CHEYENNE — A video titled “Master Plan for Belvoir Ranch” is a tantalizing professional promotion of the city-owned ranch west of Cheyenne.
Featured on the City of Cheyenne’s web page, the film shows overhead and ground level views of the lush fields, wildlife, Lonetree Creek, wildflowers, a train and a map, all against the background of orchestral music. In addition to recreation, the ranch also offers potential for wind farm and solar development.
And it may come about that the dream of supporters for a great recreation area is possible because of a wind farm.
The master plan is not new. Neither is the movement to open up the Belvoir Ranch with trails, including bike trails.
The ranch, located 16 miles west of Cheyenne, includes property called “The Big Hole” that spans the Wyoming-Colorado border.
A total of 1,300 acres of the Big Hole is located in Wyoming.
The “Big Hole” currently is accessible only through northern Colorado and Larimer County’s Red Mountain Open Space trail system.
Although the Belvoir ranch is currently closed to visitors, if plans work out, Wyoming residents could access it on the north side from Interstate 80.
A big supporter is Cheyenne City Council member Scott Royal.
His vision is to have trails that would allow bikers to ride from Cheyenne to Fort Collins.
It’s been something of a slog getting it developed. The big obstacle is money.
Larimer County in Colorado receives a share of sales tax income to protect open spaces and maintain 120 miles of trails.
Larimer County also has received money indirectly from the Colorado state lottery through Great Outdoors Colorado, which uses a portion of state lottery proceeds to protect open spaces.
The Belvoir Ranch plan missed the cut in getting a part of the sixth-penny sales tax passed by Laramie County voters a couple of years ago.
Yet voters that year did approve more money to expand the Cheyenne Greenway trail system, which did get on the ballot. Their approval showed Cheyenne voters do support recreation projects, despite their rejection of at least two different recreation centers.
The city bought the ranch in 2003 for $5.9 million.
At that time the local officials wanted the ranch to expand the city’s water supply and for a possible landfill site.
The landfill option didn’t materialize. Two years later, in 2005, the city spent another $525,000 to buy the Big Hole property from Nature Conservancy, which holds a conservation agreement on the property.
The Big Hole is managed jointly by the Nature Conservancy, the City of Cheyenne and Larimer County, Colorado.
In December 2018, the City of Cheyenne leased the eastern part of the Belvoir to Next Era Energy for a wind farm of 120 units to cover 16,700 acres, or nearly all of the 20,000 acre ranch.
Although it seems incongruous to mix windmills and recreation, Royal said the hikers and bikers he talked to did not object. They said the mills will be so far off the ground they would not interfere with their activities.
The city could still use the Belvoir for grazing as well, he added.
In a recent city council meeting members discussed how to divide the $39 million in revenue the city will receive over 30 years from the wind farm which will power northern Colorado communities.
To flesh out the discussion more thoroughly, they also postponed a resolution sponsored by Royal that would earmark wind farm money for recreation development at Belvoir and for more Board of Public Utilities Water projects according to story in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle by Chrissy Suttles.
“I would like it all for recreation,” Royal said later. “I put the resolution up so we can get a discussion.”
The money to buy the ranch came from Board of Public Utilities money and the Sanitation Department fund.
Public Works Director Vicki Nemecek said the solid waste fund has been operating in the negative for years and if the council is going to divide up the money it would be appropriate to make the fund whole.
Royal said he hopes to have a decision in a couple of weeks.