42-Acre Cascade Cottages Property Officially Becomes Part of Rocky Mountain National Park

The Trust for Public Land today announced that ownership of the 42-acre Cascade Cottages property has been sold to the National Park Service, officially completing the protection process which began last March.

Since the 1950s, Cascades Cottages had operated 14 cabins available for rent by visitors to the Rocky Mountain National Park. The cottages are located inside the eastern edge of the park, close to the Fall River entrance near Estes Park.

Both locals and tourists from around the world loved the rustic accommodations, and many returned annually and became friends with Richard and Grace Sipe, the husband-and-wife team who managed the property for decades.

For many years, the Sipes lived in Cabin Three. “It’s the only cabin in the whole complex that has a bathtub, and that’s for Grace,” Richard Sipe recalled in a 2016 interview. Mrs. Sipe passed away in 2014.

The Davis family (parents of Grace Sipe) originally acquired the property in the 1940s and built the cabins. Both the Davis’ and Sipes’ were ardent conservationists and always hoped that the National Park Service would eventually acquire Cascades and make it part of Rocky Mountain National Park. Today, thanks to the support of a coalition of nonprofit organizations and the National Park Service, that hope was realized.

In a related move, the United States Board of Geographic Names announced that it has named a rock outcropping in Rocky Mountain National Park that is visible from the property as “Hazel’s Cone,” in honor of Hazel Davis, Grace’s mother and the family matriarchy. The conical-shaped geological formation was one of Mrs. Davis’ favorite features at Cascades and was a frequent family destination on short hikes. The Trust for Public Land submitted and sponsored the naming application to help honor the family’s 70-year legacy of helping visitors discover and enjoy the Rocky Mountains.

“Today marks the culmination of the handshake deal my grandparents made many years ago, that being to return this property to Rocky Mountain National Park when it was no longer feasible for our family to operate it. In doing so, I would like to recognize the significant contribution and effort that The Trust for Public Land and Rocky Mountain Conservancy have made to allow our family to honor that commitment,” said Brent Johnson, who led the negotiation with The Trust for Public Land on behalf of the family.

“It has been an honor to work with the Davis-Sipe Johnson Family and the National Park Service over the past four years to protect the legacy of Cascade Cottages,” said Trust for Public Land Project Manager, Wade Shelton. “Opportunities to secure private inholdings inside National Parks are exceeding rare, particularly one where you have the privilege of working with a family that has introduced generations of families to the wonder and wilderness of the Rocky Mountains.”

“We are extremely grateful that through the support of so many we were able to acquire the largest remaining privately-held commercial property within the park’s boundary,” said Darla Sidles, Superintendent of Rocky Mountain National Park. “This is a gift that will live on forever.” Superintendent Sidles said that the park had no immediate plans for the property and would soon begin a public input process to determine how to use the land.

The total cost of the acquisition was $3.4 million, but the National Park Service paid less than half that amount. The Rocky Mountain Conservancy raised $1.75 million through a private fundraising campaign, leaving only $1.65 million for the Park Service. Federal funding was made possible by the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The LWCF is funded by a small fraction of revenues generated by offshore oil and gas royalty payments; it is not supported with general taxpayer dollars.

The Trust for Public Land negotiated and facilitated the transaction, and held title to the land while waiting for LWCF funding to become available.

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund was critical to help The Trust for Public Land, the Rocky Mountain Conservancy, and local partners acquire the Cascade Cottages property and transfer it to Rocky Mountain National Park,” Senator Michael Bennet, D-CO, said. “This effort will protect open space and allow visitors to enjoy this area for generations to come.”

“I’m pleased the Cascade Cottages property has received funding from the Land and Water Conservation Funds (LWCF) and will now be a part of Rocky Mountain National Park, one of Colorado’s national treasures” said Sen, Cory Gardner, R-CO. “I’m a strong supporter of the LWCF because it allows public access to land like the Cascade Cottages property for generations to come.”

Representative Jared Polis, D-Colo., added “I am excited that yet another LWCF effort has been successful, and this time to protect one of the crown jewels of the National Park System- Rocky Mountain National Park. This is yet another example of how LWCF has had an unparalleled impact on our nation’s ability to recognize, protect and preserve its greatest natural treasures. Not only has this enabled the protection of environmental health and the restoration of critical ecosystems nationally, so has it secured recreational opportunities and access for hunters, fishermen, hikers, bikers and skiers nationwide. That is why Congress must permanently reauthorize the LWCF.”