Historic North Routt guest ranch seeks to build lodge, boost number of group events

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— Nine months after they first won approval from Routt County to expand their operations, Elk River Guest Ranch owners Susan and Josh Boles are scheduled to go back to the Planning Commission on July 17 to seek permission to increase the number of special event guests they are permitted from 4,000 to 5,200 people annually, while spreading the visits more evenly across the year.

The Boles, who purchased the historic North Routt guest ranch on Seedhouse Road, northeast of Clark in July 2013 also are seeking to tear down the current owner’s home and add new buildings, including an event space, that would result in a net addition of 4,688 square feet of building space.

They wrote in an application to the Planning Department that they hope the new indoor facilities will help to spread the impact of special events at the 38.8-acre ranch throughout the course of 12 months. Some of the reduced impact would result from the Boles’ plans to cease offering horse-drawn sleigh rides.

“We understand that the Planning Department may have some concerns about the intensity of use of the property,” Susan Boles wrote. “We hope by (eliminating) sleigh and wagon dinners, this will allow us to create other opportunities for recreation. This was historically the high-traffic use of the property and by removing this use, we hope to alleviate concerns about our new activities.”

The Boles purchased the ranch last year from a Chicago man who owned it only briefly after purchasing it himself from longtime owners Bill and Kathy Hinder. The ranch has been in operation since the 1950s, according to Routt County records.

In October 2013, the Routt County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to allow the Boles to expand their commercial permit to allow them to host 15 special events annually, including weddings. The approval was more specific: They were allowed five events of as many as 400 people, and 10 events of as many as 200 people. They also indicated they would use shuttle vans for the largest events, mitigating the impacts on their lightly populated neighborhood of vehicle traffic.

In their new request, the Boles are asking for three events of fewer than 400 people, five events involving 100 to 200 people and 30 events of fewer than 100 people, for a total of 38 events.

On Tuesday, Boles said she and her husband anticipate that the shift in numbers and sizes of groups they would be allowed to host also would be a benefit to the neighborhood. If they are allowed to build their new lodge, that would become the indoor home for many smaller events.

“What we really wanted to do was take into consideration community concerns about the large events, and if we get our lodge approved, we can house a lot of smaller events inside the lodge. While right now, it’s all outside,” Boles said. “We thought we’d trade some bigger events and get more smaller events throughout the calendar year. We haven’t had a lot of demand for 400-person events.”

In addition to constructing the lodge and moving their saloon into that building they propose to create new owners’ quarters there. The overall building would include a special event space and a commercial kitchen, which they say would eliminate concerns about the current kitchen on the part of Routt County Department of Health and Environment.

The Boles also seek to build two new 550-square foot, one-bedroom cabins in addition to existing cabins on the property. And they hope to add some new guest activities, including a winter tubing hill, mountain bike skills course and a low ropes course for school groups and resident guests, but not for day-use activity.

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

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