Early Development

In 1961, Everett and George Williams traded a ranch they owned in Steamboat Springs for some vacant land on Gunbarrel Hill, northeast of the City of Boulder, CO. They had moved to Boulder ten years earlier and had made careers of developing large tracts of land and building affordable homes for families. They each built homes for their own families in Gunbarrel, one south of Jay Road just west of 75th Street, the other between the ditches just south of Lookout Road. They planned to retire from the development business, settle down, and enjoy a quiet life in the country.

In 1962, City of Boulder Manager Bob Turner came to them with a proposition. The City was attempting to implement its “Spokes of the Wheel” plan whereby it could control the expansion and development of its boundaries along specific corridors or “spokes.” Those spokes were North Broadway, the Longmont Diagonal, Arapahoe Road, Baseline Road, and Marshall Road. The City had another objective as well. They shared the golf course on Arapahoe Road with the Boulder Country Club. The course suffered from overuse and the facilities could not easily be expanded to meet the needs of its growing clientele. The City wanted to build a new golf course for the Boulder Country Club on Gunbarrel Hill.

The Williams brothers examined this idea with planners working for both the City of Boulder and Boulder County. Then, they brought in experts in land planning and golf course design. It soon became apparent that the costs of building and operating a new golf course would exceed its revenue for a long time making the idea financially impractical. However, if the land surrounding the golf course were developed as lots for residential construction, the revenue from the sale of those lots could offset the costs of developing the golf course. Bob Turner endorsed the idea of a golf course surrounded by a residential community and guaranteed the continued support of its development by the City of Boulder.

The key element of this support was the City’s offer to furnish water and sewer service to the Gunbarrel area. The Williams brothers formed the Boulder Valley Water and Sanitation District to accomplish this goal. They financed the construction of water mains from Walnut Street to Gunbarrel Hill. Then, with the financial support of the Williams brothers, the District was able to issue bonds for the construction of a water treatment plant and a sewer system. With these developments underway, the Williams brothers began to plan the golf course and the residential community surrounding it.

By 1963, the next step was to persuade the Boulder Country Club to move from Arapahoe Road to Gunbarrel Hill. The Williams brothers would donate the land, the water rights, and money to build the clubhouse and a 27 hole golf course. The Country Club would own and operate the new golf course while the City of Boulder would retain exclusive rights to the old course on Arapahoe Road. The country club agreed.

The Williams brothers were determined to create a residential community that would attract a broad spectrum of the community with a diversity of housing types and prices. While all of Gunbarrel was still in Boulder County at that time, the Williams brothers insisted that everything be built to City of Boulder standards and be approved by City of Boulder inspectors. The Gunbarrel Green subdivision was approved by the Boulder County Planning Board on May 10, 1963 and by the Boulder County Commissioners three weeks later. The plat for Gunbarrel Green was recorded on May 29 and the covenants were recorded on 11-July-1963.

On 3-March-1965 IBM Chairman, Thomas Watson, Jr., announced in Boulder that IBM would develop a five building complex, plant, and laboratory on a 640 acre site near Niwot. The ground breaking ceremony was held at the site on 28-June-1965.

(Editor’s Credit – The material for this summary history was taken from a letter to Boulder City Council Member Spenser Havlick from George Williams dated 28-Aug-1986.)

How Gunbarrel Got Its Name

The first mention of Gunbarrel actually dates from more than a century ago, in the 1860s. Many years ago, in “Colorado Magazine,” the late Alonzo H. Allen wrote of his childhood during the settlement of Burlington, now part of southern Longmont. According to Allen, his father decided to build Burlington near a large cottonwood tree on Saint Vrain Creek. Allen’s father and another man were returning from the mountains after cutting a set of house logs. With their horse-drawn wagon, they pulled onto a high point on the plains (now known as Gunbarrel Hill) where they could look to the east and see the large tree.

“Father, acting as bull-whacker, drove as straight toward the tree as possible,” wrote Allen. “The heavily loaded wagon cut a deep rut, which was followed by other teamsters, so that a well-defined road was the result. It was called ‘Gunbarrel Road’ on account of its straightness.”

Long before the creation of the Longmont Diagonal Highway (Colorado 119), the Gunbarrel Road was the main stagecoach route between Boulder and Longmont. It even made the newspapers when, in 1891, bicycles came into fashion, and a group of 40 men rode on the road from Boulder to Longmont in two and one-half hours.

(Editor’s Credit – This material was quoted from an article by Silvia Pettem, originally published on 19-Feb-2004 by the Daily Camera, and is reprinted with her permission.)

The Archway Collision

On 8-Dec-2008 at approximately 10:30 a.m., a dump truck caused significant damage to the archway at the intersection of Lookout Road and Idylwild Trail. According to police officers at the scene, the driver made a delivery to the Lucas construction site on Idylwild Trail and inadvertantly left the box in the up position when he left the site. The damage to the archway was the result of the collision between the raised box and the archway. The truck was also damaged.

The accident was investigated by a City Of Boulder Policeman, a Boulder County Sheriff’s Officer, and a State Police Officer. We have a copy of the accident report that includes the truck owner’s name, address, phone number, and insurance information. Two representatives of the truck company visited the scene and spoke with us.

The road was closed by the Boulder County Transportation Department.

The archway is on a Boulder County road right of way. Several phone calls were made to the Boulder County Transportation Department, but were not returned by close of business.

Update: Wednesday, 10-Dec-2008
This morning we met with representatives of the Boulder County Transportation Department, an engineering firm that does business with the County, and several representatives of construction firms. The decision was made to remove the archway as expeditiously as practical. The rational for immediate removal was that the archway, in its damaged condition, was a liability issue and the road closure was an inconvenience to the community. The County has expedited the permit process so as not to delay the start of work. The demolition contractor plans to begin the process on Thursday, 11-Dec, and be finished in three to four days.

Our future plan is to rebuild the archway to essentially the same design. The engineering firm will produce drawings of the archway as built and the redesign will start there.

The trucking company’s insurance company has been contacted and will be financially responsible for the demolition and the reconstruction.

A huge debt of gratitude is owed to the Boulder County Transportation Department (George Gerstle, Dan Hershman, and Mike Thomas), to the demolition contractor (Steve Holley), and to Peter Loris and his engineering firm for responding to our requests so quickly. In addition, the trucking company (Colorado Materials) and its insurance company have been very cooperative.

Update: Friday, 28-May-2010
After a year and a half spent haggling with the trucker’s insurance company and working our way through the City of Boulder and Boulder County infrastructures, we are finally ready to reconstruct the archway! The County Commissioners have given their permission for the closing of Idylwild Trail at Lookout Road starting on Monday, 14-June. The major part of the reconstruction should take two weeks or less and the road should be open again by Monday, 28-June.

Unfortunately, there will be no public access or egress under the archway during this two week period. The prefered routing into Gunbarrel Green will be via Jay Road and Carter Trail. There will be no access through the Shepherd of the Hills Church parking lot on Harvest Road.

After 28-June, another week or so of cleanup and completing minor details and the job will be finished.

Gunbarrel Public Improvement District

By 1990, the Boulder County subdivisions in Gunbarrel had almost reached buildout. Few building lots remained. There were, however, several large parcels of land in Gunbarrel with residential development potential. The City of Boulder, having decided years before to not provide water and sewer services to subdivisions in the County, essentially prevented development of these parcels unless they were annexed into the City. Two City subdivisions, Gunbarrel North and Country Club Estates, were quickly annexed and developed. Since this development occurred along Lookout Road, the principal east-west corridor serving the County subdivisions in Gunbarrel, the increase in residential traffic was dramatic. Occurring at the same time was a significant increase in commuter traffic from the east to the City businesses in Gunbarrel. Gunbarrel residents of the County became alarmed at this sudden increase in City-generated traffic in what had been a quiet County residential area. They became motivated to do something.

In 1993, the County residents of Gunbarrel petitioned for two ballot initiatives under what became the Gunbarrel General Improvement District. One was intended to accelerate road improvements in the County subdivisions in Gunbarrel. It passed by the narrow margin of 1,275 to 1,272 authorizing the collection and expenditure of $1.70 million for road improvements. The other was intended to reduce the potential for residential development in Gunbarrel by purchasing land with development potential. It passed by the larger margin of 1,511 to 1,191 authorizing the collection and expenditure of $1.90 million for the purchase of open space land in Gunbarrel.

The managers of the District, the County Commissioners, advised by selected County residents of Gunbarrel, moved forward to accomplish the objectives of the District. In August of 1994, the District authorized the issuance of $3.6 million worth of General Obligation Bonds at an interest rate of 5.279% to be paid off over a period of 11 years (1994 – 2005).

In 1994, the first parcel of open space land, 39 acres east of 75th Street and adjacent to the Heatherwood Subdivision on its southern and eastern boundaries, was purchased from the North Boulder 40 Corporation for $294,030. The District this price in full.

In 1995, a second parcel, 76 acres in the south-east corner of Lookout Road and 75th Street, and adjacent to the parcel above, was purchased from Jafay for $568,200. The District paid the full cost of this acquisition also.

In 1995 and 1996, a total of $1,673,141 was spent for road improvements in the County subdivisions of Gunbarrel.

In 1998, the 39 acre parcel at the north-east corner of Jay and Spine Roads was purchased from Jim Postal/James Construction Company for $570,280. The District paid the full price.

In 2002, a 36 acre parcel north of Jay Road between 63rd and 75th Streets was purchased from Coen for $680,000. The District paid $300,000; Boulder County paid $380,000.

In early 2003, a 38 acre parcel adjoining the Coen property was purchased from the Johnson Trust for $785,170. The district paid $300,000; Boulder County paid 485,170.

In late 2007, a 28 acre parcel adjacent to the James Construction property was purchased from the Churchill family for $700,000. The District paid $259,536. Boulder County paid the balance, $440,464. This purchase exhausted the funds of the District.

All six acquisitions are being managed by the Boulder County Parks and Open Space program and are currently held as agricultural leases.

In 1999, the name of the District was changed to the Gunbarrel Public Improvement District to comply with a new state statute addressing this type of district.

The accompanying map shows both the tax boundaries of the district (essentially the county land in Gunbarrel) and the property acquisitions.