Boulder buying itself a massive holiday gift in 179-acre Shanahan Ranch

Boulder set to officially acquire 156-year-old family-owned ranch

By Tatyana Sharpton Dec 20 2019

After decades of eyeing the 179-acre Shanahan Ranch just south of Boulder and west of Colorado 93, the city of Boulder officially approved purchase of the land for $8 million on December 17, giving all of us a great holiday present.

The ranch’s proximity to existing trails in nearly all directions also makes it an opportune fit for new connections and access points between existing trails within the open space system.

The purchase will formalize protection of the parcel already years in the works. The city bought the land’s development rights in 1985 that blocked development on the parcel and a conservation easement in 1991 that opened up trail access through the ranch. Many hikers and bikers cruising south Mesa trails are used to sharing space with Shanahan cows, which dot the wide-open landscape.

Lynn Shanahan, great-great-grandson of a Shanahan who first homesteaded the property in 1863, is in the final stages of finally selling the property to the city. The family added a three-bed, one-bath, 2,732-square-foot home at 1019 S Foothills Hwy. The ranch also features two lakes, a stock pond, and several valuable tallgrass prairie species including big bluestem, switchgrass and yellow Indiangrass.

The property has been on the market since 2012 — and most recently listed at $10 million — after the city initially went under contract on it for $6.6 million before the Great Recession stalled the deal.

Its recent purchase comes as no surprise, as city officials have eyed the property as an open space and agricultural asset ever since the first open space acquisition plan in 1967.

Boulder, of course, has taken care of its takes the protection of its land very seriously; the $8 million purchase of the Shanahan Ranch Property will allow the ranch parcel to come under stewardship of Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks with the goal of conservation for open space and continued agricultural use.

The purchase of the ranch property also includes the land’s water rights, comprised of 1.25 shares of Boulder Creek water that comes from South Boulder Foothillls Ditch and Upper Bear Creek Ditch, but it only acquired the mineral rights for the western half of the property. Mineral rights include the right to drill for materials like oil and gas, and Colorado State Land Board owns the mineral rights for the property’s eastern half. Currently, the city holds no leases to drilling operators.

The ranch’s future

The land will be leased back to owners Shanahan and his wife, Sandra, for the next five years. Outside of this, the city’s plans for the property include open-space use and continued agricultural use.


December 17, 2019

  • City of Boulder approves purchase of Shanahan Ranch Property for open space and agricultural purposes


  • Lynn Shanahan, sixth-generation owner, lists the Shanahan family property for $8.9 million


  • The City of Boulder offers to purchase the property for $6.6 million, but the negotiations fall through.


  • City of Boulder purchased a conservation easement for the property in 1991


  • The city purchases the property’s development rights agreements


  • City officials draft first open space acquisition plan and express interest in the Shanahan Ranch Property as a valuable natural asset.


  • Shanahan family builds three-bed, one-bath home on the 176-acre ranch property


  • Lynn Shanahan’s great-great-grandfather first homesteads the ranch

Header image: Shanahan Ranch Property. Source: