Mirr Ranch Group helps Eagle County hammer out Hardscrabble Ranch deal
DENVER — After years of dealing with zillions of details, the 1,540-acre Hardscrabble Ranch officially changed hands Monday at a title company in Denver — and Ed Roberson exhaled.
“We never exhale until the deed is signed,” Roberson said.
Roberson and the Mirr Ranch Group helped put together the $15.5 million deal for the Hardscrabble Ranch.
Now it’s Eagle County open space director Toby Sprunk’s turn to hold his breath, but Roberson said he has every confidence that Sprunk will soon breathe easy.
“Toby has a track record of getting things done. When he focuses on something, he makes it happen,” Roberson said.
Mirr Ranch Group operates all across the Rockies, Patagonia and now Hawaii, marketing high-end ranches.
It’s who knows you
Roberson met Hardscrabble Ranch owner Chad Brue, of Brue Capital, in 2014 as Brue was acquiring the entire Frost Creek project from former owner Fred Kummer.
Brue wanted to focus on the golf course and sell the ranch. He contacted Mirr to handle the sale.
Jump ahead to 2015, and Roberson was at a conference and ran across Sprunk and Jim Daus, executive director of the Eagle Valley Land Trust. The Hardscrabble Ranch was coming to market the next week and Roberson wanted them to know about it.
“They quickly understood the significance of the parcel, and the timeline,” Roberson said. “When we came across this opportunity, Toby was one of the first people I thought of. He understands properties like this.”
Conservation groups and governments are at a disadvantage because they cannot move as fast as private money can, Roberson said.
“But Toby was able to put the deal together remarkably quickly,” Roberson said.
Sum greater than parts
Mirr Ranch Group had interest from several competing buyers for Hardscrabble Ranch, Roberson said.
“It’s obviously an attractive development property,” he said.
Mirr listed Hardscrabble Ranch in spring of 2015, marketing it as three parcels with three distinct sets of characteristics.
Roberson said they figured they could sell that way, but didn’t really want to.
“In this property, the sum is greater than the parts,” Roberson said.
The Colorado Hunting Atlas lists migration corridors across the state, and the Hardscrabble Ranch is prime area for mule deer and elk migration, Roberson said.
“It really is like conserving an ecosystem. The local community will really benefit from this,” Roberson said.
Roberson calls the sale to Eagle County a “win-win-win.”
“The seller wins because he’s getting a great price. It’s a win for conservation and it’s a win for local community with all the open space and recreation,” Roberson said.
Hardscrabble Ranch is south of Eagle up the Brush Creek Valley, and has been a working ranch since the late 1800s when the area was homesteaded. It will remain a working ranch. Bowdrie Maurello was hired this past week to manage it, Sprunk said.
“Bowdrie grew up in Gypsum and has been on the ranch for six years. He knows it like the back of his hand,” Sprunk said.
Also this past week, the town of Eagle and Eagle Ranch kicked in the money they had committed — $600,000 and $700,000, respectively — to help Eagle County purchase the land and preserve it as open space.
How we got here: An abridged version
Open space is a far cry from the hundreds of homes proposed when the land was part of the Adam’s Rib Ranch project, a residential-ski resort proposal that kicked around Eagle for decades. Kummer first proposed Adam’s Rib in 1971.
A small cadre of Eagle residents dug in their heels against Kummer’s plans and battled for 40 years to keep them from being implemented.
Vern Brock was Eagle’s community development director in the 1990s. He worked for Kummer between 2003 and 2007 and now runs his own consulting company.
The two obstacles every development hits are traffic and water rights, Brock said. Adam’s Rib would have meant hundreds of houses and 30,000 car trips a day through the Brush Creek Valley, Brock said. A call on water in the Brush Creek Valley could have meant water problems all the way to Vail.
Kummer’s vision went as far as the Frost Creek golf course. Brue acquired the golf course and Hardscrabble Ranch in 2014.
Frost Creek has 140 homes on it with more to come, and Eagle has zoned the Haymeadow area for 800 homes.
Kummer sold most of his land for what is now part of Sylvan Lake State Park.
“Like all of our Brush Creek neighbors and people who love the rural charm of the area, there is a great satisfaction in knowing that Hardscrabble Ranch won’t be developed, rather preserved in perpetuity as beautiful and historic open space,” Brue said.
Recreation trails through the area would be closed in the winter, as they are in many of the county’s open space parcels.
The county enlisted The Conservation Fund, a national conservation organization, to hold the title to Harscrabble Ranch until Eagle County can raise the money to place the whole thing under conservation easements.