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Well, I can’t help but post his to my blog. Bootjack Ranch is officially the most expensive real estate in Colorado. But truth is far from the opinion and comments generated on HuffPo about this property.
Bootjack Ranch is owned by friends of mine. People I greatly admire. It was designed to be a full-time family home and retreat center. The couple that owned it lived in our tiny town and their children went to public school with our children and they gave graciously and generously to this community. More so than other prominent wealthy families that also own ranches in this town (The Bass family of Texas).
The owner is a real estate developer whose grandfather had a homestead near here. It was his dream to help develop this community and grow it into a viable town where his children might someday live and work. But the town ran him out with the slogan and campaign to “Keep Pagosa Pagosa.” It was the classic “evil” developer versus the small, poor community. He was demonized for tearing down buildings that were about to fall down. Town Planners allowed three story structures to be built up to the sidewalk a block from land this developer owned and then changed the requirements and said he could only build one-story structures set back from the sidewalk. (He could have sued, but didn’t. Not his nature. He wanted to be a partner, not a foe). He wanted to create something viable and special. He had a vision.
Anyone who visits Pagosa from the outside looks at it as a place with huge potential to become something else. What they don’t see is that the will of the people in power is to keep the town just the way it is. They do not have a vision for the future. They may whine and lament about not enough tourists to keep the restaurants open or good paying jobs, but they don’t know anything else. The people in power have lived in this community for generations and they don’t leave. They don’t travel. They don’t visit other places. They don’t even know that they can be something else. People come from the outside push and push and change them a little and then get frustrated and move on. It’s the history of this town and it will always be the history of this town.
You see, Pagosa Springs is a small town surrounded by a larger population of outsiders and second homeowners. The outsiders have no political power. The power sits in the hands of the smaller town population. Let me explain.
The Town of Pagosa Springs is the only incorporated municipality in Archuleta County. The population of the county is a little more than 12,600 (5086 households, 2045 families) and has grown by 27% since 2000. The population of the town is about 1,600 (633 households, 415 families). These households control the county even though the largest population is centered just west of the town in an unincorporated development called Pagosa Lakes. The median income in the town is $29,469 and about 14% of the population lives below poverty level. The median income in the county is $53,200. The county residents, though impacted by every decision the town council makes, do not get to vote in town elections. The town annexed all the commercial real estate and collects taxes which it splits with the county, but most of the population lives in an unincorporated area and doesn’t have a voice in government except on the county level.
The residents of the town are descendants of ranchers, sheepherders and loggers who established the community. It’s not a wealthy mining town with brick buildings it’s a more blue-collar town with wooden structures that have burned over the years and the town has been flooded more than once. The town is known for its hot springs. Waters the Native Americans deemed as sacred, but not as a place to live, as a place to visit for healing.
Pagosa Springs sits in the San Juan Basin and is surrounded by the 3 million acre San Juan National Forest and borders the largest wilderness area in the nation the Weminuche. Most of the county land (65%) is National Forest or Southern Ute tribal land. So there is already a cap on how big this community could ever be because there is only so much land available in which to grow. And therein lies the rub. The town fathers (they’ve had the same mayor for 30 years) want people to stop and eat and visit the local businesses, but they want to “Keep Pagosa Pagosa.” They fought every idea the developer had to help the town grow and literally forced he and his family to give up their dream of creating a community for the future.
Today, the town is struggling with the economic downturn and will remain a spot on a highway for a long time to come. Unless of course Red McCombs can figure out how to build his Village at Wolf Creek and turn the last rustic ski area in Colorado into a resort. (Hint: create a three county partnership and devise a green development plan of reasonable size).
The location of Bootjack Ranch is spectacular, the fishing is great, the views are breathtaking and the current owners are supporters of Music in the Mountains. It’s a pretty darn cool place to listen to live chamber and orchestra music under a tent. It’s too bad the community has no vision and is deeply divided and split. It would make an excellent resort, a spectacular retreat, and it comes with a lot more acreage than any of the other properties in the list. Alas. It will take a very special buyer or someone who doesn’t care about the politics of the community to make it work.
Perhaps Red McCombs should buy it.