This is the development plan for Highlands Ranch. In total, about 24,000 square acres. The colored areas are the various sub-divisions within Highlands Ranch. To the south lies the Backcountry Wilderness Area, 8,200 acres, or 1/3 of Highlands Ranch, bigger than Cherry Creek and Chatfield State Parks combined.
The Backcountry is 1/3 of Highlands Ranch or approximately 13 square miles of conservation area where wildlife and habitat are our first priority.
We manage the Backcountry based on three main pillars: Conservation, Education, and Recreation, shown conceptually on this map.
CONSERVATION: Since 2010 we have made great improvements to the habitat within the Backcountry to benefit all wildlife.
EDUCATION: We offer a wide range of programs to get people into the Backcountry in a responsible manner that minimizes impact on the habitat and wildlife. Programs range from summer camps to adult hikes, movie nights and of course equine opportunities.
RECREATION: The Backcountry has 25 miles of natural surface trails for hiking, biking, running, and more. Along with three archery ranges.
The areas in yellow on this map are the areas we’re focusing on for this project. The Horse Corrals and Base Camp are where all of our programs take place.
The proposal is to add two buildings, an Environmental Education Center and Headquarters and an Equine Learning Center (Indoor Riding Arena).
Currently Base Camp looks like this. We’ve managed to build a business based on Environmental Education and Equine programs that will produce nearly 1 million dollars in revenue in 2022 (without a building)
And our horse corrals look like this.
Base Camp Conceptual Plan completed March 2022. The existing chicken coop, goat pasture, and donkey pasture stay where they are, the existing parking area gets expanded, and we add a building to accommodate a preschool, staff offices, and a camp/event area to provide shelter to our campers during bad weather.
Horse Corral Conceptual Plan completed in March 2022. Everything except the building and permanent shade structures are existing.
Currently, our 1 million dollars in revenue relies on our neighbors, the Law Enforcement Training Facility, to allow us to use their building for shelter during bad weather. And we do not have on-site offices.
All of our programs are seasonal. 80% of our revenue is earned during the summer months. Buildings will allow our programs to run year-round, expanding our reach to the community and allowing us to serve more people.
Currently, the Backcountry’s Operating Expenses are $1.4 million with revenues of $970,000, resulting in a cost of $450,000 to operate the Backcountry. That’s about $14/household per year. That $450,000 is the cost to manage the 13 square miles, 25 miles of trails, along with various administrative costs such as insurance and staff and in comparison would be compared to the approximate $6 million to manage the recreation centers. The Backcountry programs pay for themselves.
With a building, the cost to manage the Backcountry goes up to approximately $650,000 or about $20/per household per year. Assessments would not increase due to this project, the small increase fits within our normal course of business in coming years.
Our plan is to build the Environmental Education Center and our Headquarters as Phase 1, and move on to Phase 2 and the Equine Learning Center at a later date.
The estimated cost to complete Phase 1 is $7 million. The HRCA would not have to issue bonds or take a loan, through wonderful planning the HRCA can afford the cost right now.
The Backcountry is already incredibly unique and valuable to Highlands Ranch. This project increases access to the Backcountry for all age groups from preschool to seniors. The cumulative parts of Conservation, Education, and Recreation that are happening in the Backcountry will prove to be more valuable in 40 years than it is even now.
The importance of teaching kids and families about conservation, and in particular connecting our community to the Backcountry, will pay off as these future generations become the ones who will vote to protect the Backcountry in the future.
The overall footprint of both of these projects is very small and could not be located in a better area to minimize impact to our conservation efforts in the Backcountry.
Highlands Ranch and the Backcountry Wilderness Area: Conservation, Education, and Recreation.
For more information and details attend one of our upcoming public meetings.
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