SHELTER NOTES: Touring South Park

It’s been a wonder to see. One of South Park’s oldest historic ranches (vacant for over fifteen years) is coming back to life. This past year has brought together a constellation of partnerships that will continue to create a truly unique land-study center for the Rockies. Buffalo Peaks Ranch will be home to a field station dedicated to connecting people of all ages to the lessons of land, water, and how we can all live lighter on the earth.

No partner has supplied us with such constant support and inspiration as has the University of Colorado Denver’s School of Architecture. Kat Vlahos’ graduate students are halfway through their second semester of design work at Buffalo Peaks Ranch. Their focus is sharpening, and it’s like a dream coming true to see their thoughtful visions taking shape.

In September, we all toured the ranch together. A glorious, cloudless, high mountain kind of day! We hope you enjoy some of the photos taken that day.

Above (click to enlarge!): 1) the students arrive at the main house porch, 2) one of the old bunkhouses (next on our “to be painted” list), 3) the expansive look up valley, as the students get a lay of the land.

Linda Balough, Director of the South Park National Heritage Area, led the students around the ranch, all the while supplying wonderful stories of the ranch’s early days.

Then we explored the clerestory barn — one of the student’s favorite structures.

The tour ended at noon, then it was off to our neighbor to the south, the Santa Maria Ranch (another future stop for the National Heritage Area):

Santa Maria owners George Meyers and Merrill Wilson hosted us for a wonderful, hardy & very much appreciated lunch. The Key Lime Pie couldn’t have been better!

After lunch, Merrill toured us through the 1870’s ranch house that they are slowly-but-surely renovating. (The Santa Maria Ranch has already been designated as a National Historic District).

And here we are at our last stop of the day, South Park’s High Plains Ranch. Owner Carol Carrington gave us a history-filled tour, while providing plenty of opportunities for the students to delve deeply into a variety of building styles:

You’ll definitely want to click & enlarge these photos of well-worn timbers!

Highland Cattle are the specialty of the High Plains Ranch. They are also a lot of fun to watch!

It quickly became clear that the architecture students were also animal lovers — ranchers at heart.

And here we are (or most of us) at the end of a remarkable day. We drove over Kenosha Pass on the way back to Denver, full of an inspiration derived from the past, while feeling a renewed excitement for what’s to come. We hope you can all visit South Park (& Buffalo Peaks Ranch) soon!

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