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Local News

Guest ranch proposed for Browns Canyon leads to motorcycle debate

Brown's Canyon one.png
Rick Brough
Browns Canyon

A proposed guest ranch in Browns Canyon, which came before the East County Planning Commission Thursday night, is offering a variety of year-round activities.  But discussion, and controversy, focused on so-called “adventure motorcycle training” offered at the ranch.   

The proposed Grit Guest Ranch, located north of Browns Canyon Road, towards Promontory, is seeking a Conditional Use Permit.

The project would be located on a little over 47 acres in the Garff Ranches area.

The applicants, Terry Woodruff and Kari Juip, said their project would be a “glamping” commercial spot. The activities include hiking and snowshoeing in the winter, small clinics on cooking or backcountry survival, and health and wellness retreats. The guest areas include a barn and six primitive yurts.

The site is about a mile and three-quarters away from Browns Canyon Road.

Planning Commissioner Rich Sonntag said his two major concerns are noise created by the motorcycles and fugitive dust. The latter are particles of soil or minerals stirred up by wind or mechanical activity.

In response, Juip said it’s likely that cars will raise more dust.

Woodruff said the project is not a motocross track. And the motorcycle training is just one of the amenities they feature.

“And also keep in mind there’s at least two major working quarries nearby. So if noise has been an issue, I thought that that would have come forward by now.  And these motorcycles are not ever under full throttle.  This is low power.  We ride them at 30 miles an hour or less.  And that’s not the only use of this property. There aren’t any residents within 120 acres east, west, north or south of us.   So noise wasn’t the issue that we would anticipate.  But we’re not riding motorcycles on the road.   We would be riding motorcycles on our instructional course, which is within our property.  And there’s zero dust on it.  It’s all sand, rock, logs.”

Juip said their clientele are “an amazing community” as she put it, who are interested in off-road motorcycle adventures.

“It’s is such an intense, an intensely supportive amazing community of successful people who are trying to figure out a way to get into the back country and explore and have adventures and do all of the things we all wanna do to escape our everyday lives   .  When you bring all of those people together, it creates a community that is enabling and supportive and encouraging and it lets you accomplish things that you never thought you could accomplish. And it just so happens that you’re accomplishing them on a 450-pound motorcycle.”

She said the median age for their customers is in the late 50’s. Juip said they pursue an expensive habit, with $20,000 motorcycles and jackets that could cost $1000.

Among the comments from the East Side Commission, Sonntag said he could support the use if all the motorcycles had to be electric and noiseless.

Tom Clyde said he’s excited about the other elements in the ranch, which support the recreation/commercial zoning on the east side. But he said personally he abhors the motorcycle component.

He noted at his home in Woodland, the noise from a motorcycle trailhead three quarters of a mile away, and the bikes speeding down Highway 35, are insufferable. He said it won’t be any better in Browns Canyon.

“I’m saying how can we possibly approve that, against properties that people bought with the idea that they were gonna buy 40 acres of isolated property in Garff Ranches, and live in serene solitude, away from all of the noise and chaos of the modern world, and then we put a motorcycle track next to it. And I don’t know if you can define things in a way that will satisfy me on the noise issue.  But my personal experience with motorcycles is that I actually, as I see them go by my house and roar up the canyon, I wish them ill.  It’s like I hope you hit a big log and break your neck and have to be evacuated by helicopter. And so that’s the context I’m coming from.”

Planning Commissioner Marion Wheaton said she feels the same way as Clyde. But she noted the applicants say their amenity doesn’t involve dirt bikes, bullet bikes or Harleys.

A public hearing on the project brought comment from only one person. Sean Potter, a Promontory owner, said he likes motorcycles, but was worried that riders will stray from the guest ranch into the network of trails in the region.

East Side Commissioner Alex Peterson said he had a similar concern. But he said he had confidence in the applicants.

“And I’m thinking of the camel nose in the tent. And I think the camel’s gonna end up in the tent in Summit County. I think some other commissioners have heard me speak to the fact that we’re, we keep growing out in Summit County. And I don’t think we can stop that.   But frankly, Terry and Kari, I think you’re a pretty responsible camel nose so far.  In fact, if a camel is gonna be pushing its way in, I would rather one that is responsible. I’ve been in the motorcycle community for 20-plus years.  I can see a group of 10 going up there and—let’s just be frank, having a little bit too much to drink, and looking over and saying, ‘Hey, let’s try that road over there.’”

The East Side Commission did not make a decision. It directed the planning staff to formulate some conditions, such as stipulating that cycle riders have to stay on the ranch property.