Tony and Karen Connell’s ranch on the lower Elk River along Routt County Road 44 includes lush, irrigated hay meadows, and the river is also a rich trout fishery. It went on the market for $4.5 million last week.
Steamboat Springs Even in difficult economic times, the chance to own a fishing property on the lower Elk River, fewer than 10 miles from Steamboat, doesn’t come around often. Tony and Karen Connell are banking on that reality.
The Connells recently listed 116 acres of hay meadows and cottonwoods bracketing more than a mile of the Elk River with Christy Belton, of Prudential Steamboat Realty. The asking price is $4.5 million. The asking price translates to $38,983 an acre, and the trout are included.
“I’m 100 percent behind my price,” said Belton, who ranches with her husband, Matt, just a few miles up the river.
Her client agreed.
“River properties, in my view, have not really changed in value that much,” Tony Connell said. “They’ve held value as good as anything.”
Belton said there is no home on the property, but there are three attractive building sites with views of Steamboat Ski Area. Connell said he’d be willing to split the property into three 35-acre parcels, but Belton thinks the likely buyer is someone who wants it to himself or herself, or has partners.
Connell’s real estate consulting firm, Compound Consultants, has worked with some high-profile projects, including 360 Village, which has since become inactive.
“Karen and I are doing this ourselves,” he said.
The property is on Routt County Road 44, less than a mile from U.S. Highway 40.
A piece of the original Clarence Wheeler Ranch, the property offers outstanding trout fishing, he said, on the main and secondary channels of the Elk River, as well as the smaller West Fork of the Elk, all contained within the property.
“The West Fork has a few fish in it, but it has the potential to be a very productive freestone stream,” he said.
The Wheeler family still owns the portion of the property that includes their original ranch buildings, Connell said.
Belton pointed out that along with straight-on views of Steamboat Ski Area, the property offers quick access to Yampa Valley Regional Airport to the west, as well as to downtown Steamboat.
A change of plans
Connell originally was part of a family partnership involving his father and sisters that acquired the Wheeler property for their road contracting business.
“The long-term strategy involved a gravel pit,” he said. “But we looked at it over a 10-year period, and it didn’t seem realistic. That’s when my family let me buy it from them.”
At the time, Connell envisioned the river as a fishing amenity that would not only serve the owners of the ranch, but two other nearby properties he controls — Saddle Mountain Ranch and 80 acres perched above a lake created by a different Connell Resources gravel pit, since reclaimed.
However, Connell recently re-evaluated that plan in light of the economy and availability of existing estate lots with a fishing amenity at nearby Marabou Ranch.
Now, he thinks the property’s ideal niche is as a private fishing destination.
Belton said she has learned from experience that people buying ranch property almost always want to be reassured that they will be able to manage the agricultural aspect of the property and fit in to their rural neighborhood.
“It’s so important to me personally that the transition for the buyers of this property is comfortable,” she said.
In the case of Connell’s property, the hay is harvested by nearby ranchers Larry and Mary Kay Monger. Introducing the buyers to the Mongers is a must, she said.
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