Steamboat Springs Del’s Triangle Three is the latest Routt County agricultural property to sell its development rights to a county program designed to protect scenic open spaces from being built upon.
The Routt County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the expenditure of $513,000 in dedicated property taxes to help conserve the 245-acre ranch near Clark. The expenditure is done through the county’s Purchase of Development Rights program, which is funded by a 1.5-mill property tax.
The owners of Del’s Triangle Three are Ray and Franziska Heid, who will donate 42 percent of the easement value to the transaction. They operate a horseback riding business on the ranch in summer and winter with their son Rowan “Perk” Heid and his wife, Becky. Ray’s late brother, Del, established the ranch operation in the 1960s on a piece of land off Routt County Road 62 that affords dramatic views of Sand Mountain.
“This one is a little different from the others,” Claire Sollars, of the PDR board, told the commissioners Tuesday. “We are very pleased to be here today, protecting this incredible open space. It’s a fabulous family operation, and the dedication of the landowners is commendable.”
The Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust will hold the conservation easement.
“The scenic tours expose people to the area’s ranching heritage, and that’s a pretty important use of the property,” said Megan Manner, project manager for the Land Trust.
Commissioner Doug Monger said he sought clarification from the Land Trust on its approach to conserving agricultural land that houses an ongoing business.
“I wasn’t concerned with the Heid’s current operation, but what might happen if future generations sold it and the new owners (had expansion plans) and whether the taxpayers’ interests would be protected with the escalation of that,” Monger said.
Manner told Monger the Land Trust would monitor activities on the property annually to ensure they remain consistent with the terms of the conservation easement.
Routt County Extension Agent CJ Mucklow, who also sits on the Land Trust board, promised the commissioners that the existing character of the land would be respected.
“The Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust takes the monitoring very seriously,” Mucklow said. “It’s our job for the long term, and we intend to enforce the terms of those easements.”
Perk Heid estimated that the ranch hosts between 3,000 and 4,000 guests annually, with many coming from abroad.
“People get to see Routt County as it was and as it will be,” Ray Heid said. “They get to observe wildlife in its habitat. And the people from Great Britain really like to put on the cowboy hats and chaps. A lot of people say, ‘We didn’t know there was this much quiet.’”