Glenwood’s growth forcing sale of its last working ranch
Once, more cows than people lived up Four Mile Road.Those days are gone. Soon, the last working ranch in the Glenwood Springs area may be leaving as well.”It’s like murder,” John “Wince” Bershenyi said. The ranch has been in his family for most of a century. “But I’m too old to handle it.”His son and daughter-in-law, Jim and McKeaver, want to continue the family’s ranching tradition. But the family has come to realize that the Glenwood Springs area is no longer the place to do that.”It’s been home all my life and it’s hell to turn loose of it. But you’ve got to see the handwriting on the wall, I guess,” Bershenyi said.That writing tells a story of a changing Four-Mile Creek valley. A half a century ago, hardly a half-dozen families lived up Four-Mile, Bershenyi said. Today, hundreds of families do.Many of them, and many Glenwood Springs residents, may bemoan the plans by the Bershenyis to sell their 1,500-acre ranch for what may become a 270-home housing development.But the traffic created by all those residents, and all the skiers who head up to Sunlight Mountain Resort from town, is helping to force the Bershenyis’ hands.It’s become hard to move cattle across the road, Bershenyi said. Worse, the family got something of a message a few years back when Jim and McKeaver’s daughter, Devon, then a tot, wandered over to the roadside.”She got out there one day and it scared us all pretty good,” McKeaver said.”It’s time” she said of the family’s decision to sell.”It’s time,” Bershenyi agreed. “When it’s time, it’s time.”The family no longer feels safe along a road that bisects the property where they live and work, coming within feet of ranch and residential structures. Developer Richard Swanson hopes to save some of the historic buildings, but said they are so close to Four Mile Road that either the road or the buildings may have to move.Westminster Swanson Land Partners LLC, of Lake Forest, Ill., has a contract to buy Bershenyi Ranch and the much smaller Martino property. The development would total some 1,600 acres in total size, but the company hopes to maintain much of it as open space.Swanson is touting himself as a conservation-oriented developer, and Bershenyi seems fairly happy with what he sees.”He’s one of the better ones, to me,” Bershenyi said.Swanson has suggested doing things such as having a blacksmith operate out of one of the agricultural structures along Four Mile Road, maybe offering tours on the site, and educational classes on conservation and preservation. His current plans include keeping the hayfield to the east of Four Mile Road in production rather than putting homes there.Although Jim and McKeaver Bershenyi would have been happy to continue working that land, Glenwood’s growth has forced them to look elsewhere to move the ranching operations.It’s not an easy search.”Everywhere is growing,” McKeaver said.She said they’ve looked at ranches in Wyoming, Oregon and Idaho.”It’s all a matter of basically who’s trying to get out and what their reasons are, and whether you can get back into it,” she said.Sometimes, John Bershenyi said, a rancher has no heirs to pass a property on to. That might provide an opportunity for Jim and McKeaver.John Bershenyi’s problem isn’t having a willing heir to the ranch, but having a workable ranch to pass on.Too many people live near the ranch these days, he said.”We’ve got Glenwood all the way around,” he said.The Bershenyi family settled the property in 1904, and it has been in the family almost all of that time. The family sold the property around the middle of the century but bought it back several years later.A few decades ago, the ranch was a scenic spot in a largely rural valley. Today it is quickly turning into a historical holdover along a corridor that is becoming part of Glenwood Springs suburbia. And Bershenyi Ranch soon could join that suburbia, if Westminster Swanson’s plans for the Reserve at Elk Meadow become a reality.Bershenyi notes that the sale is by no means a certainty. It is contingent on developers being able to win Garfield County approval to go forward with their project. If it falls through, there’s no telling when the next buyer might come calling, Bershenyi said.But whether it occurs this year, or within a few years, the ranch’s sale seems inevitable.As the Bershenyis say over and over, and with sadness in their voices, it’s time.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
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Imagine Glenwood and The City of Glenwood Springs is slated to host a virtual town hall at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 11.