NASCAR’s Gordon revved up for Aspen | AspenTimes.com

NASCAR’s Gordon revved up for Aspen

MISSOURI HEIGHTS ” NASCAR star Jeff Gordon is usually in a hurry to achieve results, but not when it comes to deciding the fate of nearly 2,000 acres of ranch land he owns in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Gordon’s JG Real Property LLC purchased 1,930 acres of the former Gould Ranch in the high country above Missouri Heights last year in two transactions, according to warranty deeds filed with Garfield County. He paid $9 million, records show.

The pastures and rolling hills are some of the most secluded and scenic property that remains undeveloped in the valley. The property has only a humble old ranch house and a tiny log cabin along with a few barns and sheds. There are no opulent displays that would indicate it’s owned by a popular, multi-millionaire race car driver.

About 11,000 acres of ranch land changed hands in the Roaring Fork Valley in 2006, according to research by Aspen Valley Land Trust, a nonprofit organization that preserves land. Almost all of it was purchased by development companies, the organization said.

On the other hand, AVLT preserved 5,200 acres of ranches and open spaces by acquiring conservation easements which limit or prohibit development for perpetuity.

Where Gordon’s ranch sits on that ledger, in the long-run, is unknown. John Bickford, Gordon’s stepfather and business manger, wouldn’t comment on what, if anything, is planned for the property. However, he made a point to stress that nothing has changed in the 18 or so months since Gordon purchased it. No development application has been submitted to Garfield County.

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Although Bickford was speaking from an office in Charlotte, N.C., it was obviously he was intimately familiar with the Roaring Fork Valley ranch. He said Gordon’s land is shaped like a bowl with plateaus that provide magnificent views, has plentiful sources of water, is ideal for running a few cows and provides excellent habitat for wildlife like deer, elk, mountain lion and bear.

“It’s very Colorado cowboy,” Bickford said of the setting. So much so that Marlboro photographed there last year for a European advertisement, he said.

When asked how Gordon discovered the property, Bickford indicated Gordon scoured the state by helicopter because a buyer cannot get a good feel for land sitting in a real estate agent’s office. Gordon found the old Gould Ranch to be one of the most spectacular places he saw.

Bickford was also well aware that two neighboring landowners, James Peterson and Sue Rodgers, are interested in conserving their land around Coulter Creek ” perhaps indicating Gordon’s direction.

Rodgers purchased about 1,330 acres three years ago in what was known as the upper parcel of the former Laurence Ranch. She’s active in numerous organizations dedicated to conserving ranch land and open spaces. Peterson is a longtime landowner in the Coulter Creek area who formerly served on AVLT’s board of directors.

While the old Gould Ranch is secluded, Bickford said it’s also only about 30 minutes from the Maroon Creek roundabout at the entrance to Aspen (at least for a race car driver). He said Gordon has enjoyed his visits to Aspen.

Gordon is on the NASCAR circuit from February through October. That leaves little time to enjoy the peace and quiet of a place like the old Gould Ranch. And at age 36, Gordon remains at the top of his game. The driver of the #24 car is a four-time winner of the NASCAR Winston Cup, now known as the NEXTEL Cup. He is also a three-time winner of the Daytona 500.

Racing fans seem to either love him or hate. None are neutral. Gordon is a native of Vallejo, Calif., and doesn’t fit the image of a good ol’ Southern boy that dominated the sport, at least until recently.

Gordon is among the favorites for another Cup title this year. He will likely enter the NEXTEL Cup Chase, a sort of playoff for NASCAR, in first or second place in point standings.

But Bickford said racing won’t last forever.

“Jeff’s always looked to his future,” Bickford said. “He adores the Aspen area.”