High Points: It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood

Paul E. Anna
High Points
“Dedicating our land to its highest and best use — wildlife habitat — was an important and easy decision for our family,” says Pete McBride.
Pete McBride photo

We got some good news this month in the neighborhood — specifically in the Old Snowmass neighborhood but more broadly in the Roaring Fork Valley neighborhood.

Aspen Hall of Fame member John McBride and his artist/wife Laurie, the best of Old Snowmass, officially completed a land deal that puts nearly 2,000 acres of their Capital Creek Lost Marbles Ranch in the hands of the Aspen Valley Land Trust as a donated conservation easement. That means that a significant chunk of one of the most beautiful habitats in the Aspen area will be open space for as long as the rivers shall flow, and the wind shall blow. From John’s lips to God’s ears. Let’s hope that is an eternity.

If you have ever been out yonder to the Old Snowmass property dubbed by the McBrides as the Lost Marbles Ranch, you know just how special a place it is. Wild and natural, it is one of those rare plots of land in an ecosystem that is vital if we want to maintain the integrity and wildlife of the Snowmass Creek wilderness.

“Dedicating our land to its highest and best use — wildlife habitat — was an important and easy decision for our family,” said Pete McBride, son of John and Laurie McBride, in a statement about the completion of the easement. “It is great to know the open space, agricultural legacy of this land will continue for generations to come — not just for its stewards and any livestock, but also the elk, bear, beaver, raptors, songbirds, and so many more.”

The McBrides have been impacting lives in the Aspen community since they first moved here in 1966 at the behest of Snowmass ski resort developer Bill Janss. John had been a ski instructor in Vail following a stellar career as an all-Ivy League hockey player at Princeton from 1957-60. His first job in the valley was helping procure commercial tenants for the upper mall in what was then a fledgling ski resort. Guess that turned out OK.

In the early 1970s, he made two more important contributions to the community: first with the real estate development, which is now the Aspen Business Center, and then founding, in 1972, the Aspen Junior Hockey Program. He also was the developer of the North 40 subdivision, where countless hockey kids grew up.

In 1979, the McBride family bought the ranch they still live on and christened it the Lost Marbles because people thought them a bit crazy for moving to such a remote spot so far out of town. There they raised three kids — Peter, an environmentalist and renowned photographer; Johno, a ski coach with a storied career, including his work as alpine director with the Aspen Valley Ski Club; and Kate McBride, who is also a steward of the Old Snowmass legacy with her property on the Other Side Ranch. Together, John and Laurie, a talented and prolific painter of wildlife, have made numerous philanthropic contributions. Not just in our neck of the woods, but with the McBride Internship Program, which has sent Roaring Fork Valley students to Africa for conservation studies.

But this one resonates as special.

The Aspen Valley Land Trust has helped to engineer the protection of over 67 square miles of privately-held land since George Stranahan (another Aspen Hall of Fame member) donated the first-ever conservation easement in Colorado in 1978 to the Trust for Public Land. In 1982, he also gave the first conservation easement ever to the Aspen Valley Land Trust for his Flying Dog Ranch in Carbondale, which  played a seminal role in keeping the valley a wild place.

Erin Quinn, the conservation director for the land trust, said in a statement about the Lost Marbles easement, “This particular project has it all: significant water, local agriculture production, extensive wildlife habitat, sweeping views, and the right intentions.”

Yes, it is a beautiful day in our collective neighborhood.


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