Lays come through without hitting Rock Bottom (Ranch) | AspenTimes.com

Lays come through without hitting Rock Bottom (Ranch)

Ken Lay didn’t end up hitting Rock Bottom despite his financial scandal at Enron.

Rock Bottom Ranch ? a nature preserve and environmental education center in the El Jebel area ? received the second installment of $110,000 from the Ken and Linda Lay Family Foundation this year despite the couple’s financial woes.

Ken Lay is the former chairman and CEO of Texas-based Enron. He resigned amid allegations that the books were cooked to portray a brighter picture of the energy company’s financial status. The company eventually went bankrupt.

The Lays’ contribution allowed Rock Bottom Ranch to renovate a horse barn into a field study center. That 2,400-square-foot center is where students and the public will check in when they visit Rock Bottom. It also provides space for offices, a classroom and laboratory.

The second story of the old horse barn is a caretaker apartment for Rock Bottom Ranch managers and naturalists Andrea and Matthew Earley Coen.

Rock Bottom Ranch is operated by the renowned Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. The 115-acre ranch was purchased for $2.5 million in 1999. It is located at the end of Hook Spur Lane.

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Although it hosts visits from about 2,000 school-age kids per year, ACES officials believe it is just starting to scratch its potential as an education center.

Completion of the field study center will help draw more community interest, according to ACES director Tom Cardamone. There will be an opening celebration for the new field study center and a harvest party Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m.

Visitors can tour the facility, meet the goats, chickens and donkeys that reside on the ranch, and carve jack-o-lanterns. There will be a string band and refreshments. The event is open to all.

The renovation of the horse barn is part of a $450,000 improvement project being undertaken at Rock Bottom Ranch. The Lay Family Foundation’s grant was instrumental to completing the work, according to Matthew Earley Coen.

He said the first installment was received before the Enron scandal broke. Once ACES received the second payment of $110,000 from the Lay Family Foundation in February, it felt comfortable going ahead with the project. But the renovation project’s status was uncertain until the money showed up.

“That whole debacle put this project behind a year,” said Earley Coen.

The Lays pledged a total of $550,000 to ACES specially for projects at Rock Bottom Ranch, according to ACES officials. The payments were to be made each February in the amount of $110,000 for five years.

The status of the remaining $330,000 pledge is unknown.

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