EPISODE BREAKDOWN

S01 E03 - VERMEJO, TED TURNER RESERVE 

THIS EPISODE

In Episode 3 Richard travels to New Mexico, USA, to visit Vermejo, a Ted Turner Reserve.  Four hours from the Denver airport and 45 minutes from Raton, New Mexico, (the closest one-horse town), sits the the gates of Vermejo Park Ranch. 

 

About Vermejo, a Ted Turner Reserve

Today Turner owns about 2 million acres across the United States, making him the second-largest private landowner in the country. Vermejo Park Ranch is considered his flagship property, some 585,000 acres straddling the New Mexico-Colorado border, which he purchased in 1996.

 

The resort is also in line with Turner's plan to open his ranches to a broader swath of nature lovers—the luxury-seeking kind who would never stay at a typical hunting lodge. The aim is to re-create the national park experience on private, virtually uninhabited land.

 

The Turner Endangered Species Fund protects a variety of creatures, and the Turner Foundation aims to prevent environmental damage. Turner plans to place much of his land under conservation easement, to stave off future development, and as we see later in the episode has a particular fascination with bison, which were nearly extinct before he set about bringing them back. Turner started his bison herd some 35 years ago with 3 and now maintains about 52,000--they reproduce quickly and are a sustainable food source.

 

The Accomodation - Casa Grande

Richard is shown around the ranch by Jade McBride, the manager of Vermjeo Pa rk Ranch and they start at Casa Grande which was once Ted Turner, and his then wife Jane Fonda’s, private quarters. Casa Grande is a renovated 25,000-square-foot stone mansion that blends Southwestern accents with 1900s grandeur.

 

Casa Grande was built from 1907 to 1909 by a wealthy Chicago grain trader, William Bartlett, who aimed to bring luxury to his western hunting and fishing paradise. He moved huge marble columns once destined for a Chicago bank to New Mexico and hired one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s mentors, Joseph Lyman Silsbee, to design his casa. Antiques litter the rooms and hallways including the two Steinways, one a concert grand from the now-defunct Denver Symphony, the other an upright that had been burned and had sat in the basement for decades.

 

The Casa Grande features a replica of William Bartlett’s office, with a huge old bank safe and meticulous ledgers of every visit, including the $14.50 the Boyle family was charged for eight days of horse riding (at 50 cents an hour) in 1927. The renovators even found a place in Chicago that provided a small amount of period wallpaper similar to the original. 

 

Another distinctive part of the mansion is Ted’s master-bedroom suite. It has a queen-sized bed with a big carved headboard, a huge sparkling-white bathroom with an antique tub and modern shower, and two dressing areas, one reserved for Turner.

 

Over the decades Casa Grande has been a private home, a fancy lodge, and even a club for such Hollywood stars as Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford.

 

Turner House (Casa Minor)

Another property on the reserve that guests can stay in is Casa Minor, which is now known as Turner House.  It sits on the north side of the main lodge. Casa Minor was completed in 1907. The two-story residence is built of sandstone and Ponderosa pine wood, with roofs of red tile. Entered through the covered walkway on the right, the structure’s asymmetric main facade is anchored, not by a door, but by its projecting enclosed porch, which wraps around the building’s right side to the main entrance. The main entrance opens into the enclosed porch, which leads to a large central living area. Private rooms wrap around the back of the first floor, and a central staircase leads to the second floor, which has eight bedrooms.

 

High Country Lodge 

Costilla Fishing Lodge is a wonderfully secluded getaway, located 45 minutes from the Main Lodge.  Tucked away in high country at 10,000 feet in elevation, Costilla Fishing Lodge offers direct access to untamed wilderness and fishing lakes. Constructed using the property’s own timber and stone, this solar powered eco-friendly lodge is certified LEED Silver.  Richard enjoys incredible views from the expansive porch, relaxes in front of the grand stone fireplace, and enjoys meals from a dedicated chef.

 

Things to do 

Richard has time to enjoy some of the resort’s adventure and conservation-minded activities such as hiking, archery, skeet shooting and horseback riding. The ranch offers great wildlife spotting opportunities as Richard discovered upon catching a glimpse of the wild bears roaming freely across the Vermejo property. 

 

Conservation

Richard is shown a couple of the reserve’s conservation projects. Vermejo are committed to fostering the preservation and restoration of the native ecosystems that support the diversity of life around the resort. This mission is best seen in the protection and repopulation of imperilled American bison and Rio Grande cutthroat trout. The property’s forest health and stream restoration projects have resulted in an abundance of wildlife species making their home on Vermejo.

 

CASTLE ROCK BISON

Vermejo is home to the genetically unique Castle Rock bison herd, which originated in part from the herd in Yellowstone National Park, one of the last strongholds for truly wild bison in the US. The genetics of the Castle Rock bison are especially important for supporting efforts to re-establish wild herds of bison and maintaining the genetic diversity of the species. The herd is actively managed to promote its growth and security.  

RIO GRANDE CUTTHROAT TROUT REINTRODUCTION 

Vermejo collaborated with numerous conservation partners to restore the Rio Grande cutthroat trout to the entire Costilla Creek watershed on the property.  Including streams on the neighbouring Carson National Forest, this project encompasses more than 100 miles of stream habitat and 18 lakes. Scheduled for full implementation by 2020, this effort represents a 20% increase in stream length occupied by Rio Grande cutthroat trout.  The project is the largest contiguous effort on behalf of native trout in North America to date.    

 

Renewable Energy

Richard takes the 3 hour trip to the Cimarron Solar plant that lies adjacent to the Vermejo Park Ranch and is owned by Turner Renewable Energy.

The plant consists of nearly 500,000 advanced thin film photovoltaic (PV) modules and approximately 65,000 tables or solar panel supports were installed to hold the PV modules. It is one of the largest utility scale solar power plants in the US. The $100m plant powers approximately 9,000 households. It will reduce CO2 emissions by more than 45,000t per year. The electricity generated is delivered to Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association as part of a 25-year power purchase agreement.  Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association is a not-for-profit supplier of wholesale electricity to 44 electric cooperatives. It supplies power to approximately 1.5m consumers across Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming.

 

Wild Wild West

Richard wraps up his New Mexico trip with a visit to the Old West town of Cimarron and the St. James Hotel, built in 1872, where the bar’s pressed silver ceiling is punctured by over 20 bullet holes.  A kaleidoscope of colourful characters frequented the saloon and or stayed in the hotel. The Earp brothers and their wives stopped at the hotel on their way to Tombstone. Buffalo Bill Cody became a friend of the hotel’s owners and was present when their son, Fred was born. While visiting the St. James he visualised plans for his "Wild West Show" to include Annie Oakley.

Lew Wallace, former Governor of New Mexico, wrote part of his novel "Ben Hur" during his visits to this area.  The hotel’s original period rooms boast the names of former guests such as Annie Oakley, Kit Carson, Jesse James, Davy Crockett and Doc Holiday.

 

 

ECO SCORECARD:

Minimal Impact         A+

Sustainability         A

Social Responsibility     B

Guest Experience     B    

 

Summary:

Richard is clearly impressed with the Ted Turner Reserve’s commitment to restoring, sharing and safeguarding America’s wild places for future generations all the while providing an inspiring guest experience that showcases the planet’s natural treasures.

 

What is most impressive is that the reserve is not only working towards sustainability and limited impact on the land but are actively working on reintroduction and restoration programmes that are positively rejuvenating the land’s biodiversity and topography. So in this case it is not so much that a trip to Vermejo would Leave No Trace, it actually leaves a better trace!

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