Effort will permanently protect 40 acres on east side of park
Estes Park, Colorado – The Rocky Mountain Conservancy (Rocky Mountain National Park’s nonprofit partner) announced today that it is spearheading a fundraising effort to acquire the largest remaining privately-held property within Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). The organization will raise $3.6 million to fund the purchase of this commercially-zoned parcel known as Cascade Cottages. The Trust for Public Land is also a partner in this effort to acquire the property for the park.
The current owners, honoring the wishes of their grandfather, offered to sell the property to Rocky Mountain National Park before placing it on the open market. The National Park Service has identified this acquisition as the park’s highest priority and the signature project of Rocky Mountain National Park’s centennial in 2015.
”Opportunities to make a significant difference to a park that’s been around a long time don’t come along every day. On the occasion of the park’s 100th anniversary we have a wonderful opportunity to acquire the largest remaining privately-held commercial property within the park boundary,” said Vaughn Baker, Park Superintendent.
“We can think of no greater, or more meaningful, gift the Conservancy and its supporters could give to the park on its 100th birthday. We are forever grateful for the generous support of our partners, members and donors in this ambitious undertaking. Together, we will make the park 40 acres larger, and create a legacy for the park’s next 100 years,” said Charles Money, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Conservancy.
The Rocky Mountain Conservancy is undertaking the acquisition of Cascade Cottages in partnership with the Trust for Public Land (TPL). TPL has a long, successful history of placing lands of high ecological or historic value into the public domain. TPL has negotiated a fair market price for the property with the landowners and has secured the purchase through an Option Agreement. TPL is prepared to buy and hold the property until the fundraising campaign is complete and the property can be conveyed to the National Park Service.
“With the Cascade Cottages acquisition, we have a rare opportunity to protect a special place for wildlife and people. Together, we will ensure that the millions of people that visit Rocky Mountain National Park each year will have the opportunity to experience the park’s natural splendor without the threat of new private development within its boundaries,” said Jim Petterson, Colorado State Director of The Trust for Public Land.
The purchase and acquisition cost is $3.6 million. Of this, the Conservancy has identified more than $500,000 from within its own resources to launch the campaign and leverage initial gifts. As of today, the organization has raised almost $1.5 million. It is expected that the campaign will have a two- to three-year horizon with the transfer to the park taking place in 2017.
Also assisting with this effort, the Larimer County Open Lands Program offered a challenge grant of $50,000 to the Estes Valley Land Trust (EVLT) and the Town of Estes Park to provide a collective donation of $100,000 to the Rocky Mountain Conservancy for the purchase of the property. EVLT and Estes Park both have readily agreed to match this amount.
About the Cascade Cottages Property
Cascade Cottages is the last significant privately-held commercial operation within Rocky Mountain National Park. Situated within one mile of the Fall River entrance to the park, the property’s 40 acres is divided by Fall River Road, with roughly half the land on the north side of the road and half on the south. The north side is undeveloped and provides valuable habitat to a variety of wildlife, including the iconic bighorn sheep. The south side is developed with more than a dozen rustic cabins and multiple gravel lanes spread along a series of cascades in the Fall River. The cabins are currently rented during the summer, catering primarily to short-term vacationers.
The entire Cascade Cottages parcel is surrounded by land that is currently under the protection of RMNP and in a highly visible and well-traveled part of the park. Each year, the hundreds of thousands of visitors that enter or leave the park by way of the Fall River Entrance pass through the property. This stretch of Highway 34 is part of a designated All American Road (there are only two such roads in Colorado and only 20 All American Roads in the U.S.). Additionally, the popular Aspenglen Campground is nearby, just to the east of the parcel. Horseshoe Park, a favorite elk and bighorn sheep viewing area, is immediately around the next bend to the west. Fall River, which marks the property’s southernmost border after meandering its way through Horseshoe Park, offers trout fishing opportunities for anglers.
The Conservancy, with the support of its project partners, the community and its donors and members, is working hard to raise the $3.6 million needed to place this unique parcel within the public domain.
For information, to make a gift, or to become a member, please contact the Conservancy at 970-586-0108, or www.RMConservancy.org.