SPRINGDALE – The wait is over for residents of Zion Canyon and others concerned about the last and largest private property in this ecologically sensitive canyon who have wondered what would happen to the 2,066 acre Trees Ranch, since the owner of the property, James F. Trees died, in June of 2008.
For several years, Trees Ranch has been listed for sale with an initial asking price of $30 million, later reduced to $25 million according to the Mirr Ranch Group of Denver’s website on the property. Mirr Ranch Group recently changed the status of the listed property to “Under Contract” which would generally indicate a sale is pending.
Zion National Park Field Institute and Springdale local businessman and artist, Michael Plyler, said that a sale of the ranch to Paul Allen happened Friday.
Although Broker Ken Mirr said he would not talk about the transaction or confirm or deny that the technology billionaire Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft Corporation, or his affiliate, is the buyer, a warranty deed did record with the Washington County Recorder on Friday conveying title to Sanctuary Ranch LLC, a Utah Limited Liability Company, with an address in care of Vulcan, Inc., a company owned by the Microsoft Corporation co-founder.
Zion Canyon resident and Springdale Town Council candidate Bill Weyher said that if Paul Allen is the buyer, it sounds like good news since Paul Allen is known for his conservation ethic.
As a recent example, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation announced on August 5, according to The Seattle Times, that they were making a $1 million donation to the Jane Goodall Institute to study and protect gorillas in Africa. The Foundation’s media representative told St. George News that the Foundation itself does not invest in real estate and declined to comment on the transaction.
Lovers of Zion Canyon worried that Trees Ranch could be ripe for commercial development since less than 10 percent was under a conservation easement and it has its own water supply and reservoir. Three small rivers, flow through the property including rivers that shelter some of the few remaining endangered fish that used to teem in southwestern rivers such as the Virgin River Woundfin. The East Fork of the Virgin River and Shunes Creek have been designated as “Wild and Scenic” under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. As well, the Trees Ranch is bounded by Zion National Park and the Canaan Mountain Wilderness and the scenic Eagle Crag mountain looms over the property.
Trees became wealthy by age 40 as CEO of the investment management company Fischer, Francis, Trees & Watts in New York. Then he left the world of finance to develop Brian Head Ski Resort as well as Trees Ranch. But he also showed a conservationist side by helping found the Grand Canyon Trust that has become a leader in fighting for conservation.
Ed. Note: This is a developing story.
St. George News Editor-in-Chief Joyce Kuzmanic contributed to this report.
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