural atmosphere.

The lodge represents Phase I of the bigger vision, said Petersen.

Phase II is not likely to happen soon, she said, and is more of a wish list for the future.

Phase II would include things like an equestrian facility, trails, summer yurts and a ropes course.

At this time, however, STARS is still fundraising to finish paying for Phase I. Of the nearly $6.2 million total cost, they’ve raised about $5.5 million, Petersen said. 

“We still haven’t crossed the finish line,” she added.

The grand hall and conference room in the office area are intended to be available for use by other nonprofits in the community, Petersen said.

The building also houses the 10 full-time staff members in a space that is palatial compared to their former office at the Steamboat Resort.

And the lodge has flexibility in who they accommodate, she explained. Some groups approach STARS and request what they want included in terms of lodging, lessons, transportation and meals. Others, STARS reaches out to and are accommodated at no cost other than travel, made possible through grant funding.

Fundraising has taken a recent hit, Petersen said. She attributed that largely to the pandemic, but also noted some generous donations from local groups and individuals.

Earlier in the year, the organization went through a staffing transition and a public disagreement with a group of longtime volunteers. Gardner Flanigan was hired as the new executive director in March.

Petersen said despite the challenging timing, Flanigan is getting well-acquainted with the organization and its staff and is in position “to bring us into the next phase of STARS.”

The Sept. 10 “Farm to Barn” event — which in prior years raised enough money to cover a considerable portion of the organization’s operating costs for the year — will be held in the form of a virtual auction.

In addition to socially distanced tours of the new facility, Friday’s event will include light refreshments and demonstrations of equipment like adaptive bikes and skis, as well as information on everything STARS does and how to volunteer.

In terms of what STARS will now be able to offer, “Having this lodge changes everything,” Petersen said.

To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.


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