The view from the Summer Centennial Ranch takes in the Priest Creek area on the Steamboat Ski Area.

Photo by Tom Ross

The view from the Summer Centennial Ranch takes in the Priest Creek area on the Steamboat Ski Area.

Estate prefers ag buyer for historic Vernon Summer ranch south of Steamboat Springs

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— The custodians of the estate of the late Routt County rancher Vernon Summer are taking an unorthodox approach to selling his ranch along the Yampa River.

Allan White and Jane McLeod have not set an asking price for the 439-acre ranch consisting of two parcels about 4 miles apart just south of Steamboat Springs. Instead, they have solicited proposals from interested parties, and made it plain that they will look favorably on well-established agricultural operators. At the same time, they aren’t ruling any buyers out.

“We first want to see if there’s interest from the historic local ranch community,” White said. “If that doesn’t go anywhere, we’d look next to more of an investment-type buyer.”

White is the executor — or, more accurately under Colorado law, the personal representative — of the estate, and as such he will try to balance Summer’s wish with his fiduciary responsibilities to the estate. The bottom line is that maximizing the sale price of the ranch is not the highest priority.

All of that is in keeping with Summer’s will, in which he wrote: “I would like the sale of my property to be guided by my interests in agriculture, conservation and preservation and if possible, conveyed to owners who will make active agricultural use of the properties and practice good stewardship of the land and the water.”

Summer died in November 2012 just a couple weeks shy of his 95th birthday. He was beloved in the community for his outgoing personality and because he was both a passionate lifelong rancher and skier who served on ski patrol for many years and enjoyed taking part in citizen ski races.

Ranching was not only his livelihood, but also his true passion, McLeod said. No one ever had to twist Summer’s arm to come help them gather cattle, and when he showed up, he was invariably the top hand.

“It was amazing to watch him on a horse with cattle,” McLeod said.

Summer’s property consists of a lower ranch and an upper ranch, with the former consisting of 153 acres including 95 acres of prime hay meadow irrigated by very senior water rights dating to the 19th century out of both the Baxter and Walton Creek ditches. Known as the Summer Centennial Ranch, this bottomland is where Summer wintered his cattle. It also has a remodeled 1962 house with a picture window looking straight into the Three O’clock ski trail on Mont Werner. Routt County Road 14, where the home is situated, Routt County Road 22 and Colorado Highway 131 bound the lower ranch.

The upper Summer Deer Park Ranch is off Routt County Road 35 near the Whitecotton and Big Valley subdivisions. A mix of aspen forest and shrubs interspersed with open meadows and stock ponds, it was used primarily as pasture for the cattle.

The two parcels are under separate conservation easements. All of the details about the ranch and contact information for White can be found at www.VernonSummerEstate.com.

White and McLeod are not offering any tours of the snow-covered ranch properties until after the first of May, which is the deadline for parties to submit letters of interest.

People with an interest in acquire one or both of the Summer ranches (the preference is to sell both together) should submit a non-binding financial offer detailing any desired terms.

In addition, they should provide the following:

• An overview of how the property would be utilized in the future

• A list of agricultural assets the prospective buyer would bring to the operation — livestock and equipment, for example

• Agricultural qualifications and years of involvement

• Details of any additional community involvement in Routt County

The letters will be evaluated by a committee and possibly advanced to a second round of information gathering and interviews with prospective buyers.

Finally, McLeod shared her favorite story about Summer.

An avid horseman, Summer always looked forward to gathering his cattle from the upper ranch in the autumn — so much so that he never accepted any offers of help. That’s because he didn’t want to be too thorough during the initial roundup.

“He always hoped that he’d miss one or two calves and that that he’d have to go back the next day,” McLeod said.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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