Collins Lake Ranch is nestled between hills just off the main road in Cleveland, NM. It has a 12-acre lake, beautiful pine, oak and aspen forests, bountiful wildlife and outdoor recreation opportunities. The Smaby family (ranch owners) learned early in their autistic son’s life; being at the ranch was his most peaceful and contented time. They wanted to share the magic with other people like their son Alex. In 2013 they broke ground at the ranch, adding facilities and transforming it from a family retreat to a special place to share.
The mission of Collins Lake Ranch is to provide meaningful opportunities to people with developmental disabilities who desire to participate in a rural mountain community. The ranch now has full time residents, day programs, employment services, respite care, craft studios, a community garden, a fishing lake, an equine center, a community activity center and The Campground.
One of the highlights for most children is a chance to spend time at summer camp. This is even more important for children with disabilities. In conjunction with Mountain Friends Camp, The Campground at Collins Lake Ranch opened in the summer of 2017. When planning the campground facilities, yurts were the obvious choice for the bunk houses. Owner Steve Smaby says, “Something about the round shape makes the yurts really special. All of our visitors comment about how magical they are.”
When researching yurts, Steve checked out several companies. He concluded: Colorado Yurt Company was the most helpful and their prices were competitive. The proximity to New Mexico also kept the shipping costs down, and the service after the sale was outstanding.
Steve says, “While the directions were clear, I still had lots of questions. I was always able to talk with a knowledgeable person as I was erecting the yurts. As an engineer, I really appreciated the way the yurts went together and how well they are designed. One of the things that impressed me was that Colorado Yurt Company provided the exact number of parts needed. Nothing was missing or damaged, nor were there any extra pieces. Every time I thought I had a leftover part, I always found that it was me that had missed something.”
Collins Lake Ranch was also impressed with the economy of yurts. They looked at building a traditional staff bunkhouse and found it was 3 to 4 times more expensive than the same size yurt.
The Ranch now has two 27-foot and two 30-foot yurts. That is more than they originally thought they’d need, but the yurts have worked so well they keep finding more uses for them. Steve says, “Who knows how many additional ones we’ll end up getting.”
Being outdoors, breathing mountain air, listening to nature’s sounds… we all know how important these are for our health and well-being. For individuals with developmental disabilities, Collins Lake Ranch is a very special place to experience nature’s gifts.
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