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A Brief History of Bell Mountain Ranch Equestrian Center

By no means is this an exhaustive history of the area now inhabited by Bell Mountain Ranch Equestrian Center. Dating back to a time before Colorado joined the union, this area has been home to equestrians, cattle ranchers, miners, homesteaders, farmers, families, and communities. As a part of this grand history, bell mountain ranch equestrian Center embraces the past to build a better future.

Pioneers have been described as those who have gone before, preparing the way for others to follow. There have been many whose footprints have paved the way on Bell Mountain.

The first recorded land owners were Oliver and John Gaff in 1870. They were followed by a long list of homesteaders, including John Bell, who filed a land patent in 1917. He was listed as a farmer and, according to tradition, the ranch was named for him. Over the years, Bell Mountain land has been used for farming, ranching, logging, and mining. The last recorded homesteader was George and William Medinger, who were cattle ranchers. Over the years, these property owners have left their mark on Bell Mountain and provided an amazing heritage for others.

Ed Young and Carol Nelson

Ed’s grandfather came to Denver and started Cambridge Dairy Farm when the land was just large farms and dirt roads. Both his grandfather and father spent their lives building the dairy business.

Carol Nelson with Ed Young  (photo © Schlenzig) .

Ed, however, preferred playing music, flying, and riding horses to running a dairy farm. With his parents’ passing, he became an entrepreneur, building several business including the Cherry Creek Inn. In 1965 he purchased 1,700 acres of Bell Mountain property. Although the ranch itself was run down, it was a beautiful piece of land with an excellent location off Highway 25. This was the beginning of Cambridge Morgan Ranch.

During the next 35 years Ed, with the help of Carol Nelson, built the ranch into a top Morgan horse breeding farm in the United States. Ed loved riding and was part of an elite group called the Roundup Riders of the Rockies who spent a week each year riding in the Colorado Rockies. They also enjoyed numerous rides on the Bell Mountain property and several of the members boarded their horses at the ranch.

Carol Nelson, a Local Legend

Carol Nelson believes her life began in 1968 when she first visited Bell Mountain Ranch. Having frequently noticed the ranch and the beautiful panoramic view while commuting back and forth to work, Carol finally got up the nerve to stop and meet Ed Young and his Morgan horses. A single mother with a Morgan horse of her own, she began visiting the ranch regularly and eventually took over running of ranch and training the horses.

During the 35 years Carol managed the ranch, her horses won fourteen World Championships, including the Grand Champion mare and World Champion Reining horse. Bell Mountain Ranch’s horses were sold all over the country and one was sold to a large ranch in Venezuela (Windchant) as a breeding stud. Many of the streets in the Bell Mountain Ranch subdivision today are named after Ed and Carol’s horses, including Windchant, Bold Sun (who was a Grand Champion Stock Horse), Enchantra, and Vanguard.

Anything you could do with a horse, our horses could do with style.

~Carol Nelson

Many people spend years on their street without giving a thought to where its name came from. Residents of Bell Mountain Ranch unknowingly enjoy a special connection to the Equestrian Center, as many of the street names in the community were named after the talented horses bred and trained by Carol Nelson and Ed Young.

Mickey Fouts and Renovations

Wildflowers and Bluebirds are just a small part of the legacy Mickey Fouts left on Bell Mountain Ranch. His vision can be felt in every stable, in every step of the horse trails, in every detail of the equestrian center.

  One of the hundreds of bluebird feeders Mickey installed on the grounds.

One of the hundreds of bluebird feeders Mickey installed on the grounds.

When Mickey took over the property in 1999, the Ranch was in a complete state of disrepair. The two houses on the property did not meet building codes, the stables were not in working condition, and the rest of the structures needed serious work. Over the next few years, Mickey began work on reclaiming and renovating the property. Mickey, with matching contributions by the Bell Mountain Ranch developer, also contributed to the purchase of 40 pounds of wildflower seeds to spread along the trails and open space as well as 250 Blue Bird houses which were purchased from the Colorado Division of Wildlife. These were mounted throughout the community.

On July 1, 2004, he drew the building permit and started construction on the Indoor Arena which would include attached box stalls. Despite increased steel costs, the EagleSpan arena was completed in December that same year.

In five years’ time, Mickey built an equestrian facility that would be a positive and long-term addition to the Bell Mountain community. Over the next couple of years, more upgrades were made to the equestrian facilities and Mickey subsidized the day to day operations of the ranch. Mickey Fouts’ efforts at Bell Mountain were a labor of love and a wonderful legacy to those who follow.

Hiking and Horse Trails

Bell Mountain Ranch, with its rolling hills, private mountains, and abundant wildlife, was promoted from the beginning as an equestrian community with hiking and horse trails.

  Walking or riding the trails provides visitors with views of trees, grasses, wildlife, and wildflowers,  true Colorado experience.

Walking or riding the trails provides visitors with views of trees, grasses, wildlife, and wildflowers,  true Colorado experience.

The hiking and equestrian trail system was set up to be part of the Bell Mountain extensive open space and included portions of the 305 residential lots and commercial space. Together, these would form approximately 27 miles of hiking and horse trails and would be one of Bell Mountain’s “primary amenities.”

In early 2000, Mickey Fouts signed a joint funding contract with the Bell Mountain Ranch Metro District to build the trails within Bell Mountain Ranch. With the assistance of Al Hawkins, who voluntarily laid out all the trails with a handheld GPS system, they personally walked every mile of the trails over the next three years, constructing the trails as they went. The spring of 2003 brought the completion of the trails and the arrangement of a trail maintenance agreement to keep the trails beautiful and in good repair.

With the completion of the trails in the Spring of 2003, Bell Mountain Ranch proceeded with a contract to maintain them. However, when the Metro District requested that the maintenance be turned over to them a year later, Mickey was relieved to no longer have the extra work and costs involved.

Then and Now

We dedicate Bell Mountain Ranch Equestrian Center to the pioneers that shaped her past, to the dedicated equestrian professionals who guided her through all of her challenges, and to the future passionate horse lovers who will determine her future.

This area has been a part of the community in Castle Rock, Colorado since before Colorado joined the Union. It has served equestrians, cattle ranchers, miners, homesteaders, farmers, families, and communities.

Our vision for the future of Bell Mountain Ranch Equestrian Center  is to renovate, improve, and share it as one of the jewels of the Bell Mountain Ranch and Castle Rock community.

While we develop and renovate several of the historic buildings, every beam we touch will be with an eye single to restoring the great history of each structure, each paddock, every inch of land.

We invite you to take part, get involved, and leave your mark on Bell Mountain Ranch Equestrian Center’s future, as those pioneers before us did on our past.

 

 

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