Updated: January 28, 2014 at 11:20 am
The Broadmoor wants to swap a sought-after island of private land in the national forest on the west side of Pikes Peak to the U.S. Forest Service in exchange for a smaller piece of land in Emerald Valley in the foothills west of Colorado Springs, where the resort has a luxury lodge and cabins.
The deal, which has the support of local conservation groups, would solidify The Broadmoor's ownership of Emerald Valley, where it has spent $4 million on renovations to its Ranch at Emerald Valley. The deal also would add a large piece of undeveloped land near The Crags to the Pike National Forest that could be a link for the Ring the Peak Trail.
"We think it is a good deal for everyone," said Broadmoor President Steve Bartolin. "It benefits the public, it benefits the government, and it benefits The Broadmoor."
The land on one side of the swap is 320 acres of forested hills 5 miles south of Divide. For 50 years it belonged to rock climbing pioneer Harvey Carter, who dreamed of turning it into a ski resort. Carter died in 2012, and The Broadmoor purchased the property in September from developer Buck Blessing for $1.3 million.
The Broadmoor proposes to trade it for ownership of 64 acres it leases in Emerald Valley. The property sits in the mountains 8 miles west of The Broadmoor. On the land, the resort has seven cabins, two ponds and a lodge. In addition, at the Forest Service's request, The Broadmoor also plans to include a permanent easement for the Barr Trail, which crosses land belonging to The Broadmoor's Pikes Peak Cog Railway in Manitou Springs.
Existing trails in Emerald Valley would remain open to the public, but some motorized use would be curtailed.
"At first blush there seem to be real advantages," said Susan Davies, director of the Trails and Open Space Coalition, which plans to write a letter of support to the Forest Service. "There are more hiking opportunities added than taken away. It's a much bigger piece of land. And it has superior conservation values."
The Broadmoor has made a concerted push for community support, sending letters early in January to local conservation and business group leaders, the mayor, City Council members and state politicians, urging them to mail an included letter of support to the Forest Service.
The hotel, which is owned by Anschutz Corp., whose Clarity Media Group owns The Gazette, acquired the century-old dude ranch in Emerald Valley in 2012 and spent $4 million remodeling the buildings. While it owns those, the land beneath is controlled by a 30-year lease from the Forest Service. If the lease is not renewed at the end of 30 years, The Broadmoor loses the buildings.
Cabins at the Ranch at Emerald Valley rent for $500 a night per person or $17,900 for the entire ranch. Guests can hike, bike or fish and ride horses, among other activities.
Bartolin said owning the property under the cabins protects The Broadmoor's investment and allows the resort to make repairs and changes without going through lengthy federal review. "If we own it, we don't have to bother the forest with every little thing we want to change," he said.
Pike National Forest spokeswoman Barbara Timock said the Forest Service was aware of the proposed exchange, but could not comment on the likelihood of its approval or a timeline for the decision.
"There are some rare pieces of property the agency would consider a benefit to the Forest Service," Timock said. "That is really the criteria we look at with these exchanges."
What is now the Ranch at Emerald Valley began as a retreat built by Grace Episcopal Church in 1904. The Girl Scouts of America took over the building in 1911. Broadmoor owner Spencer Penrose bought the cabin in 1919 and used it as a retreat called Camp Vigil for himself and friends. After Penrose died, the ranch was donated to the city of Colorado Springs and used by the YMCA, the Boy Scouts and other groups.
A Texas oilman acquired the property in 1946, renamed it Emerald Valley Ranch and turned it into a dude ranch.
The property was used for educational programs from 1963 to 1982, when it was acquired by Mike and Katie Turley, who operated the guest ranch until 2011 and sold it to The Broadmoor.
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