It’s the classic story of Quaint Ski Area Community Battles Out-of-Town, Billionaire Developer. In an effort to maintain identity, character and protect the natural surroundings, concerned environmentalists have been going to great lengths to maintain what makes Wolf Creek Ski Area special in the first place.
For years there has been a looming threat that a rich Texan will move in and begin mass development at Wolf Creek Ski Area. That rich Texan is billionaire B.J. “Red” McCombs of Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture based out of New Braunfels, TX. McCombs currently owns the property at the site of the proposed resort.
The opposition says the development would interfere with the migration of endangered lynx and damage wetlands and other sensitive habitats.
Among other reasons include a dramatic demographic impact it would have on the region. The Village at Wolf Creek had an initial proposal that included 2,151 units intended to accommodate 10,000 people. That’s four times as many people as the surrounding towns of Pagosa Springs and South Fork have combined. In 2010, the proposal was revised after numerous unsuccessful attempts and reduced the intended units to 1,700.
The proposed village would put a strain on public administration of the neighboring communities, otherwise requiring municipality of its own to be self-sufficient. Water, sewer, streets, fire department, police, ambulance, health department, transportation. The list goes on and the impact becomes enormous.
Despite constant push back, McCombs has pursued his vision and has been working to acquire highway access to the property. However, little-to-no progress has been made during the 30-year period.
Last Wednesday, Feb. 27th McCombs-Leavell may have crossed the final roadblock preventing them from doing so. The U.S. Forest Services granted Leavell-McCombs permission to build the road, quite literally paving a path towards the controversial development. The Forest Service is indicating the developer is legally entitled to build the road to reach its property at the base of the ski area.
The decision sparked outrage for environmental opponents, especially because a federal judge ruled the Forest Service neglected their responsibility to protect public lands in May 2017. Travis Stills, an attorney who represents the environmental groups proclaims:
“I’ve never seen anything this egregious in its disregard for the law. In normal times, people lose their jobs over things like this. But these are not normal times.”
The Village at Wolf Creek has a different side of the story behind this public legal conflict, in what they call on their website, The True History.
The planned road would intersect with Highway 160 (Wolf Creek Pass) and would include a 100-foot wide easement that extends 1,610 feet to McCombs’s property.
Where this road ultimately leads, however, only time will tell.