Expects to close 1,200-acre purchase on June 15 with bridge loan
The Methow Conservancy’s “Campaign for Sunny M Ranch” has reached its fundraising goal of $8.3 million to support the purchase of 1,200 acres of prime valley lands from the Haub family.
The fundraising effort began about four and half months ago, with a June 15 deadline for accumulating enough cash and committed funds to close the purchase agreement on the Haub property, which has a price tag of $6.2 million.
Last week, Conservancy Executive Director Sarah Brooks announced that, thanks to more than 1,400 donors large and small, the fundraising goal has actually been slightly exceeded. The final push resulted from a drive to get 1,200 donors for 1,200 acres. “It gave people a way to participate in the campaign,” Associate Directory Ashley Lodato said. And reaching 1,200-plus donors unlocked a gift of $100,000 from challenge donors.
Brooks and Lodato said more than half of the donors to the Sunny M Ranch campaign are first-time givers to the Conservancy. Donations came from 32 states and provinces.
While the campaign goal has been reached, the Conservancy is negotiating bridge loan options with conservation and philanthropic lenders to cover the purchase price. “While we have commitments in the door of more than $8.3 million, many of these commitments are multi-year pledges, from donors who are making their gifts to the campaign over time,” Brooks said in press release. “On June 15, we need cash ready to go for closing, so we are prepared to take out bridge loan financing to ensure we don’t miss this opportunity.”
The anticipated interest cost of the bridge loans is more than $100,000, Brooks said. “Cash gifts between now and June 15 can help save interest payments and allow more funds to be put to good use on the Sunny M Ranch property,” she said.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Helga and Erivan Haub purchased Sun Mountain Lodge and related properties, totaling roughly 2,500 acres. In May 2022, the Haub Family sold the lodge, the Patterson Lake Cabins, and approximately 1,300 acres of the original 2,500 to Seattle-based GEM Partners.
When the remaining property came on the market, the Conservancy approached the Haub family about purchasing the land, seeing it as a unique opportunity to keep a major portion of prime valley property under one ownership without disrupting any of the current uses.
Much of the property under the purchase agreement is located on the historic Sunny M Ranch, which once covered some 4,000 acres and includes the familiar, picturesque barn on Wolf Creek Road. The biggest portion of the property extends from just east of Sun Mountain Lodge to the outskirts of Winthrop; plus a swath along Patterson Lake Road generally east and south of the lake.
The Conservancy’s intent is for existing agricultural uses and recreational access to continue on most of the property, while some parcels close to Winthrop may be marketed for development with housing. The Conservancy won’t build any housing itself but rather will seek purchasers to develop the properties, possibly including organizations such as the Methow Housing Trust.
Goals for the purchase include:
• Protection of vital wildlife habitat.
• Preservation of farmland.
• Providing housing that is affordable for people who work in the Methow Valley.
• Making access to trails permanent through a partnership with Methow Trails.
The total estimated project cost of $8.3 million includes the purchase price plus $1 million for a stewardship maintenance fund, and $1.1 million for transaction costs, interest for the bridge loan and for providing water service to the planned housing near Winthrop. About $4.3 million of that was expected to come from grants, Conservancy funds, and potential lot sales.
The Conservancy also was able to transfer unused funds from a $1.8 million grant it received in 2018 from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) for another project to purchase 379 acres within the 1,200-acre Sunny M Ranch property, Brooks said. “All told, we’re estimating that about $2.1 million of the $8.3 million raised will be coming from public funding sources — some state, some federal,” Brooks said.
Brooks said late last week that the Conservancy has also been contacted by a family foundation that is proposing to offer a $250,000 challenge grant for the stewardship and maintenance fund.
The conservancy is planning a celebration and “thank you” event for donors on July 1 at the Winthrop Barn, Brooks said. Other public events are planned to acknowledge the fundraising campaign’s success.
“We are in complete awe of this community,” Brooks said. “It has been fast and furious the last four months. So many people have come forward to say they love this landscape and they want to be a part of preserving farmland, wildlife habitat, trails, and the opportunities for affordable housing near town. We can’t thank people enough for their generosity and their vision.”
The Conservancy has not purchased property in the past, instead focusing on developing easements and access agreements, and facilitating the preservation and care of the irreplaceable Methow Valley landscape. “Owning land should be another tool in our toolbox,” Brooks said. “It’s been on our radar screen forever.”
What’s next, after the purchase closes?
“The real work begins — being good stewards of it,” Brooks said.
That will include a lot of public involvement, she added. “Our journey on this is just beginning,” Brooks said. “We need the community to help us be good caretakers.”
For more information about the purchase, the campaign and the history of the Sunny M Ranch, visit the campaign website at https://methowconservancy.org/sunnym, or https://methowconservancy.org/sunnym/faqs.