Ascendigo recently purchased a 125-acre property in Missouri Heights to design and build a permanent campus serving the autism community. Our working name for the project is Ascendigo Ranch, a name representative of the activities, programming, and environmental sustainability envisioned for this spectacular space. Ascendigo Ranch is a visionary project that raises the bar for autism services while respecting the natural environment, surrounding neighborhood, and historical uses of Missouri Heights.
Built over phases, Ascendigo Ranch will enhance the organization’s well-established programs and services, by creating amenities customized for the unique needs of people with autism. The Ascendigo Ranch experience will be transformational – significantly impacting and positively improving the lives of those it serves through outdoor adventure sports, equine and other therapies, educational endeavors, and nature-and agricultural-based programs in an idyllic environment.
A permanent home has long been envisioned for Ascendigo. The Whitecloud/Harmony Heights property in Missouri Heights, located off of Harmony Lane, offers the room needed to enrich Ascendigo’s services. Administrative offices and adult residences will remain in the town in Carbondale while the Ranch serves as a nearby nature retreat for experiential activities. The quiet and rural character of this property is in line with the vision for a center in the Roaring Fork Valley that promotes independent living while fostering friendships and social skills with easy access to all the outdoor and adventure opportunities that so many local residents and visitors enjoy.
An immersive rural mountain life experience for people with autism
The Ascendigo Ranch vision enriches our community by elevating life experiences for the autistic community. A rich quality of life, independence, intrepid adventure, appreciation for nature, and inclusivity are our ranch values that are inspired by our community’s welcoming outdoor culture. Full participation of all members of our community makes our local social fabric stronger and more vibrant for all.
In our extensive search for a local home base, we engaged the previous Whitecloud landowner to imagine with us our vision for a permanent, community-serving camp. Following successful negotiations, we closed on this property in October 2020.
Ascendigo will be submitting a land-use application to Garfield County for an educational facility development at the Whitecloud property. The Ascendigo Ranch design and development team is comprised of thoughtful local professionals who specialize in community projects and who know, understand, and share our values.
Why Carbondale, Colorado and Garfield County – a welcoming, integrative community
Ascendigo has been welcomed by the Carbondale community and its businesses for over a decade. Ascendigo has a close connection with Carbondale stakeholders, and many of our faculty and staff live in Carbondale and the surrounding area. The Whitecloud property is just under 10 miles from our office in Carbondale and remains close to emergency and medical services. The site is 5 miles from Highway 82.
Whitecloud is the perfect canvas to customize a design tailored to serve people with autism. The opportunity to build from the ground up is an invaluable asset. We’re able to customize the facility to our needs for safety, functionality, and joy.
The Whitecloud property is not raw undeveloped land; roads are built to the subdivision, and infrastructure is in place. As the site of a former subdivision, crucial fire protection and water services are already in place, which clears a significant hurdle from the get-go. The former housing development sat dormant for 20 years, but there are well-planned utilities in place to service our proposed facilities.
By developing land that was intended to be developed, we free resources and shore our ability to imagine what autism services should look like. The proposed use is educational in its core, its mission, and its execution. We seek to design an idyllic destination for our program participants, tucked within a beautiful landscape.
Since our use is not intended as commercial, and we respect that intent, our headquarters office will remain in Carbondale. This also fits with our organizational vision to remain in town in Carbondale and maintain that thread of connection in the town fabric as well.
Carbondale and specifically the Whitecloud property acquisition provide Ascendigo with characteristics that are a winning combination for autism support services.
Frequently Asked Questions
Ascendigo plans to design and build a permanent state-of-the-art facility serving the autism community for years to come. Ascendigo Ranch will be located on a 125-acre property in Missouri Heights, located just minutes from our headquarters in Carbondale. The property is adjacent to two residential neighborhoods. When we began our outreach with direct communications to the neighbors, specific questions were submitted. While we don’t have all the specific answers today, the following information provides an overview of the project elements.
Ascendigo has hired professionals with engineering, law, planning, architecture, and other areas of expertise to prepare an application to submit to Garfield County in early 2021. We couldn’t be more excited to begin the planning, design, and outreach for Ascendigo Ranch. More information will come as the design and planning team refines the final plans.
We anticipate submitting our land use application in January of 2021. While we would love to use our property in a very limited capacity in 2021, we anticipate full build-out, as will be represented in our future land use application, to take several years.
A traffic report is being prepared by a traffic engineer that will estimate the potential impact to the roadway made by Ascendigo usage. Based on the result of the study, we will propose a response to this issue.
The traffic study will estimate traffic and also compare that traffic to the homes that would be otherwise built.
The traffic engineer will be asked to recommend actions to ensure our guests and staff use County Road 102, Fender, and Harmony Lanes for access. In addition, we are confident that we will have greater control over how our guests and staff use nearby roads.
Any entrance to our site will be adjacent to neighbors. Our current design has the entrance directly off Harmony Lane. We will continue to keep neighbor concerns in mind as we finalize the design.
We are being as thoughtful as we can to apply best practice lighting and building design, including but not limited to Dark Sky compliant design and fixtures and internal shades. We will have fewer buildings than the alterative development planned and thus fewer outdoor buildings to light. No street lights are planned.
Many, if not most, individuals on the autism spectrum have sound sensitivities. We plan to incorporate sound mitigating design into our structures. We have also given consideration in our site design to providing buffers between neighbors and activity areas.
Defensible space has been a significant consideration in siting our buildings. The site currently has fire hydrants that will be enhanced, and some buildings will be sprinkled.
Because of the nature of the topography around our site, most areas are visible from somewhere. With that said, we are being as thoughtful as we can to minimize visual impact. We are also attempting to integrate the architectural design into the surrounding aesthetic.
We understand that access to the trails on our property is highly valued by some neighbors. We welcome neighborly dialogue about allowing future access as we want our property to be fully integrated into our community and neighborhood.
Our team is carefully evaluating what water is available to us and we are thoughtfully considering how to use that water. Like traffic, we expect our impact to be less than the residential alternative.
Our intended use of the property is a permissible use under the existing zoning. We are not seeking commercial zoning.
During the past three years, we have incurred only five (5) emergency visits to our summer camp program. Two of these occurred at off-site locations (Rifle Gap and climbing site), two (2) of them involved accidental button pushes of Emergency Boxes, and one (1) was an ambulance pickup at our camper lodging. Our history in providing a safe camper experience to a special needs population is outstanding.
We have no plans to lease the property to other organizations. We do plan to use our property year-round, but with varying degrees of intensity.