Owners plan to keep century-old Grand Lake lodge just the way it is | SkyHiNews.com

Owners plan to keep century-old Grand Lake lodge just the way it is

by Cyndi Palmer
Sky-Hi Daily News

Lapping waters, wilderness, flocks of birds, cozy cabins and beautiful lake-side sunsets ” there’s nothing more that Kickapoo Lodge owners Steve and Marty Baltz could ask for ” just more of the same.

That’s the way they want to keep the place, which celebrated its 100-year anniversary in April, and that’s the reason they purchased the lodge in September 2000. It is the only one of its kind in Grand Lake to offer 250 feet of private waterfront and six boat slips.

The decision has made a significant impact on the preservation of the area’s pristine southside community and the graciousness of the Baltz family and managers Jean and Dan Hyde have made it possible to preserve live theater in Grand Lake as well.

The Baltzes came to the area in 1981 and restored a home nearby when they found the community to be similar to that of their former Lake Arrowhead, Calif., home. But when they found out the lodge was up for auction, a lodge whose driveway was also used to access their new home and whose views were in jeopardy of a buyer who could build up to 72 townhouses there, they wanted to do what they could to control the future destiny of the lodge.

“It seemed like the right thing to do, to keep it the way we all remember it,” Steve said. “It’s worth it to all of us to keep it the way it’s been,” Marty added.

Its history is long, from the hands of the famous Joseph L. “Judge” Wescott who bought the land from the U.S. government in 1880, to Fred Selak in 1908 who founded it as a fishing camp, to Charles and Helen Null in 1935, to Arthur Fisher, Jr. in January 1940; who then sold it to E.E. Bashor in August 1940.

Many people remember the lodge’s most recent owners before Steve and Marty, Lonnie “Fred” and Dorothy “Nursie” Young, who purchased the property in 1951.

Fred passed away quite some time ago, and Dorothy, a nurse at Pearl Harbor and for the Grand County public schools, died eight years ago on July 2 and would have been proud at what the Baltzes have accomplished.

The memorable retreat that she and Fred transformed Kickapoo Lodge into had become a traditional destination for many families, and Steve and Marty weren’t about to let that change. Steve talked United Banks of Colorado, of which he was a part-owner, into buying the place, which it could run as a private company retreat.

Shortly thereafter, they thought of a way to welcome public lodgers, they just had to find a charity to benefit from the proceeds.

The Hydes, whom the Baltzes feel are like family after being neighbors for years, share their passion for what Jean calls “the grand ol’ lady of the mountains.”

Managers at Kickapoo Lodge for eight years, the Hydes, as avid fans of the Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre, suggested proceeds from lodgers go to the local Theatre company. “It’s a good thing to work for a charity,” Dan said.

The first $10,505 donation from the Baltz family in 2001 helped the struggling company, then owned by Judith and Skelly Warner, through tough economic times that year. Judith said Marty and Steve are “angels” that “really made a huge difference in the financial viability of the company that summer.”

She and Skelly agree their generosity helped keep the Theatre going, put what Skelly said was a “significant dent” in the mortgage of the Betty Dick Off Broadway cabins, and helped the company continue into the 21st Century. “Making that step also paved the way for other people to see RMR was a company to invest in for the future,” Judith added.

Since that first donation sales receipts have rung in at least $131,038 toward the good cause. “We can’t take it with us so why not turn it back into a community that has done so much for us,” Steve said.

The Baltz family, which put about $350,000 into the place and still pays expenses out of its own pockets, didn’t want to market the lodge’s 100-year anniversary because it didn’t want to take away from giving to the Theatre. This year the family is also sponsoring the company’s production of “Oklahoma!”

The lodge is now under the ownership of the Baltz Family Partners Ltd. consisting of Marty and Steve and their daughters Kimberly and Jennifer, who feel the same about preserving the lodge. Just recently they made a $1,000 donation for every year the lodge has been open ” with the $100,000gift bringing RMRT closer to its $5.2 million goal to build a new Theatre on land it purchased last year.

For your chance to stay at the historic lodge, call (970) 627-3369 or visit http://www.kickapoolodge.com.