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East Fork Ranch owner, Daniel McCarthy, dies at 92

Part-time resident Daniel McCarthy, owner of the 2,800-acre East Fork Ranch east of Pagosa Springs, passed away Jan. 3 in Evanston, Ill. (his primary residence all his life), it was announced by the family late last week.

In late 2009, the McCarthy family contracted with the Southwest Land Alliance to put the property in conservation easement, ending years of speculation that the property would be developed for commercial or residential purposes.

By contracting with the SLA, the McCarthys agreed that the ranch would not be parceled out for development. The first portion of the property to go into easement, a 1,062 acre parcel, was finalized by the SLA in December 2009. Two more parcels (2,800 acres total) are expected to be added to the conservation easement in the near future.

McCarthy had initially purchased the property to develop a ski area on the west side of Wolf Creek Pass, but abandoned that idea by the 1980s. Later, McCarthy considered developing the ranch with the Piano Creek developers, with an eye on turning the property into an area for high-end, luxury development. The Piano Creek development scheme was likewise dropped and the East Fork Ranch was used primarily as a residence for the McCarthy family, as well as for running cattle.

Born on Oct. 10, 1918, McCarthy served as a Marine pilot during World War II, flying over 700 missions both stateside and in the Pacific Theater, eventually achieving the rank of major.

After the war, McCarthy returned to Illinois, where he turned a business and real estate career into enough success that he was able to purchase the East Fork Ranch in the early 1970s.

For Pagosa Country residents, McCarthy’s lasting legacy will be a large portion of land left pristine, in perpetuity, in the midst of the wilderness that characterizes the drive to Wolf Creek Pass.