Purpose of the Project
Wildcat Ranch is located in Colorado’s Elk Mountain range, miles from the resort communities of Snowmass Village and
Aspen. Adjacent to the White River National Forest and the gold-medal Roaring Fork River, Wildcat Ranch possesses
some of the highest environmental value in the American West and exhibits all major Rocky Mountain mammal species
including black bear, mule deer, coyotes, wildcats, porcupine, red fox, multiple species of small animals and the Roaring
Fork Valley’s largest resident herd of over 200 elk. The ranch also possesses a 50-acre lake, the largest private body of
water in Pitkin County. These facts led to the core mission of using limited, very carefully designed development as
a funding source to save substantial and important land and wildlife. Ultimately, this mission was realized by placing
over 90 percent of the land in a conservation easement or open space set aside for perpetuity.
Role of the Landscape Architect
In the days before the capabilities of GIS and other environmental data-atlasing resources, the landscape architects,
who served as the project’s lead consultants, approached the project using McHargian theory — synthesizing layers
of available data to understand critical environmental attributes. An open and collaborative process brought together
the development and consultant team with wildlife biologists, environmental scientists and sustainability experts from
the project’s inception. The initial data-gathering and site-analysis process was followed by a broad land plan that
conceptualized where development and conservation would be most appropriate on the land. Then detailed site-planning
process further elaborated the location of development including housing, circulation corridors, amenities
and community-gathering areas.
The process looked at four unique paths of analysis (most attractive for development, human comfort, infrastructure cost
and natural resource preservation) and was developed to address three project challenges. First, the complexity of the
land demanded multiple data sets to be gathered and analyzed. Second, the project vision placed maximum value on
using development to maintain and enhance the wholeness, intactness and integrity of the land and its natural resources.
Third, the process needed to be able to separate natural-resources data from development potential information. The
approach had to have the ability to separately analyze all data sets and then summarize the most valuable data for the
best possible decision-making tool.
Wildcat Ranch transformed development concepts across the American West and was the first-known, conservation-based
development of its kind in the nation. The concept set the precedent for similar developments conceived since
the project’s inception. Results of the team’s efforts have made Wildcat Ranch one of the most desired addresses in the
American West. From an economic standpoint, the plan supports the theory that one may gain a premium when placing
value on the protection and preservation of open space lands. Real estate analysts estimate that Homesteads, if available
on the market today, would be listed for 10 times of their original price listed less than two decades ago.
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Planning Honor Award & Land Stewardship Award
DW Legacy Design ®
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