Last week, the U.S. Forest Service approved a controversial land swap atop Colorado's Wolf Creek Pass that represents a milestone in the fight to develop a new mountain village. While the proposed development still has many hurdles to cross before it begins construction, the Forest Service's decision to approve the swap of 177 acres of private land in the Rio Grande National Forest for about 205 acres of federal land has been decades in the making.
The Village at Wolf Creek has been the vision of Texas billionaire Billy Joe "Red" McCombs since the 1980s. Mr. McCombs, 87, has spent 28 years planning a massive town near Wolf Creek Ski Area, not far from Pagosa Springs, Colorado. At full build out, the Village at Wolf Creek will have up to 1,711 units comprised of hotels, condos, town homes, and single family houses. Access to the ski resort would be from the Alberta chairlift or a new chairlift called the Meadow lift.
The latest decision gives the Forest Service almost 178 acres of mountain wetlands while McCombs gets 204.4 acres of federal land for a road that connects his current property holdings with U.S. highway 160.
Rio Grande National Forest supervisor Dan Dallas approved the swap because federal law requires to the government to provide access to landowners with private property surrounded by Forest Service land.
A combination of environmental and land advocacy groups have opposed McCombs' ambitious project at every turn. Initially, the lack of road access stalled the project. Then, the Durango Herald reports that in the 2000s, McCombs had a falling out with the Pitcher family, the owners of Wolf Creek. Approval for the village almost happened in 2006 before a series of lawsuits by environmental groups stopped the plans. Critics say the project is too large and that the new village would negatively impact wildlife and surrounding wetlands. In particular, opponents believe that the development at Wolf Creek will forever hurt a fragile lynx habitat.
The drama continues.
· Wolf Creek land-swap proposal is OK'd [Durango Herald]
· Forest Service OKs land swap giving Village at Wolf Creek road access [Denver Post]
· Forest Service Delays Decision on Wolf Creek [Curbed Ski]
· Plans Move Forward on Village at Wolf Creek [Curbed Ski]
· The Village at Wolf Creek [Official Site]
· $1 Billion Jumbo Glacier Resort Still May Not Happen [Curbed Ski]
· Go Here Now: The Top Reasons to Ski at Wolf Creek [Curbed Ski]
· Find Neverending Powder On This Colorado Road Trip [Curbed Ski]