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BackCountry - Wild at Heart

Middle, yes. Average, no. Good things are happening at Ranch View Middle School.

by | September 15th, 2014

BackCountry kids don’t just have it good when it comes to elementary school. They also have an outstanding choice for middle school, those in-between years that can be the most challenging.

Less than two miles away from BackCountry, Ranch View Middle School boasts a “Performance” plan status, the highest level rating by the Colorado Department of Education. In terms of test scores, 7th graders in 2013 averaged 73% in math (compared to 55% statewide), 82% in reading (compared to 68%), and 79% in writing (compared to 61%).

Why such good scores? One reason may be the school’s emphasis on hiring teachers with real-world experience, which brings additional depth and relevance to subject matter. RVMS teachers hold degrees in Engineering, Technology, Business, Construction, and Marketing, as well as Education.

RanchViewMiddleSchoolExterior
The school also offers an abundance of choices to match kids’ educational needs. Perhaps its most attractive feature is its International Baccalaureate program, a challenging educational system that helps children develop the skills to live, learn, and work in a rapidly globalizing world.

When it comes to languages, children can choose from Spanish and Chinese, a rare but extremely relevant choice in today’s global economy. The arts include band, choir, orchestra, drama, and visual art.

A “Leaders of the Pack” group of 8th graders serve as role models for the school, and provide practical assistance to 7th graders in order to promote their success.

And there are clubs galore, oriented around books, chess, code, drama, robotics, guitar, and writing, among other interests.

Want to learn more? Visit the school at 1731 W. Wildcat Reserve Parkway or call (303) 387-2300.

Cattle and chickens and people, oh my.

by | September 8th, 2014

A short history of Highlands Ranch.
WildcatOverlook West

It’s a long and winding road that led to the tree-lined BackCountry Drive of today. While people tend to think of Highlands Ranch as a relatively new community (founded in 1981), the story of this place stretches back more than 150 years. Actually, much longer than that, since the land was once the hunting grounds for the Ute, Cheyenne, and Arapahoe Native American tribes. After the Europeans arrived, land ownership of what would become Colorado bounced between Spain and France until 1803 when, as part of the Louisiana Purchase negotiated by Thomas Jefferson and Napoleon Bonaparte, the area became part of the United States.

In 1859, Rufus “Dad” Clark—aka The Potato King of Colorado—filed a 160-acre homestead where the current Highlands Ranch Golf Club now stands. (Dad Clark Drive now makes more sense as a street name!) 

More homesteaders followed, including Austrian immigrants John Welte and brother-in-law Plaziduo Gassner, who began the Big Dry Creek Cheese Ranch, producing both butter and limburger cheese.

Lawrence Phipps Jr. Highlands Ranch 1937-1976 (4) web
In the 1890s, John W. Springer acquired a whopping 23,200 acres of homesteads and established the Springer Cross Country Horse and Cattle Ranch. And, he was responsible for building most of the castle-like Highland Ranch Mansion. Following a scandalous divorce, the property passed hands a few more times—once for the desperation price of $250. It also changed names to Sunland, Phipps, Highlands, and Diamond K Ranch, and shifted its focus to breeding dairy and Angus cattle, sheep, hogs, and chickens. The ranch was also the site of a prestigious hunt club, which used bloodhounds to hunt coyotes.

In 1979, Mission Viejo Company bought the ranch and began residential construction. The first residents, Phil and Kaye Scott, moved into Highlands Ranch in September 1981. In 1997, Shea Homes, a division of the J.F. Shea Company, acquired Mission Viejo Company and Highlands Ranch. More pools, schools, parks, businesses, and a library followed, and the population grew robustly (92,600 by 2011), thanks in part to the abundant community amenities that create a well-rounded lifestyle.

backcountry-wilderness-area-map
In fact, BackCountry’s quality of life is a direct result of that priority. More than 25 years ago, the community’s developer made an agreement with Douglas County, the Highlands Ranch Community Association, and Sand Creek Cattle Company to preserve the Backcountry Wilderness Area — adjacent to the BackCountry neighborhood — and protect it “in perpetuity for open space, recreation purposes, public facilities and wildlife habitat enhancement.” That promise of stewardship means BackCountry will continue to be a beautiful place to call home for generations to come.

PS- Are you a second generation Highlands Rancher? If you grew up in Highlands Ranch and still live in or have since returned to the community to raise your own family, please contact the Metro District. They’re working on a project and need to interview second generation Highlands Ranch residents. Please contact them at info@highlandsranch.org.

BackCountry’s Kids Science Event at the Sundial House

by | September 5th, 2014

BackCountry kids had a great time learning all about water wonders with Captain Vic the Science Wizard

Learn. Laugh. Dance. Ride. It’s all happening this September.

by | September 1st, 2014

What are you in the mood for? Chances are good you’ll find an activity in the metro area to match your disposition this month. Between Denver events, Highlands Ranch happenings, and BackCountry’s own calendar of activities, it’ll be easy to get everyone in the tribe to switch off the electronics and tune into some real-life fun.

HighlandsRanchDaysChuckwagon
Highlands Ranch Days
-Sept. 4-6, 9am-2pm
Learn the history of Highlands Ranch—while making some of your own. Ideal for the whole family, this annual event features historical reenactments, blacksmithing, weaving, Native American dancers, a petting zoo, raptor demonstrations, an 1800s tepee, a real chuck wagon, livestock displays, and more. Take a tour of the Highlands Ranch Mansion and hop on a hayride for views of the property rarely seen by the public. Adults $4, children $2; free if under age 2. Held at the Highlands Ranch MansionLearn more.

Oddball Comedy and Curiosity Festival-Sept. 7, 5pm
After a highly successful first year, the world’s biggest comedy tour is back and in Colorado’s favorite setting—Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Backed up by amazing city views, the festival’s impressively varied lineup of comedians will keep the jokes coming for every taste: Louis C.K., Sarah Silverman, Demetri Martin, Aziz Ansari, Chris Hardwick, DJ Trauma, Hannibal Buress, Marc Maron, Whitney Cummings, among others. Oddball 2014 will include two stages, the Cut Throat Freak Show (a roaming troupe of misfit performers), tasty treats, libations, and more. Presented by the comedy website Funny or Die. Tickets $99 + fees. Learn more.

Highlands Ranch Mansion
Big Band Dance Night at the Mansion
-Sept. 12, 6:30pm-8:30pm
Dust off your dancing shoes and prepare to swing at this unforgettable evening of big band music and dance, featuring the Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra. Hosted by the Highlands Ranch Mansion and Highlands Ranch Cultural Affairs. Very light appetizers included and cash bar available for beer and wine. Ages 21 and up. Advance tickets $25; $30 day of event if not sold out. Doors and cash bar open at 6:00 p.m. Learn more.

Blues & Brews-Sept. 13, 4pm-7pm
Somehow the blues feel right as we say goodbye to another season of concerts at the BackCountry Amphitheatre. Pack a picnic dinner and listen to the Delta Sonics, a fine Colorado blues act known for solid musicianship and exciting live performances since 1992. Enjoy local brews at a discounted price, take home a portrait by a caricature artist, and bedazzle your kids with free glitter tattoos. Open to BackCountry residents and their guests. RSVP at www. backcountrylife.org by Friday, September 5.

BackCountryHighlandsRanchAmpitheatre
Pedal the Plains Bicycle Tour
-Sept. 19-21
Whether your bike riding tends toward the hardcore or the lollygagging, don’t miss The Denver Post’s one-of-a-kind Pedal the Plains bike tour. Pedal The Plains invites riders of all abilities to celebrate the agricultural roots and frontier heritage of Colorado’s Eastern Plains. The 2014 tour will venture to three charming communities in Northeastern Colorado: Wiggins, Fort Morgan, and Sterling. Cyclists will taste food grown in the region, learn from local experts, explore points of interest, meet local farmers and ranchers, and try their hand at local crafts and farming techniques. Each evening, riders will trade in their Lycra for Levis and settle into good eats and libations, homespun entertainment, and live music. Learn more.

What’s blooming at BackCountry, summer edition

by | August 25th, 2014

Between the crocuses, daffodils, and tulips, spring was a delightful time to wander through BackCountry. Come visit now, and you’ll discover that late summer has plenty to offer, too. Spring plantings of wild roses in reds, yellows, and oranges are going strong, as are all the other perennials thriving from the summer sun and rain. Here are a few photos of the flowers and grasses you’ll encounter as you walk the trails of BackCountry.

Parks in Highlands Ranch Colorado

Sit on the rock ledge beside Discovery Pond and listen to wind rustling through the wild grasses, cottonwoods, and cattails. Look closely and you might spy a carp munching on weeds; one of BackCountry’s many environmentally savvy practices.

 

Walk the pathway through Discovery Park, especially next month after a few cooler days, and discover how the wild grasses change from summery green to rich, deep tones of red and orange.

Walk the pathway through Discovery Park, especially next month after a few cooler days, and discover how the wild grasses change from summery green to rich, deep tones of red and orange.

 

Mountains are always in the backdrop at BackCountry. In the foreground, a sweep of red Himalayan border jewel and purple midnight salvia.

Mountains are always in the backdrop at BackCountry. In the foreground, a sweep of red Himalayan border jewel and purple midnight salvia.

 

Himalayan border jewel is apparently as tasty as it is beautiful.

Himalayan border jewel is apparently as tasty as it is beautiful.

 

Cattails offer nature’s ultimate aquatic filtering system. Found beside BackCountry’s many ponds, they effectively filter stormwater runoff and herbicides, while providing a cozy habitat for wildlife.

Cattails offer nature’s ultimate aquatic filtering system. Found beside BackCountry’s many ponds, they effectively filter stormwater runoff and herbicides, while providing a cozy habitat for wildlife.

 

A prairie shortgrass mix ties together the neighborhood’s many open spaces and contributes to BackCountry’s native Colorado feel.

A prairie shortgrass mix ties together the neighborhood’s many open spaces and contributes to BackCountry’s native Colorado feel.

 

Purple sage and yarrow bloom all summer long, and bring vibrant color to many of the common areas in BackCountry.

Purple sage and yarrow bloom all summer long, and bring vibrant color to many of the common areas in BackCountry.

 

Native to Colorado, red and yellow yarrow are water-wise and attract butterflies, too.

Native to Colorado, red and yellow yarrow are water-wise and attract butterflies, too.

 

Native to Colorado, red and yellow yarrow are water-wise and attract butterflies, too.

Native to Colorado, red and yellow yarrow are water-wise and attract butterflies, too.

Paragon Homes – Only 4 Lots Left!

by | August 25th, 2014


Sanctuary Collection
$1,195,000* | Ranch Style – Plan 5
11 Flowerburst Ct.
Highlands Ranch, CO 80126
5,288 Square Feet
4 bedrooms | 4 bathrooms | 3-car garage

Paragon Homes has only four remaining lots all with a mountain and/or lake vista. Choose from five semi-custom floor plans including the popular ranch-style home featuring a master suite complete with heated tile floors as well as three secondary bedrooms with full bathrooms. Additional features include a Chef’s kitchen with butler’s pantry, volume ceiling in the great room, courtyard with fireplace, 3-car garage, finished basement and covered outdoor patio.

View the BackCountry Featured Home

*Price, specifications and availability are subject to change without notice. Square footage is approximate. Actual homes as constructed may not contain the features and layouts depicted and may vary from photo.

New dog in town

by | August 18th, 2014

When it comes to hot dogs, more than a few people turn up their noses. Which is completely understandable if we’re talking about boring, pedestrian hot dogs. However, if you’ve ever swooned over a Biker Jim’s gourmet hot dog (of Food Network fame), you’re going to be delighted to know his famous dogs have found a home in Highlands Ranch.

Photo by Danielle Lirette/Westword

Photo by Danielle Lirette/Westword

Opened earlier this month, Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs is located at 1601 Mayberry Drive near Crave and Indulge Wine Bar, and, fittingly, in the former site of Bernie’s Hot Dogs. Hailed as Denver’s best hot dog by Westword, and one of the country’s best according to Food and WineForbes, and the Food Channel, Biker Jim’s began humbly with former repo man, Jim Pittenger, selling hot dogs from a cart on the 16th Street Mall. These were no ordinary dogs, though, as they were split, slathered with cream cheese and heaped with strangely irresistible onions soaked in Coca-Cola. Biker Jim’s growing fame led to a shop on Larimer Street (still thriving, as is the cart), and now the Highlands Ranch restaurant, with 30 seats and great mountain views.

What’s created his rabidly loyal fan base? Quality ingredients with unexpected flavors. Dogs include Louisiana Red Hots, Wild Boar Sausage, Alaska Reindeer, and Elk Jalapeno Cheddar Brats. One savory flavor combo, The Conspiracy, includes Stilton blue cheese, bacon, red onion marmalade, and French fried onions. And house-made sides like French fries, fried macaroni and cheese, and fried pickles round things out…so to speak.

Hungry yet? Visit Biker Jim’s Sunday-Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Photo by Danielle Lirette/Westword

Photo by Danielle Lirette/Westword

BackCountry’s Back to School Pool Party at the Sundial Pool

by | August 14th, 2014

BackCountry children enjoyed their final days of summer during the Back-to-School Pool Party.

The ABCs of Stone Mountain Elementary School

by | August 11th, 2014

Over the years, our neighborhood has earned an enviable reputation for its high-achieving schools. Dig a little deeper into the test scores, and you’ll see that BackCountry kids are definitely getting their share of the good stuff.

For BackCountry residents, home schools are Stone Mountain Elementary SchoolRanch View Middle School, and ThunderRidge High School. Over the coming school year, we’ll take a look at the other two, but here’s a bit of insight into the kind of education BackCountry kids in grades preK-6 enjoy at Stone Mountain Elementary.
Image from http://realtortrina.com/

Awards & Achievements
Here’s a good place to start since, well, there are so many accomplishments. In 2012, Stone Mountain Elementary was one of eight Douglas County School District schools to receive the John Irwin Award from the Colorado Department of Education. This award recognizes schools that exceed state expectations over a three-year period. The school also won the Governor’s Distinguished Improvement Award for exceeding expectations in growth for not just some, but all, students.

Other nifty achievements:
• More than 94% of students scored proficient or advanced in math
• Top 10% ranking of Colorado schools in reading
• Top 3% in writing
• 88% of staff members hold master’s degrees
• Ranked 9 out of 10 on Great Schools.com

Brass Tacks
Here’s a little basic 411 on the school. Little ones can enroll for morning or afternoon preschool and kindergarten, as well as kindergarten enrichment. Imagination Station, a before- and after-school child care, provides kids with games, crafts, organized games in the gymnasium, a variety of outdoor activities, and a homework club. And speaking of clubs and activities, there are plenty—including art, chess, choir, guitar, cooking, Destination Imagination, skiing, robotics, Lego building, Spanish, and more. The school also boasts an active parent component that helps provide community-building extras such as ice cream socials, father/daughter and mother/son events, fun runs, yearbook, and an annual dinner and auction.

Commute
Busy parents, you’re going to love this. The school nestles up close to the western edge of BackCountry, which translates into a conveniently short commute. So, depending on where you live in the community, you could be as close as a five-minute walk away. Or, at the most, a five-minute drive. And of course, there’s always the ability to use the school district’s bus program. Walk, bike, or drive, Stone Mountain Elementary is an outstanding destination to have so close to home.

Please note! Douglas County has organized a school supply drive to help less fortunate kids in the county get their school year started right. Learn how to contribute here.

BackCountry’s Mystery and Mummy’s Treasure Event

by | August 5th, 2014

Residents learned to “walk like the Egyptians” at the Mystery of the Mummies Treasure event.

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