Caverns operators now also caves’ owners |

Caverns operators now also caves’ owners

The owners of Glenwood Caverns have purchased the land that’s home to their underground attraction.

Steve and Jeanne Beckley of Glenwood Springs bought 80 acres from Pete and Mary Trebble March 8. The Beckleys previously had leased the property that is home to the historic Fairy Caves and the much-newer Glenwood Caverns.

Steve Beckley declined to reveal the purchase price. He said he and his wife purchased the stock of POW Inc., which owns the caves area and was 100 percent controlled by the Prebbles.

Beckley said he had had an option to buy the 40 acres containing the entrance to the caves, but Pete Prebble also offered to sell another 40 that sits over a portion of the underground passages. The question of underground access to caves from an adjacent property is a murky legal area, put to rest in the Beckleys’ case by the additional purchase.

The additional acreage also is home to the communications towers on top of Iron Mountain.

The purchase includes bulldozers and other equipment on the property. Beckley said he plans to remove a trailer located lower down the mountain.

“I’m sure a lot of people on Oasis Creek will be happy that’s gone,” he said.

Beckley said it’s a big relief to now own the land that is home to the popular new tourist attraction.

“Absolutely. It’s just one less headache,” he said.

Beckley now either owns or has easement agreements for an entire route from the caves to the bottom of the mountain, and he hopes to build a tramway providing year-round access to the caves. Currently, tourists are driven by bus up Transfer Trail to the attraction, and it is closed half the year.

Glenwood Tramway, a separate corporation owned by Beckley and partner Chuck Petersen, a professional tramway engineer and consultant, has a contract to buy a 3-acre lot for a tramway station next to the new Land Rover dealership.

The purchase is contingent on the city approving the tramway and a 68-room hotel that would be located at its base. A private developer would build the hotel.

Glenwood Tramway also has negotiated with five landowners in order to obtain the rights to build the tram. It has obtained a 60-foot-wide easement that would be home to structures to support the tram cables and would allow passage of the tram gondolas to the caves.

Beckley, who has previously proposed other routes for the tramway, said he’s glad to have all the easements and access issues lined up ahead of city review. In the past, he said, he obtained city approval but the project faltered over the lack of easements.

The city has approved the conceptual plan for the latest tramway proposal. Beckley expects the city Planning and Zoning Commission to take up the matter this spring.

He hopes to begin construction on the project in July, so it can open by December.

Beckley said the land Glenwood Tramway plans to buy at the base is currently owned by Bruce Ross of Basalt.

Beckley hopes the city sees his proposal as preferable to other uses that could occur on the property.

“We certainly don’t need another car dealership right now, I don’t think,” he said.

He believes visitation at the caves will increase from 38,000 last season to more than 100,000 people a year if the caves open year-round.

“Eventually we’ll prevail and Glenwood will prevail. … It’s a great project and if you do it right it’s going to be very beneficial to everybody here.”

Beckley plans to build a shop, snack bar and 2,500-square-foot deck at the top of the tramway. Besides the caves, the tramway would provide access to scenic overlooks of Glenwood and the surrounding region, and mountain biking and other recreation.

Beckley also plans to provide for gemstone hunting and cutting at the caves, and create an underground classroom where children can learn about bats and geology.

The purchase of the extra 40 acres should allow access to cross-country skiing trails and picnic areas, he said. A planned astronomical observatory also probably will be located on that additional acreage, he said.

He said he plans to be discreet in lighting of amenities at the cave entrance.

“Our goal is to make it so you can’t see what’s going on up top” from town, he said.

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