“I’m blown away by the research and conscious planning”
By Crystal Kotowski
With the uncertainty of the Lost Miner Ranch and Equestrian Center’s services continuing as it is up for sale, a lack of boarding facilities in the valley, a lack of opportunities to take lessons without having your own horse, and growth in interest from the Crested Butte Community School for riding lessons, Heath Atkins sees a real need for his brainchild, the Horse Park Ranch.
“I want to be able to teach people,” he said. “We need to bring the youth into the equestrian field.”
The Gunnison County Planning Commission held the first public hearing for the Horse Park Ranch on February 17, relaying questions received from the community and hearing some concerns—but mostly positive feedback from the 13 members of the public present at the hearing. Atkins also provided an extensive update on the Horse Park Ranch’s development, particularly regarding such environmental health concerns as dust and manure mitigation.
The 73.25-acre Horse Park Ranch will consist of 40,000 square feet of related buildings that will house horseback riding lessons, riding facilities, horse clinics, horse competitions, training, equine-centered vacations, horse camping, concierge services for guests, and horse boarding and training for the public. There is capacity for 13 trailers, and camping spaces will be available on the south side of the ranch for patrons.
The property is located on the west side of Highway 135 across from Cement Creek Road.
“The indoor arena is key… we need to make it a year-round activity,” explained Atkins.
Atkins noted early into the public hearing that dust was a major concern of the project. The Horse Park Ranch will utilize a geotextile web on all the roads to contain the soil and keep the dust down.
Further, Atkins is working with a compositing facility out of Washington to implement “aerated static pile” technology, which will kill all larvae and destroy all weed seeds from the manure on-site, mitigating odor and flies. The compost will be tested by Colorado State University and sold locally. “That’s the key—the stuff that’s bad for horses is bad for us,” said Atkins of dust and manure.
The Planning Commission received a substantial number of comments from the public concerning traffic flow and potential noise, camping and lighting limitations. Planning commissioner Vince Rogalski had particular concerns about the need for acceleration lanes; planning commissioner Sarah Coleman questioned the impacts on local trails from increased equestrian use; and county commissioner Jonathan Houck shared his concerns about the impacts on water quality.
Atkins’ plans for development have taken into account these issues’ impacts on neighbors. He confirmed that a Colorado Department of Transportation study found that a turn lane from the Horse Park Ranch was not needed. Further, regarding noise, he noted that once the building is open, the use of generators would be lessened. Berms on the property will also mitigate noise. Additionally, permits mandate that all lighting be directed downward.
“There is very minimal water discharge on the property. The ditch would stop the flow from entering any water body,” Atkins clarified.
Regarding trail impacts, Atkins was enthusiastic both in taking responsibility for any impacts and in bringing the equestrian community together to get more involved in trail maintenance. “I would love to gather work crews like the Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association…. We are going to give people a central place to talk about the damage horses cause,” he said.
The public hearing ended with numerous positive comments from the public. John O’Neal spoke of how well the proposal correlated with the One Valley Prosperity Project’s call for sustainable tourism and recreation. Sigrid Cottrell focused on the Atkins’ mindful stewardship of the land. With her daughter injured this year from unsafe riding conditions on a horse, Carrie O’Neal stressed the need for the Horse Park Ranch, noting that Heath was a “qualified horseman.” And Linda Wilson acknowledged that while she had concerns about traffic, discussions with CDOT had reassured her they hadn’t seen any negative impacts.
Glo Cunningham summarized much of the public sentiment. “I’m blown away by the research and conscious planning. They’ve been integrating neighborly concerns—I like the way people are talking to each other.”
As the neighbors of the Horse Park Ranch, the Gallowich family, deferred their comments to allow the public to speak during the remaining hearing time, and the public hearing will continue on Friday, March 3 at 9 a.m. in the Blackstock Government Center.