Twenty years after the founding of The Roaring Fork Club, leadership turned attention to an underutilized fifteen-acre parcel of its campus to expand their residential offerings and on-site employee accommodations. Under the leadership of the Landscape Architect, the most recent phase represents a marriage of imagination and community living, rendered as an environmental restoration effort and establishment of a new place.
Thirteen new cabins and a robust employee housing program are holistically designed in harmony with the natural setting. Instrumental to the project’s transformative success, the reappropriation of the Club’s existing water rights creates a significant contribution through the creation of a functioning water system. Through a unique blend of disciplines that blurs the edges between landscape architecture, planning, engineering, architecture entitlements and golf course design, the design expands its car-free campus, replaces flood irrigation methods with high-performing water strategies and minimizes waste via on-site cut/fill strategies. In doing so, the design extends the environmental legacy of the nationally recognized Club.
Background and Purpose
Founded in 1996, The Roaring Fork Club is a private golf, fishing and family gathering community along the banks of the Roaring Fork River in Basalt, Colorado. With proximity to both Aspen and Snowmass Village, the 300-acre campus includes 48 hand-hewn cabins, fractionally owned, and discreetly tucked into the valley’s vegetative floor, a Jack Nicklaus Signature course that weaves through a diverse landscape of riparian lands, trout-filled ponds, mountain shrublands, and native meadows, and a centralized parking strategy that then allows residents to travel to/from their individual cabins year-round via golf carts. Through its holistic planning approach, but also its priority on natural lands, the Club has been nationally recognized for its progressive approach to mountain planning.
Twenty years after its founding, the Club turned their attention to an underutilized 15-acre parcel that included an existing maintenance facility, a modest number of workforce housing units and a large expanse of fallow land. As the Board of Directors looked towards opportunities to expand their residential offerings in thirteen additional cabins, as well as a significant increase their on-site accommodations for employees.
The Vision Greater than the Individual Parts
Instrumental to the project’s transformative success, the Landscape Architect led the master planning, entitlement, and site design processes. A thorough analysis of existing conditions – including viewsheds, noise, water rights, topography, and utility infrastructure – synthesized with the project’s individual considerations – architecture, landscape, planning, placemaking, engineering, real estate sales, and aquatic design – sought to create a holistic and compelling vision.
While the project’s Architect developed three cabin prototypes, which were built upon feedback of current memberships, it was the Landscape Architect who led the siting, configuration, and organizational layout of all buildings and access to create a plan that leveraged views and privacy. In doing so, the Landscape Architect served as a Prime Consultant, leading the multi-disciplinary team of civil, structural, irrigation and aquatic engineers. In addition, the Landscape Architect facilitated ongoing conversations throughout design, pre-sale, and construction with multiple Club stakeholders, including the Board of Directors, Operations and Maintenance, Sales and Marketing Team, and individual homeowners.
Building upon the Club’s recognized approach to a car-free setting, the plan integrates a centralized covered parking area upon entry to the parcel, strategically capturing residents before encountering the maintenance yard. From here, owners access golf carts and disperse to their cabins via a narrow road sized only to emergency service access. In doing so, the project significantly reduces impervious coverage.
While the placement of nearly half of the cabins leveraged the “beachfront” edge offered by the existing pond, which would include views across the golf course, the remaining seven cabins would require the existing landscape to be dramatically transformed to achieve similar real estate values. Leveraging the property’s existing water rights, a new central pond renders a new environment. Fed by three stream courses, the open water enables the remaining cabins to both see open water, but also hear falling water. Together, the two ponds serve as a recreational amenity with communal amenities and pathways, as well as an important resource for fire protection.
Occupying the parcel’s northwest corner, a collection of seven, three-story multi-family employee housing built of modular construction, were arranged to provide quality access to usable open space built of modular construction. Of significance, these buildings were planned in the first phase of the project, avoiding the risk of displacing employees.
- Shaping a New Place: The property’s existing topography – virtually flat – challenged the Landscape Architect to consider critical viewshed and audible impacts between the various programmed areas. Natural occurring winds coming up valley directed noise from the maintenance yard into the area of future cabins. Technical studies, conducted in both sectional and three-dimensional modeling, led to the reuse of the new pond’s export to create an undulating landform – running north-south, while expanding and contracting – to achieve an effective sound barrier. Careful land sculpting, combined with thoughtfully placed vegetation clusters, rendered a new landscape complementary to its setting.
- Context Sensitive Planting Design: The property’s lack of existing trees posed a significant risk where new plantings could appear unnatural or out of place and lacks a holistic approach. As such, the Landscape Architect developed a framework of four plant communities – meadow, riparian, mixed aspen-conifer forest, and cultivated landscapes that embraced the contextual mountain ecology, responded to the project’s program and needs, and considered how the edges of the property would blend into surrounding lands.Instead of designing outward of each cabin, the team reversed their approach. Working instead from the perimeter of the parcel inward, the team recreated an alpine meadow that blurred boundaries. This plant community – comprised of native grasses and wildflowers that requires less irrigation – makes up most of the site, and stitches together the cabins, streams, and ponds. Along aquatic edges, supplemental plantings of iris, dogwoods and willows were added to reinforce the riparian conditions. As one near each cabin, the native landscape is carved into usable lawn areas and sweeps of perennials – designed with the feedback of each homeowner – that creates individual spaces yet provides a unified expression. A mixed forest of aspen and spruce tree plantings offers a cohesive lid across the property, provides important shade along the banks of open water, and creates a visual separation and physical spaces between cabins.
Environmental Sensitivity and Sustainability
As one of the largest developments recently built within the Roaring Fork Valley, the project illustrates how landscape architects can serve as critical leaders on realizing such large-scale transformations. Reinforcing the Club’s recognized and progressive approach to mountain planning and environmental stewardship, the design successfully expands its car-free environment, replaces flood irrigation methods a high-performing irrigation strategies, minimizes earthwork waste via on-site cut/fill strategies, and includes a robust commitment to native planting.
Collectively, the design communicates the benefits of a context sensitive landscape, both as a sustainable residential case study, and as a salable commodity in a competitive real estate marketplace. All thirteen cabins were under contract prior to the start of construction. New owners noted that the project’s emphasis on sinuous outdoor living combined with an elegant yet informal low-maintenance landscape that defers to the grandeur of the existing environment distinguished it in the decision-making process.
- Emerald Queen Norway Maple
- Thornless Cockspur Hawthorn
- Spring Snow Crabapple
- Narrowleaf Cottonwood
- Quaking Aspen
- Shubert Chokecherry
- Golden Weeping Willow
- Colorado Blue Spruce
- Pinyon Pine
- Scotch Pine
- Ponderosa Pine
- Shadblow Serviceberry
- Common Mountain Mahogany
- Bailey Redtwig Dogwood
- Twinberry Honeysuckle
- McKay’s White Potentilla
- Alpine Currant
- Woods’ Rose
- White Snowberry
- Froebel Spirea
Documents and Media
Planning Docs (if applicable):