Officials: Ute development could be boon for retirees

By Tonya Garner: CNJ staff writer

The first phase of construction at Ute Lake Ranch has begun and is expected to be completed in 2008, according to Chief Executive Officer Barry Freedman.

The 25,000 acre development is located in the bluff country in the northeastern portion of the state near Tucumcari. Freedman said he has assembled a “world-class” team to oversee the project, which will feature 733 patio homes, a golf course, equestrian center, beach club and mariner village.

The CEO said there are two driving factors behind the development. He said waterfront property appreciates greatly and “baby boomers” are currently seeking to purchase second homes, which will eventually become their full-time residences.

“This development will create a tremendous economic boon for Eastern New Mexico,” Freedman said, “it will be a huge net gain because people will be coming here (Ute Lake Ranch) to spend their money without relying on social services.”

Freedman said the golf course and hospitality portion of the project will create 500 jobs.

Local business owner Sid Strebeck, who is an investor in the project, agrees the project will have a positive economic impact. “People are discovering New Mexico’s hidden beauty,” Strebeck said. “This project will bring more people through our area.”

Strebeck said he and his family make the 80-mile trek to Ute Lake often to boat or water-ski. He said he plans to spend more time at “the most beautiful lake in the state” in the coming years.

While the extensive project has had a favorable response from Tucumcari business owners who hope to benefit financially from the tourism traffic, supporters of the Ute Water Project are unsure about the possible negative effects the development will have on the reservoir.

The proposed Ute Water Project would pipe water from Ute Lake to Portales.

Clovis Mayor David Lansford said he is concerned about “water quality and water quantity.”

Freedman said people do not need to be concerned about adverse affects on the water because they have made every effort to help preserve water quality. He also believes the landscape design of the golf course will help prevent erosion.

Lansford vehemently disagreed, saying the chemicals and fertilizers needed to maintain the golf course will affect the reservoir when natural runoff occurs.

The entire project is expected to be completed in 2026.