Agriculture operations to continue at Hardscrabble Ranch near Eagle | VailDaily.com

Agriculture operations to continue at Hardscrabble Ranch near Eagle

Eagle County has signed a lease with the current tenant to continue management of the agricultural use on the Hardscrabble Ranch property recently obtained as open space. The lease with I/H Hay LLC calls for montly playments of $1,250, which includes the ranch operations and the house on site.

EAGLE — With a deal reached for an Eagle County open space purchase of the Hardscrabble Ranch property, Vail Valley residents can expect the ranch headquarters site to continue agricultural operations for the immediate future.

Eagle County has entered into an agreement with I/H Hay LLC to lease the 1,540-acre property and agriculture operations through 2019.

The agreement reflects the complexities of the evolving ranch ownership, however. The Conservation Fund, an Arlington, Virginia, nonprofit group, is actually the ranch owner until the end of this year, at which time Eagle County will take over ownership of the parcel. The county has also signed a lease with The Conservation Fund so that it can, in turn, sign an agreement with the company that is actually managing the ranch. Bowdrie Maurello is identified as the managing member of I/H Hay in the lease documents.

"The person who was an employee of the former owner is who we gave the lease to," said Eagle County Communications Director Kris Friel. "Right now, we certainly wanted continuity with the ranch operations while we get all of the other pieces of the deal in place."

She noted that while the lease term lasts until 2019, the county or the tenant can terminate the agreement with a 90-day notice.

Lease terms

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The terms of the ranch lease includes the ranch headquarters site — a residence, barn, corral and agriculture land. The lease specifies that "the tenant shall use and occupy the property exclusively for agricultural operations and all activities involved in a working ranch."

Those activities include irrigation, grazing livestock and crop production, along with ditch maintenance, water record-keeping and extensive weed control. The tenant is responsible for hiring and paying seasonal labor and must pay all of the costs associated with the ranch operation. The tenant cannot enter into a subleasing arrangement, such as horse boarding, without the county's approval.

The monthly lease amount for the property is $1,250.

Friel noted that property records from the former owner showed the ranch generated a gross income of $60,000 in 2016 and $77,000 in 2015.

"A $15,000 annual lease is actually pretty hefty in terms of percentages," she said. "The ranch operation certainly isn't a cash cow."

Remaining a ranch

While the county decides the long-term future of the ranch property, the public can expect continuation of access restrictions and opportunities that have previously existed there.

Acting County Manager Brian Treu said a management plan for the property will be developed to address trails, fishing and hunting access at the site. The public will be involved in that planning effort.

"Once those uses are decided, we will re-evaluate the lease," Treu said.