Ailing kids get place to play in Eagle County |

Ailing kids get place to play in Eagle County

Kathy Heicher
Eagle County, CO Colorado
Special to the DailySpecial to the Daily

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” A vote by the Eagle County commissioners on Tuesday clears the way for development of a camp on the Colorado River for children with life-threatening illnesses.

The Roundup River Ranch, located eight miles up the Colorado River Road from Dotsero, is projected to open in the summer of 2011. Located on 85 acres of land “formerly the Craghead ranch ” the facility will include camper cabins, a dining hall and a medical facility.

The local camp will be affiliated with the Hole in the Wall Camps, founded by the late actor Paul Newman. There are currently five operating camps in the United States and 11 worldwide. The new camp in Eagle County will serve the entire Rocky Mountain region and partner with the Children’s Hospital of Denver.

The hospital will identify potential campers from the region suffering from cancer, blood disorders and other life-threatening illnesses and bring them to the camp at no cost to them.

Tom Braun, the planning consultant for the project, said a number of Colorado sites, including several in Eagle County, were considered for development of the ranch. The Colorado River site was chosen because of the camp’s relatively low elevation of 6,500 feet ” which is easier for patients to acclimate to ” and because of proximity to both airports and medical facilities.

“This camp will be a place where children with serious illnesses can just be kids,” said Alison Knapp of Edwards, chairwoman for the founding board for the local project.

The nonprofit camp, which has a governing board of influential local community leaders, aims to raise $20 million for development of the camp. The mission of the Roundup River Ranch is to provide camping experiences that are fun, safe and empowering with appropriate medical support.

The project has been in the planning process for a year and a half. During that time, the planners worked with neighbors and various agencies to address concerns and refine the plan.

The changes that have been made include tighter clustering of camper cabins and homes and more open space (62 acres), adjustments to entrance locations, and setting aside a 250-foot-wide undeveloped corridor of land for deer and elk.

The ranch will be located in what has historically been ranch country. Neighboring property owners, while voicing support for the concept of the project, had concerns about traffic, light pollution, noise and the increase in density.

At Tuesday’s hearing, neighboring property owner Mike Luark, a fifth-generation rancher, asked the developers to move a trail that would be very visible from his property, and could cause conflict with water fowl hunters. The developers have been working with the Colorado Division of Wildlife to develop a camp schedule that minimizes impacts on wildlife and hunters, particularly in the winter.

“This will change people’s lives forever,” said County Commissioner Sara Fisher, referring to the neighboring ranches. “It is a pretty significant development across the river.”

She urged the developers and neighboring property owners to continue working on the issues together.

“I see this project as a very positive thing,” she said.

County Commissioner Arn Menconi said he was pleased to support the project in one of the last county land use decisions of his eight-year term.

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