by Marissa Lorenz
Grand County has been a land of boom and bust since it was first settled and homesteaded by American pioneers in the 1870s.
The first settlers were able to shore up on 160 acres of land if they met Homestead Act requirements. And ownership and/or access to land and resources became the primary basis for wealth, whether it allowed for economic growth through mining, ranching, or more recent recreation opportunities.
But the remote mountains can be a difficult place to thrive, and the names on land deeds have changed often, with only a few pioneering families remaining for more than one or two generations.
And as ownership changes, so too can the nature of usage, such as when forested land is cleared for agricultural purposes or when land historically used for agriculture is developed into residential subdivisions or commercial parks.
So who is buying area lands and properties now, joining today’s directors of Grand County’s evolution?
A recent land transfer saw the notable $8,370,000 sale of the Troublesome Valley Ranch to Middlefork, LLC–a company owned by developers Robert “Bob” and David Glarner, of St. Louis, Missouri.
The Glarner brothers are long-time real-estate developers and commercial lessors in the St. Louis area, where they are each the registered agent behind a handful of different corporations. But the pair has also been investing in Grand County for several years.
Since 2017, the Glarners, as Middlefork, LLC, have purchased 14 parcels in west Grand County, many with ag status and along local waterways. It owns 136 acres along Muddy Creek below the Kremmling Cliffs. It bought around 170 acres within and adjacent to Hot Sulphur Springs, where a conflict with the Town arose when previously open fishing access on the Colorado River was restricted. And it owns a 0.36 acre parcel in Granby Ranch.
In May 2021, the Glarners invested nearly $30 million in Granby Ranch Resort and its residential development.
Their company, GR Terra, LLC, purchased 20-some parcels in Granby Ranch, including 297 acres of ag land and 156 acres of commercially-zoned property, for $9,000,000. An associate company, GRCO, LLC, completed a $20,000,000 purchase of about 145 parcels, mostly as-yet undeveloped residential lots, in the Granby Ranch, Silvercreek West, and Red Dirt Hill areas.
Signs of change soon followed, with the Resort expanding snowmaking access, from 38 to 115 acres, and with the announcement of a new training venue, in partnership with Olympic gold medalist and World Cup champion, alpine skier Bode Miller. Plans for the ski academy include a ski-in/ski-out dormitory, classrooms, and training courses for Giant Slalom, Slalom, moguls, and Junior Super G.
The Glarners’ most recent purchase, Troublesome Valley Ranch, is a historic property, homesteaded by Ed Becker in 1882, one of the first to do so in the Valley. It has passed through a number of notable Kremmling ranch families, those of Lillie Becker, Fred Grimes, and Clayton Hill. Since 1964, it has been operated as a cow-calf ranch by the Wall/Petersen family.
The 2,200-acre portion purchased by Middlefork, LLC consists of two parcels of productive ranch land. The 2021 sales listing touts an average production of 1,200 tons of hay a year and capacity for between 250 and 300 mother cows.
The property is also water rich, with a four-acre reservoir, two miles of the wild Troublesome Creek–a prized fishery–and water rights that can never be threatened by the feared, drought-driven water calls from further down the Colorado River Basin.
But Middlefork, LLC has reportedly indicated that the Glarners do not intend to continue the tradition of ranching the desirable land themselves, bringing the heritage ranch property one step closer to possible change of use.
And while land-use changes can mean economic opportunity through development/construction and population and consumer growth, they can also mean loss of landscape, loss of access to resources, and a loss of tradition and heritage–not just the stories, but the activities and lifestyle that drew many residents in the first place.
If such changes were to occur on the Troublesome under Middleton, LLC, they would certainly not be the first of their kind in Grand County. In the nearly 150 years since the county was founded and Ed Becker and other early American pioneers began homesteading in the area, there has been much change of land use and community transformation.
And only time will tell what next changes are in store for Grand County’s future.