The Campaign to Preserve Centerville Ranch has reached a fundraising milestone on Aug. 1, with community donations exceeding the initial $100,000 goal toward $1.3 million.

Central Colorado Conservancy has announced that with this all-important first step completed, it can move into the second phase of funding. It can now secure a conservation easement for 650 acres of the property, which is just south of Nathrop on the east side of U.S. 285.

The support shown by the community has been unprecedented, according to Central Colorado Conservancy Board Chair Cindy Williams. “I am inspired by the people in Chaffee County and the action they are taking to maintain the special quality of life that residents and visitors savor. Citizens are supporting a plan that protects iconic views and supports working agriculture and allows growth.”

As a part of the effort to preserve as much of the Centerville Ranch open space as possible – land that abuts the Collegiate Peaks Scenic Byway – community participation is vital. Community-raised, local donations are a critical piece of the strategy, and support from many organizations that fund projects such as Centerville Ranch are required to establish the validity of the project.

With the local donations secured, the Conservancy will now leverage the community dollars by 10:1 or more, fielding multiple grant requests that compete for statewide funds. Continued donations from individuals, families and businesses remain an essential piece of the equation.

Local Conservancy members point out that the Centerville Ranch project is a model for how open space can be preserved.

“I see the whole Centerville thing as this shining hope for the American West,” said Central Colorado Conservancy staffer Tara Flanagan.

Centerville Ranch looking toward Browns Canyon. (Photo courtesy of Central Colorado Conservancy)

Centerville Ranch was the center of public concern in early 2019 when owner-developer Jeff Ince announced plans for a subdivision that contained more than 200 homes.

Central Colorado Conservancy worked with Ince to establish plans for a conservation easement on roughly 70 percent of the property, allowing for a much smaller housing component.

While the developer agreed to donate roughly half the $2.6 million value of the development and other rights, the Conservancy is now in the process of raising $1.3 million.

“Chaffee County is a special place,” continued Williams. “We are the community that can say “Now THIS is Colorado”*– the community that acts together to make that true for generations to follow. I have not heard of any community rising to this level of action. It is amazing. Thank you to all of our generous donors – you are heroes!”

The property is considered an essential component of Chaffee County’s ranch landscape, a view corridor that stretches from U.S. 285 on the Collegiate Peaks Scenic Byway, across green hay meadows to Browns Canyon National Monument and the Arkansas River. It contains a wetland with multiple springs that provide critical wildlife habitat, and the land is part of regional deer and elk migration corridors.

The conservation easement, once established, will forever protect the 650 acres and support local agriculture by maintaining 400 acres of irrigated hay meadows. As well, it will keep the ranch’s three water rights intact so that local waters remain on local lands.

“Throughout the Envision process, this community has been clear that keeping our beautiful rural agricultural lands and our special sense of place is a priority,” said Williams. “A priority for residents, a priority for visitors and a priority for our economic sustainability. Citizens supported this with their votes in passing the 1A ballot measures.

Williams says she is gratified that residents are supporting it even more ‘vocally’ with generous contributions of their personal funds. This will help the Conservancy pull additional grant funding into Chaffee from statewide sources. “It is inspiring, and it is critical as we work together to maintain what is special here.”

For information on the Campaign to Preserve Centerville Ranch and to make donations, visit www.centralcoloradoconservancy.org.

*“Now THIS is Colorado” is the unique promise on the highway entrance signs to Chaffee County on U.S. 285/24 and U.S. 50.