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John Denver's Land Conservancy Bought By Oil Tycoon?

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If it indeed turns out to be true, John Denver will be rolling in his grave. Rumors have been circulating that billionaire Houston oil tycoon Jeff Hildebrand was the purchaser of Denver's beloved Windstar Ranch, the 957-acre property in Old Snowmass that the singer and activist had maintained as a sanctuary and symposium for environmental and humanitarian issues. Until the sale, the property was also the home to the Rocky Mountain Institute, an internationally-renowned think tank dedicated to resource efficiency and moving economies past fossil fuel use. Last fall, after a period of dwindling momentum, the Windstar Foundation that Denver set up voted to dissolve itself and sell the land, with the proceeds from the $8.5 million deal t be split between donations to Aspen-based charities and funds for a new center for the Institute in nearby Basalt.

Aspen Journalism found that Doug Kelly, who's VP of Hildebrand's neighboring 203-acre High Mesa Ranch, was named in an April "statement of authority" connected to the sale of the Windstar Ranch. From a low ridge separating the two properties, you can see both the Windstar Ranch and the recently-leveled 47 acre pasture intended for playing Hildebrand's ritzy past-time, polo. The oil tycoon owns a professional polo team, along with two other homes in downtown Aspen, and faced some controversy last fall when he wanted to plant Kentucky bluegrass on his new field, which is optimum for polo playing but not allowed in Pitkin County.

The exasperation over the future of Denver's environmental legacy at Windstar warranted enough attention for a New York Times article, which mostly highlighted the sour taste the sale left in the mouths of many close to the property. The solace for those who fear for Denver's legacy rests in the conservation easement that the Rocky Mountain Institute put on the land in 1996, which will forever preserve all but 30 acres of the 957-acre property as open space.

Two points of contention remain, however. The first is whether a stipulation that a parking lot be built near the entrance of the ranch to ensure public access to the land conserved in the easement will be carried out. The second, and more touchy issue, is whether "Spirit," the bronze statue on the property memorializing Denver that was dedicated in 2002, will have to be moved, and to where.

· Llc that bought Windstar has tie to Houston billionaire [Aspen Journalism]
· Commotion over the sale of John Denver's sanctuary [New York Times]
· Windstar statue bricks Denver [Aspen Times]
· Windstar Land Conservancy archives [Curbed Ski]