Butch and Judy Clark first met while working on a Dude Ranch in Wyoming, and together they moved to the Gunnison Valley in the 1970s. They purchased 960 acres of land, upon which sat the famous Governor’s Cabin. Now referred to as the Clark Cabin, it was built in the early 1930s as a place to convene important decision-makers from both the State of Colorado and Western College.
Over the years, the Clarks noticed a decline in affordable housing in the area and an increase in development pressure on remaining open space. Anticipating that this would continue Butch and Judy created a plan for how they could protect their land for open space and recreation while also addressing the housing shortage.
The Clarks approached The Trust for Public Land (TPL) to realize their vision and in January 2014, TPL helped arrange a conservation easement for 331 acres of the Clark’s property. The proceeds went to support the Gunnison Valley Housing Foundation, a local affordable housing nonprofit formed in 2010. In 2019, the organization’s name was changed to the Valley Housing Fund.
The second portion of the Clark’s donation was realized in 2020 with the Long Lake land exchange with the US Forest Service. This involved the USFS swapping its public lands at Long Lake with a large parcel of Clark land in the Gunnison Highlands. This previously private land near the Fossil Ridge Wilderness became USFS-managed public land, and the Crested Butte Land Trust was able to purchase the Long Lake parcel to be preserved into the future. The funds from this purchase went to VHF at the request of the Clark Family.
The Valley Housing Fund still maintains one 15-acre parcel of land on which the original cabin (now known as the Clark Cabin) sits. Nonprofits are invited to use the cabin for retreats or small events, and hunters, skiers, and visitors can rent the cabin as well to help raise funds for VHF.
The vision of VHF is set by a Board of Directors with a unique skill set that includes construction, property management, engineering, local and county government, project management, real estate law, and philanthropy. After operating for over a decade with only volunteer or part time staff, the VHF hired its first full time Executive Director in 2022 with the intention of making a larger impact on housing.