Golf course developers topple historic U76 barn |

Golf course developers topple historic U76 barn

The heavy equipment circled closer and closer to the big red U76 barn on the old Sanders Ranch downvalley until bulldozers finally went for the kill Tuesday. Glenwood Springs Post Independent Photo/Kelley Cox.

A golf-course developer’s destruction of the historic U76 barn Tuesday wasn’t illegal but it left two Garfield County commissioners feeling betrayed.”I’m really disappointed. It’s like an insult to the community,” said John Martin, chairman of the county commission.The Bair Chase Property Development Co. LLC is developing 18 holes of golf and 225 residential units on the old Sanders Ranch, just southwest of Highway 82 at its intersection with Cattle Creek. The big red barn with the U76 painted in big white lettering near the hay mound door and a humble little ranch house made the property eye-catching.Heavy equipment plowed up ground all around the buildings this spring and Tuesday the bulldozers finally chewed up the structures. Rubble heaps are all that remain.

Martin said he was surprised the barn came down. “One day it’s there, the next day it’s gone,” he said.Glenwood Springs resident Martha Cochran, who commutes past Sanders Ranch to work in Carbondale, also lamented the loss. “It was one of the great barns of the whole valley – a landmark,” she said. “I don’t know why they would destroy something so special.”Bair Chase spokesman Jim Wells isn’t saying. He didn’t return repeated telephone calls yesterday. Access to the construction site was closed by a gate and no trespassing sign.People who were rumored to be familiar with the history of Sanders Ranch couldn’t be tracked down yesterday. The barn was unique because it was so large and the design was more common in the Midwest than in western Colorado.Its destruction wasn’t the first action by Bair Chase that irritated some people. Heavy equipment started tearing up the ground in late March while a herd of elk was using the ground as winter range.

Martin said the demolition of the barn was a surprise because previous developers represented the barn would be incorporated into the golf community’s plan. Other midvalley golf courses have used preservation of historic structures as a way to build goodwill with locals. Developer Gerald Hines, for example, disassembled a century-old barn on the Thompson Ranch and reassembled it elsewhere on the property for use as a sales center at River Valley Ranch in Carbondale.George Hanlon, a developer who first attempted to develop Sanders Ranch, pledged to preserve the barn. His project was rejected by Garfield County because of too much commercial development. The property was taken over by a new group, which also pledged to preserve the barn.Martin said the current developers of Bair Chase are the third group to come up with a plan for the property. He said he felt preservation of the barn was part of their plan as well.Garfield County doesn’t have a historic preservation ordinance, according to Planning Director Mark Bean. No special review is required for demolition of structures, historic or not, he said.Martin, a history buff who looks like a cowboy and plays Wyatt Earp in a frequent re-enactment in Glenwood of the Gunfight at OK Coral, said developers of several ranches have voluntarily taken steps to preserve historic structures. He said they recognize the history of the valley. “That means a lot to folks here,” he said.

He said he would prefer to rely on voluntary commitments rather than create more government regulations to preserve historic structures. But Martin acknowledged it presents a problem when a company takes action like Bair Chase did.Garfield County Commissioner Tresi Houpt said the issue may pop up more frequently as ranch land gets bought by development companies from outside the area. They may not see the need to honor the area’s past.She said the county should consider historic preservation provisions in its land-use code, which it is rewriting. In the meantime, the commissioners may want to make sure historic preservation is discussed, whenever applicable, with developers at the time their projects are reviewed. The Bair Chase project was approved before she was in office, she noted.”I’m amazed [preservation of the barn] wasn’t included in the conditions of the approval,” she said.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is

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