The new owners of the Elk River Guest Ranch received county permission this week to add mountain bike and snowshoe tours and host as many as 15 weddings and special events annually, with up to five of those events eligible for 400 guests or fewer.

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The new owners of the Elk River Guest Ranch received county permission this week to add mountain bike and snowshoe tours and host as many as 15 weddings and special events annually, with up to five of those events eligible for 400 guests or fewer.

County expands guest ranch permit to include weddings

Bicycling tours in the future

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— Routt County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a zone change and an expanded special use permit for a North Routt guest ranch that has been on the scene for more than 50 years.

Susan Boles, who with her husband, Josh, purchased the Elk River Guest Ranch in July, said they will host snowshoe outings with fondue dinners this winter. They look forward to hosting weddings beginning in summer 2014. The previous longtime owners of the ranch were Bill and Kathy Hinder. A Chicago man briefly owned the ranch between the Hinders and the Boles.

The Boles’ new county permit also allows them to begin hosting road and mountain bike tours. They are pursuing appropriate permits from the Routt National Forest, and Josh Boles, who is transitioning from active duty with the U.S. Air Force to the Reserves, is seeking a guide and outfitters’ permit.

Susan Boles agreed Tuesday to the county commissioners’ decision to stiffen the recommendations of the Planning Commission last week on how big weddings and special events at the ranch can be.

“My only concern on this application is the number and size of special events,” Commissioner Tim Corrigan said. “That’s a pretty big impact on the neighbors. Fifteen weddings would be every weekend in June, July and August.”

The Boles will be allowed five events annually of as many as 400 people and an additional 10 events of 200 or fewer. Routt County planner Alan Goldich said any party of 30 or more people will count toward the total number of 15 annual events. The ranch will contract with a shuttle van service in Steamboat for large events.

The Elk River Guest Ranch has been in operation since the 1950s, according to county documents. In addition to an owners’ house, the property has four guest cabins and two guest teepees. There is a saloon on site for guests and residents of the area who must pay a $10 annual membership fee, Boles said.

The 38.84-acre ranch is about 3 miles from the intersection of Routt County Roads 129 and 64 (Seedhouse Road) outside Clark. Most of the parcel is on the north side of C.R. 64, but the ranch also includes just more than 2.04 acres bordering the Elk River on the south side of the road, which provides private fishing access.

Historically, the ranch has hosted dinner sleigh rides in winter and horseback riding in summer. The Boles are shifting the focus a little; they still will offer horseback rides in summers, but horses will not be kept at the ranch and another outfitter will deliver and guide the horseback rides for guests of the ranch.

Boles told the commissioners the ranch does not intend to offer snowmobile rides but is eager to provide lodging for snowmobilers who easily can access upper Seedhouse Road and Diamond Park from the ranch.

In the past two years, several unrelated requests to expand or introduce guest ranch and special event services in the Elk River Valley have endured difficult public hearings and significant opposition from neighbors. But the Boles have only a handful of residential neighbors on their stretch of Seedhouse Road.

Commissioner Doug Monger pointed out to Susan Boles that Tuesday’s approval would be good for three years, and if they can live up to the conditions of approval successfully, she and her husband would be eligible for a less costly administrative renewal for another three years. Commissioner Steve Ivancie likened it to a probationary permit. After six years, they would be eligible for a permanent permit.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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