coffman ranch

An aerial view of the Coffman Ranch property located approximately 1.4 miles east of the town of Carbondale.

Don’t expect large houses to go up on the 141-acre Coffman Ranch property along the Roaring Fork River anytime soon.

Rex and JoAnn Coffman, who have lived and raised cattle on the coveted piece of land just east of Carbondale for the last 65 years, officially sold the property to Aspen Valley Land Trust yesterday for $6.5 million.

“For us to be able to maintain just a slice of what Carbondale was like 100 years ago is pretty cool,” Suzanne Stephens, AVLT executive director, said in an interview Tuesday shortly before the deal was finalized. “This is a very cool historic working ranch.” 

The bargain sale was secured thanks to numerous contributions, including $2.5 million from the Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund, $2 million from Pitkin County and more than $1 million worth of donated land from the Coffman family. AVLT closed the remaining financial gap to purchase Coffman Ranch with additional dollars from its own pot of funding, as well as contributions from private donors. 

“By Pitkin County getting involved and putting in money, they’re basically … attesting to the importance of this ranch on a valley-wide scale,” Stephens said. “[Pitkin County] gets the conservation easement out of it. So, they do get a real estate interest for their $2 million. That’s something that they can hang their hat on.”

Although the Coffman Ranch property is located in neighboring Garfield County, Pitkin County — in particular its Open Space and Trails Department — wanted the ranch to remain open and free from potential real estate development, especially given how lucrative the local housing market has been for developers. 

Had AVLT not been able to secure the property, “The zoning out there would probably be most conducive to large 10-acre lots with big homes and, because it has so much river frontage, that would be a pretty popular place to put homes,” Stephens said. “If you look both upstream and downstream of the property, that's the land use going on there. It’s all been divided into, basically, 10-acre lots.” 

Garfield County, the town of Carbondale and other public and private entities also donated funds to help secure the ranch’s purchase and prevent large homes from going up on the land. Just east of Carbondale, the more than 140-acre ranch provides critical habitat for bald eagles, mule deer, great blue herons, hawks, osprey, bears and other regional wildlife.

“Wildlife doesn’t recognize county boundaries,” Stephens said. “It’s always had a really nice kind of harmonious interaction between the ranch operations and the wildlife habitat out there, but it is a cattle ranch.”

AVLT will host a party in the pasture at Coffman Ranch on Sept. 19 from 12-4 p.m. in order for community members to learn more about the land and plans for its conservation. Historically, the ranch has produced dairy, raised beef cattle and leased portions of the property to other local ranchers. 

In addition to the $6.5 million bargain sale, AVLT also hopes to raise an additional $7 million over the next few years to reinvest into the land’s management, regenerative agriculture, outdoor education and other community offerings.  

“Some things are going to change, a lot is going to stay the same, but we all have the right thing at heart,” Stephens said. “This is the real deal and it is like stepping back in time. [Coffman Ranch] just has a real flavor and a historic character that I think is increasingly very hard to find these days.” 

Rex and JoAnn Coffman will turn 90 later this year, and although they plan to step back from ranching, they will continue to live on the property for as long as they desire. 

“They just really believe in keeping land in agriculture and keeping it open for wildlife,” Stephens said. “It’s been a real pleasure to work with them.” 

 

Matthew Bennett is a reporter for the Aspen Daily News. He can be reached at: matthew@aspendailynews.com