A ranch that’s been in the Glassier family since the late 1800s was purchased Monday by the open space programs of Pitkin and Eagle counties.
The counties bought the 137-acre Fred L. and Freda L. Glassier Ranch for $5.9 million. Great Outdoors Colorado has awarded a $1 million grant to help purchase the property. Each county paid $2.45 million.
The ranch is on Hooks Spur in the Emma area, between Hooks Bridge on the Roaring Fork River and Rock Bottom Ranch at the end of the road. It features about 100 acres of irrigated land that’s been used for ranching since Fredrick H. Glassier homesteaded the area in the late 1800s. Another 28 acres is in the vibrant red cliffs on the lower slopes of The Crown, the mass of ground between the valley floor and Mount Sopris. The remaining nine acres contain a historic Victorian house and various barns and sheds.
Temple Glassier, a fourth-generation member of the family, said she spent a lot of her youth on her grandparent’s ranch in the late 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.
“I grew up riding the hay wagon and picking potatoes,” Glassier said.
Her grandparents’ cattle grazed on the property during winters, then were driven to allotments on federal lands on The Crown and at Dinkle Lake during summers. The land was irrigated for hay production and to grow grain and potatoes.
While the Roaring Fork Valley’s potato-growing heyday was over by the time Temple Glassier was a kid, she remembers her grandparents still planting 60 to 80 acres of spuds into the 1970s. They were shipped out on the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, she said.
Her grandparents have passed away. They lived on the property all their married lives. “I think grandma would be very happy that it will stay like it was and not be subdivided,” Glassier said.
The land is adjacent to Red Ridge Ranch Open Space, a 145-acre spread that also was once owned by the Glassiers. Combined, the properties total 282 acres that stretch from the Roaring Fork River, across Hooks Spur and into the lower slopes of The Crown. About half of the combined open space is irrigated with excellent water rights from the Home Supply Ditch.
Dale Will, director of Pitkin County Open Space and Trails, said he got excited about the possibility of the program acquiring the Glassier Ranch while negotiating the Red Ridge Ranch deal a couple of years ago. “This is some of the most fertile land in the valley,” he said.
The open space program will work on a master plan this year for the combined properties. The properties will be closed to public access during that process.
Will said he is hopeful that food production will remain part of the mix of uses. Parts of the property also provide good wildlife habitat, and there’s the potential for some recreation, he said.
The purchase of the Glassier properties is among the top three acquisitions during his longtime tenure with the program, he said. The other are Northstar near Aspen and Filoha Meadows near Redstone.
“We were able to put more of the Glassier agricultural empire back together,” Will said.
Acquiring the Glassier Ranch was particularly desirable after the program acquired Red Ridge Ranch. “They fit together like puzzle pieces,” he said.
Restoring the house and barns weren’t a condition of approval, but the open space program wouldn’t have it any other way, according to Will. “It’s a real gem that’s in need of attention,” he said of the Victorian residence.
Fred and Freda Glassier’s daughter, Joyce Glassier Smink, was at Monday’s closing of the ranch sale. She agreed that her parents would be “very happy” that the property will remain the Glassier Ranch.
Temple Glassier said she wants to get involved in the master planning process and promote use of the property for food production. Will said the open space program is reviewing a general policy of how it leases its growing inventory of agricultural lands. It will consider leasing parts of its holdings for alternative food production in addition to the more standard hay fields and cattle grazing, he said. “Incubator farms” are an option that will be considered, he said.
Glassier said she also supports providing trail access to The Crown from her family’s former holdings “for people that respect private property.” She helped build trails as a longtime project manager for Pitkin County.
Recreation use has been a controversial topic. Some ranchers and other landowners near the base of The Crown are concerned about interference with cattle operations and wildlife habitat if Glassier, Red Ridge Ranch or both are used for recreation. Glassier said she believes the vast majority of trail users are conscientious. “It’s awesome that people will get back there,” she said.
Will said it is too early to say if any new trail will provide access to The Crown from the Red Ridge and Glassier ranches in 2014, as many mountain biking enthusiasts hope. Existing ranch roads were likely created by using a bulldozer to go straight up, he said.
“It’s not a turn-key trail by any means,” Will said.
Glassier Ranch is in Eagle County, close to the Pitkin County border. Pitkin County owns and manages the property. Eagle County holds the conservation easement.
Anyone who is interested in participating in the planning for the Glassier and Red Ridge properties should email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 970-920-5232.