Adventures at Rock Creek Cattle Company

Rock Creek Cattle Company opens to exclusive travel partners to experience luxury facilities and activities in Deer Lodge, Montana. Rock Creek Cattle Company rests on 30,000 acres of diverse and gorgeous countryside including Rock Creek, an alpine lake, lush forests, rolling hills, an 18-hole golf course designed by Tom Doak and 18 miles of rivers and streams.

Read full article at Times Square Gossip

Makes Top 15 Best Modern Course by Golfweek

Rock Creek Cattle Company ranked #15 in 2011 Golfweek’s Best Modern Courses.

Follow this link for the complete list.

Course Review: Rock Creek Cattle Company

A rare occurrence has come to pass at Rock Creek Cattle Company. An owner with means and a keen vision – Bill Foley, has engaged an architect – Tom Doak, who is one of the recognized leaders of the new golden age of golf course architecture. This course is arguably the best new private built in the last few years. While it is confusing how years and ratings are compiled, Golfweek says it is #1, Golf Digest #2, and Golf Magazine #4.

Read full article at The Walking Golfer

Golfweek’s Best Residential Courses 2011

Rock Creek Cattle Company makes the top 100 list again. This time, in the #2 position. Here’s a link to the list.

#2 in Golf Digest Best New Private Courses

Something Old School, Something New

By Ron Whitten
Photos by Stephen Szurlej
January 2010

America’s Best New Courses of 2009 are all about old school.

The Best New Private winner is tightly forested, lay-of-the-land Pikewood National Golf Club in Morgantown, W.Va., designed (in the tradition of old-school architecture) by a couple of amateur architects, John R. Raese and J. Robert Gwynne. That was something of an upset over early favorite Rock Creek Cattle Company in western Montana, a textbook of natural design by the headmaster of minimalism, Tom Doak.

See complete article and rankings here.

GolfWeek’s Best Residential Courses Top Honors to Rock Creek!

By Bradley S Klein
Monday, November 23, 2009

“Despite the down market in golf course construction recently, there has been plenty of turnover and interesting new developments on our Golfweek’s Best lists of the top 100 Residential Courses, the top 100 Resort Courses and the top 50 Courses of the Caribbean & Mexico.

The newcomers start with the country’s premier real estate property, Rock Creek Cattle Company in Deer Lodge, Mont., where innovative traditionalist – no, that’s not an oxymoron – Tom Doak has honed a down-to-earth design out of scrub land and turned it into desirable ground for folks looking to get away to the American West.”

http://www.golfweek.com/news/2009/nov/09/2010-golfweeks-best-residential-courses/

20 “Best Of The Best”-America’s Premier Properties

LINKS Golf Real Estate releases their Best Of The Best list of America’s Premier Properties. Rock Creek Cattle Company Featured. Read entire article here: Best of the Best Properties

American Cowboy Magazine Adds Bill Foley in Top 15

Bill Garrels, publisher of American Cowboy Magazine, recently informed us that Bill Foley had been named to that publication’s list of 15 Westerners To Watch in 2009. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“Some believe the best thing to do in troubled times is nothing—hunker down, wait and see, hide and watch. That’s hardly the Cowboy Way.

Bold ideas and decisive action are more likely to bootstrap us out of these, or any, difficult days. And that’s what the 15 people profiled here have in common: a willingness to believe and the
gumption to act on those beliefs.

They come from a variety of walks of life, from entertainment to academia to business. They come from the city and the country, but they are all Westerners that bear watching in the year—and years—ahead. Whether building on past accomplishments or laying the foundation for something new, these individuals share the kind of can-do, no-quit attitude that typifies the Cowboy Way.”

Click this link for the entire story on 15 Westerners To Watch In 2009

Click this link to visit AmericanCowboy.com

Best New Courses of 2008 by Linksmagazine.com

Not only was Rock Creek honored among the best of the best for golf community developments by Links Golf Real Estate, but the course has also been named to the Best of New Private Courses as well!

Check it out here: Best New Private Courses of 2008

MontanaLiving.Com Video

Click this link to view the Feature Video

Links Golf Real Estate Honors Rock Creek

Click this link to see Rock Creek Named one of America’s Premier Properties In Links Golf Real Estate Magazine

December Issue Executive Golf Magazine

Edward F. Pazdur, Chairman & CEO of Executive Golfer Magazine, interviews Bill Foley and Tom Doak for the December 2008 Issue.

Check it out here: Executive Golfer, December 2008

Rock Creek Paddlers on NuCanoe Blog

Here’s a link to the NuCanoe blog. It features some photos of some Rock Creek Cattle Company members and guests as they paddle our own Rock Creek Lake. We now have 8 of these boats available for rent at the lodge.

Photos of paddlers on Rock Creek Lake

Rock Creek Cattle Company in Travel & Leisure

November 2008
http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/golf-rock-creek-cattle-company

Rock Creek Cattle Company
By Derek Duncan
Deer Lodge, Montana (Private)

Nearly lost amid the eighty thousand acres of property at Rock Creek Cattle Company is Tom Doak’s new prairie-links course.

A prime selling point of this private golf and fishing club near Deer Lodge, Montana, the course works its way through evergreen-studded foothills and small natural bowls. “The contours were very linksy in character,” Doak notes. “We would have had to move practically no earth except that there are so many rocks just below the surface.” Doak’s design makes sure to accentuate the strong contours that resulted.

One of his favorite holes is the short, perplexing par-four fifteenth, which pours downhill toward the most extreme green on the course. Other holes roll over hogback fairways (the second, for example), fall away into sneaky depressions (the eleventh) and cascade through banked valleys (the seventh and fourteenth).

The distinctive bunkers emulate wind-eroded blowouts because, as Doak says, the scale of the vast property “dwarfs any man-made bunkering.”

Rock Creek Now Offering Outfitter Tours

By Mark Eisenbeil
Reporter for the Silver State Post, Deer Lodge, Montana
May 7, 2008

The Rock Creek Cattle Company (RCCC), once just a ranching operation and now also a subdivision, offers some extra perks for its homeowners and club members. Experienced outfitters are on staff and are more than happy to cater to the needs of their customers. There are two men who run the outdoor experience for RCCC; Joel Thompson and Ron Snow. Thompson is the head fly fishing guide and the director of outdoor activities and Snow is a fly fishing guide and the assistant director of outdoor activities.

Thompson grew up in Deer Lodge and is a fifth-generation Montanan. He has family in Deer Lodge, but he resides most of the year in Missoula with his wife, although the two of them spend much of the summer in Deer Lodge. He works out of the ranch and his home, depending on the workload.

Snow grew up in a small town in New Mexico, similar to Deer Lodge. He was in the music industry in Nashville, TN and also guided fishing expeditions there. He spends around six months of the year guiding at RCCC and then goes home to his wife in Tennessee to spend the remaining six months of the year. He says that he loves the community here and is in the process of purchasing a home; a true sign that he is here to stay and be an integral part of Deer Lodge.

Snow and Thompson developed a friendship through a fly fishing website on the Internet called the Itinerant Angler. The two had been corresponding for some time when Thompson ended up asking Snow if he’d like to work for him at RCCC. Snow said that he had been doing research on the company and discovered that he and RCCC shared the same ideals and commitment to the environment. He said that many decisions that are made by the company are made with the environment in mind.

Snow says that to be a licensed guide in the state of Montana, you must have all of the proper training, insurance, credentials, and you must work through an outfitter. Thompson, whose outfitting company is called Montana Troutaholic Outfitters, is the company used by RCCC for its members and guests.

Thompson said that guides are usually independent contractors that work for the outfitters and are responsible for ensuring that customers in the parties show good etiquette and act responsibly on the rivers. The guides charge for their services, but try to keep their prices around 10% lower than the standard industry charges for outfitting. The men take customers fly fishing at many of the waterways in the region such as the Clark Fork River, Blackfoot River, Bitteroot River, Missouri River, Rock Creek, Flint Creek, Warm Springs Creek, and Rock Creek Lake.

The fishing parties can either wade or fish from rafts. One concept that the fishing guides stress is to catch and release, instead of catching and keeping. “All of our fishing is catch and release. That’s a deal that we make with our member’s clients that we take out. They understand that a healthy release is paramount to conserving our fisheries,” said Snow about RCCC’s fisheries management program. Both men feel that the region around Deer Lodge show a lot of promise for fishermen; virtually it is an untapped resource.

They say the removal at the Milltown Dam is going to impact the Upper Clark Fork in a positive way. They say that the numbers will definitely increase as the years go by and the trout find their way further up river.

The outdoor activities at the club are not just limited to fly fishing; there is also horseback riding, ATV rides (on trails only), hiking, mountain biking, and varmint and clay pigeon shooting. Thompson said that that they just hired another guide named Gabe Millar, who specializes in equestrian activities. The two men work part-time out of the Fly Shop which is a fully stocked fly fi shing shop that is located in the Cattlemen’s Club. The fly shop has all of the needed equipment to enjoy the true Montana experience on the region’s streams and rivers, from flies, waders and fly rods to quick-dry clothing and accompanying footwear.

“We carry a lot of Montana products in the shop,” said Snow, mentioning that the inventory features top-of-the-line goods from manufacturers like Simms Fishing Products, Montana Fly Company, and R.L. Winston Fly Rods; along with other manufacturers outside of the state like Sage, Fishpond, and Patagonia.

Some outfitters have the philosophy that everything is on a time table. A day consists of eight hours and then you’re done. This is not the case with Thompson and Snow. They say that they want to be instrumental with helping the customers be “at one with the river” and that time is not an issue with them. They want to enhance the customer’s experience in the best ways possible. “We’re finished when you’re finished fishing,” said Snow.

Rock Creek Guide Helps 4th Graders in Deer Lodge

The Silver State Post piece on a Rock Creek fishing guide lending a hand at the Granville Stuart Elementary School in Deer Lodge, MT. Thanks to the Silver State Post and reporter Mark Eisenbeil for forwarding this piece. Thanks to Mrs. Christnacht for writing it and providing the photos.

Ron also says thanks to Tierra Korang for inviting him to be their guest.

Here’s the link: Rock Creek Guide is 4th Grader’s Guest in Deer Lodge

“Rock Creek Cattle Co.” The Montana Standard

Bill Foley grew up on a cattle ranch in the Texas panhandle, where his family settled in the 1840s, and enjoyed “hanging out on the ranch property with its wide open spaces, freedom and solitude.” After several years of looking at Montana ranches, Rock Creek Cattle Co., located north of Deer Lodge, came on the market, and Foley acquired it in November 2004.

“I loved the idea of a historic working ranch and this beautiful valley,” he said. “Acquiring the ranch was a matter of going back to my roots. At the time, I only had in mind a long-term legacy for my family. I just wanted to hang out with Tom Davis (ranch manager), go riding and help at branding.” Foley said the development plan “just happened” when he started thinking how great it would be to have a golf course surrounding Rock Creek. He has been intensely involved in every aspect of the project focusing on continuity of the working cattle ranch and a development with an old Montana ranch-style atmosphere, isolated to preserve the Deer Lodge Valley landscape and views of the Flint Creek range.

Acreage used for the development was supplemented when Foley purchased an additional 5,400 acres from RY Timber, known as the Elliston unit, to ensure enough land to maintain the 2,600-head cattle operation.

The development process Foley is majority owner of the ranch and development project with 67 minority partners who are family, friends and business associates.

Before proceeding with the development, Greg Lane, Foley’s partner and friend, visited with community members to get feedback about the concept of the project.

“We came into this project not being developers or with a predetermined development plan,” Lane said. “We love Montana the way it is, and Bill has worked hard to do business in a manner that is consistent with Montana values. The relationships and friendships we have formed here as a result are very meaningful to us.” At first there was uncertainty about the multi-million dollar project in Deer Lodge, but Foley and Lane have worked hard to develop trust.

“We want a win-win economic scenario and community relationship,” said Lane, who is a member of the Powell County Economic Development board of directors. “By meeting or exceeding the planning board’s requirements and expectations we have created a tremendous amount of good will. The friendships and level of trust in the community is unparalleled in Montana for a project like this.” County Planner Ron Hanson agreed saying, “It has been a pleasure to work with Rock Creek. They have been very responsive to any concerns that the planning board or staff have raised.” Conservation, fishery restoration While some people may try to sidestep issues that take more effort to address, Lane has worked to create trust while working closely with multiple state agencies in Helena on conservation, water, fish and wildlife issues.

The ranch is in an area zoned for 40-acre minimum lots, so the owners are required to set aside acreage in conservation easements to comply with regulations. One of the most significant for the Deer Lodge Valley is 3,675 acres set aside to protect the view to the west of Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site. The conservation easement with Five Valleys Land Trust assures the view will remain the same as it has since 1861, when Johnny Grant first settled here.

Another planned conservation easement of 2,000 acres will protect one of Montana’s largest bighorn sheep herds located on the ranch.

Fish habitat along eight miles of Rock Creek, Willow Creek and Dry Gulch has been restored. Lane said that previously almost all the water was diverted for hay production. A comprehensive water management plan provides for ranch operations while keeping constant flows in Rock Creek and an additional See ROCK CREEK, Page D10 10-15 cubic feet per second flows into the Clark Fork River year-round than historically occurred.

“I was intrigued with the vision of a small development in the middle of a working cattle ranch,” said property owner and avid fly fisherman Jim Taylor of Santa Barbara, Calif. “The stream enhancements are an outstanding accomplishment. Because of the flow and quality of the water, cutthroat, rainbow and brown trout are migrating up the stream to spawn where they previously could not.” Phases of development The planned unit development on 2,165 acres will eventually have 254 houses or cabins.

“It is a relatively small number of units for a golf course development of this stature,” Lane said.

The Willow Creek Homestead development, of 931 acres, has 13 home sites. In this area, buyers purchase lots ranging from 40-109 acres, but are only permitted to fence and build on designated, limited acreage “envelopes.” The remainder is used for ranching and grazing operations.

“This allows owners to enjoy the rural ranch lifestyle and to say ‘I own a part of a historic, working Montana cattle ranch,’ ” Lane said.

The past two years have been spent building the core of the project — lodge, fitness center, cabins, townhouse duplexes, golf course, fire hall and related outbuildings.

Dick Anderson of Helena is the general building contractor. During the construction season 120-200 workers with Anderson and other contractors work on site during any given day.

Foley said he selected the site for the lodge because it is the only place one can sit on the deck and see both the creek and the Flint Creek Range. The design is a compilation of places he has visited.

The 8,700-square-foot Cattleman’s Club has a comfortable, homey atmosphere. The ambiance of the great room furnished with leather sofas, easy chairs and buffalo robe rug is enhanced by the massive stone fireplace and light filtering through large windows adjoining the patio. Just through the doorway, the cozy bar and lounge is conducive to conversation, or one might select a book from the library and curl up on a sofa in front of the fireplace.

At the end of the hall, the fly shop offers a wide selection of fishing accessories and sportswear. At the other end of the hall, an attractive dining room seats 46, with additional seating on the patio overlooking Rock Creek. The lodge also houses a full-size commercial kitchen, wine cellar, conference room and administration offices.

Across the driveway, the Creek Club fitness center has a full service gym, luxurious locker rooms with tiled saunas, massage rooms and tastefully furnished sitting rooms where friends can enjoy a game of cards and conversation. Construction of a swimming pool and tennis courts is planned for 2009.

The main buildings and cabins are of frame construction, with old barn wood siding, chinking, rock facades and steel roofs so they blend unobtrusively with the natural landscape of native vegetation and rocky glacial deposits.

Four-bedroom cabins nestled among the evergreens along Rock Creek, with a value of approximately $1.5 million each, have been popular. To date, 12 duplex townhouses, and 10 cabins, from 2,500 to 4,000 square feet, have been completed; seven cabins are under construction.

It is not anticipated that property owners will live at the ranch year-round, but will use these residences for a vacation getaway.

“A lot of thought went into the design of the project so people will feel as if they are living on a ranch rather than a resort,” Lane said, as he drove past two 5,500-square-foot houses being built in Phase 2 East.

“We want people from out-of-state to experience the landscape and get to know the people in the community,” he added. “There is no advertising promotion of the project. We are relying on word-of-mouth to attract down-to-earth, good people who share our respect for the land and the people of Montana.” “Bill has done a fabulous job to create a very special place here,” said cabin owner Rick Blake of Whitefish. “I grew up on a farm and the ranch is a great family place. We love the remoteness, the cattle, buffalo and wildlife and go back every opportunity we get. Last weekend we celebrated our son’s ninth birthday at Rock Creek because he wanted to go there rather than have a bowling party or other activity.” Golf course among best in nation Designed by world-famous golf course architect Tom Doak, the challenging par 71 course is believed to be among the top 50 in the nation. It received rave reviews from guests who played in September.

Doak is a minimalist architect who designed the golf course to flow with the natural landscape along both sides of Rock Creek, and with a minimum amount of dirt excavation to create the greens. No buildings are near nor can be seen from the course, and the isolation when playing makes one feel they are in the wilderness.

“It is amazing to me to see how they totally fit it into the terrain,” said planning board member John Hollenback during a tour, The Department of Natural Resources and Conservation helped with permitting and set up of a reservoir constructed to the west and upslope of the golf course to provide an efficient 100-percent gravity fed irrigation system for watering the greens.

In order for local residents to enjoy the golf course, a segment of lower-priced memberships for Montanans has been created. According to Lane these have been popular and most of the memberships have been sold.

Plans for the future Two more phases, with a mix of home lots and cabins, are planned for 2009 and 2010. Beyond that, Lane said no other expansion is planned in order to keep the project intimate.

Working with Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and Fish, Wildlife and Parks, additional ponds and wetlands will be created in Willow Creek.

An equestrian center is planned for Willow Creek with stables for boarding of horses, equestrian events and lessons.

“We are looking into working with individuals in Deer Lodge to develop a first class facility for sporting clays, archery and a shooting range that could be used by residents of the ranch and the local community,” Lane said.

“The project has been expensive,” Lane admitted. “We did it right and the final product came out as we hoped.” “For a commercial establishment, I’m thrilled with it,” Foley agreed.

Pat Hansen may be reached via e-mail at phansen@blackfoot.net SIDEBAR Developers contribute to Deer Lodge economy Contributions made by Bill Foley and Greg Lane, developers of the Rock Creek Ranch Co., to the community of Deer Lodge since 2004 have totaled more than $400,000 including: — $100,000 Cottonwood Creek Restoration — $86,000 Powell County for bridge across Rock Creek — $75,000 Powell County Medical Center to refurbish patient rooms $50,000 School District No. 1 for a bio-mass heating project — $20,000 City of Deer Lodge to help complete the new fire station — $15,000 Race Track Community Center — $15,000-20,000 Senior Citizen’s Center and Meals on Wheels for a new stove and working capital Thousands of dollars in smaller donations to the community They also donated $200,000 to the University of Montana law school for building refurbishment and expansion.

Greg Lane is a member of the Powell County Economic Development Board of Directors.

— By Pat Hansen of The Montana Standard

The Rock Creek Cattle Company- Honoring Traditions

June 02, 2006

In some ways, the land on the home ranch of the Rock Creek Cattle Company has changed little since the summer of 1882, the year that C.H. Williams first set eyes on its vast expanses of bunchgrass prairie trailing down from the flanks of Mt. Powell. Williams had just arrived in Montana via wagon train, lured by stories of the glory and beauty of the Deer Lodge Valley. Williams and his partner, Peter Pauly, eventually operated five ranches throughout Powell County, covering over 200 square miles. The ranch was operated by a succession of descendants of Williams and Pauly until the family was forced to sell in 1971.

That’s when the Ward family bought the property and created the Rock Creek Cattle Company. Don Davis was hired to manage the ranch. The 25,000-acre home ranch unit continued to be the main supplier of hay for the other ranch units – Spotted Dog, Meade Creek, the Company Ranch, totaling over 100,000 acres where the herds were pastured in different seasons. The water to grow the hay on the home ranch came from Rock Creek Lake, nestled like a jewel deep within the Flint Creek Mountains and was carried by an extensive network of ditches. That cold mountain water turned those arid, windswept benches overlooking Deer Lodge into lush hay – enough to feed all the cattle during the ranch’s zenith. Don’s son, Tom, took over the reins from his father in1997 and continues to manage the ranch. The most recent owner, Bill Foley, acquired the ranch less than two years ago, and, with a group of investors formed the Rock Creek Cattle Company Ltd.

Starting last year, the Rock Creek Cattle Company‘s new owners launched a development plan for the northern part of the property centered on a grassland basin bisected by Rock Creek. As part of the planning and approval process, the Powell County Planning Board requested that the Rock Creek Cattle Company place portions of the ranch under conservation easement in order to offset the higher residential densities proposed in the development area by permanently protecting native rangeland, scenic open space, wildlife habitat, and ranchland. The owners, Bill and Carol Foley, agreed to protect those lands, and have expressed a strong commitment to keeping the cattle operation on the ranch viable. As of this May, 3,675 acres of the home ranch have been protected by a conservation easement granted to Five Valleys Land Trust. These protected acres include the scenic back drop of the adjacent Grant Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site, and the town of Deer Lodge.

This acreage also contains the native range, hay lands, and a calving area that are integral to the continuing cattle operation on the ranch. The size of this project makes this conservation easement Five Valleys Land Trust’s largest to-date. In addition, the easement is a milestone event for the National Park Service, which has long envisioned finding a way to maintain the historic integrity of the adjacent landscape by ensuring that cows, not condos, reside on their borders.

Though change is inevitable on the old home ranch, one thing is now certain: a good portion of the ranch will remain home to livestock, wildlife, and a traditional and time honored way of life,
just as it has since C.H. Williams first staked his claim here over 100 years ago.

“Powell County Playground” By Perry Backus

Article from the Missoulian, posted April 23, 2006

“Powell County Playground” By Perry Backus

It’s not every man who gets to handpick his neighbors.

But then again, it’s not every man who can afford to buy a sprawling Montana cattle ranch and then develop an $80 Million exclusive subdivision with amenities that include an 18-hole golf course, a 7,000-square-foot fishing lodge, and a large fitness center in a pristine valley where only cows used to roam.

Bill Foley isn’t every man.

The chairman and CEO of the country’s largest title insurance company – in 2004 Fidelity National Financial’s revenues were nearly $8.3 billion – Foley’s friends call him a visionary.

He built the title insurance business from scratch. Since then, he’s also chaired the parent company of Carl’s Jr. and Hardees, started a successful line of wines at his Foley Estates Vineyard and become the largest individual shareholder in Big Mountain at Whitefish.

Foley’s a man who knows how to get things done.

His newest vision includes a signature golf course wrapping around a collection of up to 200 strategically scattered homes in the middle of the 80,000-acre Rock Creek Cattle Co. ranch just north of the small town of Deer Lodge. Foley purchased the ranch with a consortium of partners in 2004.

Earth-moving equipment is already carving out the Tom Doak-designed course, which promises to feature views of the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness and Flint Range. Down along Rock Creek, workers are busy erecting the new fishing lodge and several of the large cabins where the subdivision’s first residents will dwell.

Someday soon, Foley will begin interviewing some of the first few homeowners – who will likely spend a few months each year enjoying the scenery, playing some golf, perhaps fishing a bit or just enjoying the Western allure of a working cattle ranch.

This isn’t your typical subdivision. Foley promises there won’t be high-pressure sales people hovering about hoping to make that next sale.

“We’re not trying to get the last dollar,” he said in a telephone interview. “It’s really more about the people who’ll be part of this.”

And to make sure that happens, Foley plans to visit with every single one before anyone signs on the dotted line.

“It is a membership committee of one,” he said.

While Foley said the people who buy into his idea may be different from the folks who call the nearby town of Deer Lodge home, the new neighbors will be low-key and very capable of enjoying Montana’s Western heritage.

“We don’t want a bunch of showboats,” Foley said. “We’re going to be looking for basic good people.”

Memberships will come in different degrees. Some will choose to buy one of the pre-built cabins. Others will build their own homes on carefully laid out lots designed to provide a sense of privacy. And still others will simply purchase a membership that will allow access to the golf course, rentals and other amenities.
Many of the members will probably be friends of a friend. Foley has 40 partners in the ownership of the ranch. He owns 60 percent.

“They are all friends of mine,” he said. “I’m sure that they’ll know two or three other people who will be interested. We’re not going to have a big advertisement program. It’s all going to be very, very low key.

“We’d also like to get some local people up there,” Foley said.

Foley plans to continue a cattle operation on the ranch. At the urging of his ranch manager, he did pare down the number of bison on the place. In their stead, he’d like to get a few longhorns – in part to honor his great-grandfather, who trailed that breed from Texas to Colorado.

Down in the valley, in the small town of Deer Lodge, people are wondering what the expensive development will mean to their community.

Up to this point, the Deer Lodge Valley has missed most of the rapid development that’s occurring in areas along the Continental Divide. Powell County’s population dropped by 109 from 2000 to 2005, according to U.S. Census figures. Some claim it’s because of the stigma of being part of the country’s largest Superfund cleanup. Others point to the prison.

Whatever the reason, there’s many living in and around the town who don’t particularly care to see change come too quickly. After watching the population explosions in places like Ravalli, Missoula and Gallatin counties, some Powell County residents have even taken the unheralded step of asking to be zoned.

Most of the northern end of the county is zoned for larger tracts. In some areas, the smallest tract that can be created is 160 acres. The southern end of the valley remains zoned for one-acre lots.

“People in some parts of our county made a conscious decision that they don’t want to become the next Helena Valley or Whitefish,” said Bill Mattice, Powell County Planning Board president. “They did what many people around the state loathe – they asked for zoning.

“We all realize that we can’t stop growth, but we can manage it,” Mattice said.

The Rock Creek Cattle Co. subdivision was developed under the county’s guidelines, which included requirements to set aside portions of the ranch under conservation easements in exchange for the opportunity to cluster development around the fishing lodge enclave. Part of the land set aside includes the hillsides visitors see when visiting Deer Lodge’s historic Grant-Kohrs Ranch.

The development is designed to be non-intrusive. It’s tucked away inside the large ranch. The public won’t even know it’s there, Foley said.

“There won’t be homes on top of hills. People won’t be able to see it … we wanted this to be environmentally friendly,” Foley said. “We wanted to do the right thing.”

That minimalist approach to development carried through to the selection of an architect for the golf course. Tom Doak is known for his ability to work within the confines of the landscape.

“He’s a minimalist,” said Foley, an avid golfer himself. In fact, Golf Digest put him in with the top five executive golfers in the world in 2004. “I wanted to see a minimum of amount of dirt moved Š that’s why I picked him.”

Doak, the principal designer of Michigan-based Renaissance Golf, learned his trade in the British Isles, where he was taken by the naturalness of the courses there.

“Most of those were built before 1930 and before they had heavy equipment,” he said. “They were designed to take advantage of the landscape.”

In designing the 18-hole course at the Rock Creek Ranch, Doak took that same approach.

“If it weren’t for all the rock on the ground, we probably would have had to do very little to shape the course,” Doak said. “It really looks more like the sand dune type of course than anything else I’ve seen in Montana. We would have spent $500,000 shaping a course to look like it. As it is, we’ll probably spend $1 million getting all the rock out.”

“This kind of course wouldn’t have been built 20 years ago,” he said. “It would have just been too expensive to create.”

In a county where the median family income is almost $36,000, that kind of expense is hard to fathom. There’s a general hope the construction and influx of new people will somehow benefit the locals.

“We’re seeing some enthusiasm downtown,” said Powell County Commissioner Dwight O’Hara. “All the retail stores are full and the economy is starting to increase from the ground up. As commissioners, we’re certainly delighted to see the tax base increased.”

The three-member commission works part time to manage the county. Tax revenues aren’t enough to pay for full-time positions. Money to pay for the basic operation of the county is always a concern.

“We’re very dependent on Sun Mountain Lumber and its 300 employees,” O’Hara said. “They are critical to our economy. The fact that they have to keep going further and further away for timber is a huge concern.”

Up to this point, there hasn’t been very much development in the county, but Deer Lodge Mayor Jim Magone thinks that may be ready to change. He draws that conclusion from his experience in Livingston and the departure of Burlington Northern. The railroad’s departure left many in the small town in despair – worried the community would dry up and blow away.

And then people from other states discovered the Paradise Valley.

“There was a general uproar when they began moving in,” remembered Magone. “Without the out-of-staters, that town would have had a hard time surviving. No one really wants to accept change, but it is a part of life.”

“I think it’s just going to be important for all of us to work together to help guide how that change will occur,” he said. “We just need to do our best to plan it out so we don’t have problems down the road.”

Not everyone is happy to see outsiders moving in and changing the makeup of the Deer Lodge Valley.

“It’s disturbing to me and a lot of other people when outsiders come in and drive up prices of these ranches,” Mattice said. “It’s no longer possible to pay for these places with the kind of money you can make from raising cattle. It just won’t pencil out. That’s disturbing to me.”

There’s going to be some jobs, especially during the construction phase on the Rock Creek Ranch. But after that, Mattice doubts there will be much financial benefit.

“It’s going to be one very small part of the mix in our economy,” he said. “They’re going to live in the middle of 25,000 acres of private land. They’ll fly in, go out to their places and maybe once in a while they’ll come in for groceries. I just don’t see much of an economic impact.”

On the other hand, Mattice said that before Sherm Anderson purchased the sawmill in town, there was a real worry that mill might be shut down.

“That would have killed Deer Lodge,” he said. “We’d be half the size.”

For his part, Foley hopes the town of Deer Lodge won’t change much.

“Deer Lodge is a nice town. We don’t want to change that,” he said. “We started talking with people in Deer Lodge right from the beginning. They were maybe a little skeptical at first. Hopefully, that’s changed.”

Reporter Perry Backus can be reached at 523-5259 or at pbackus@missoulian.