When Ace Lane bought the 200-acre property in 1990, his friends scratched their heads. It was a beat-up cattle ranch and, back then, was considered to be far from Aspen.
“People thought this was like Nebraska,” said Lane. “They’d be like, ‘Why would you buy a place way out here, Ace?’ I was like, ‘It’s so cool, I love it.’”
One of his first projects was digging a long, narrow lake for water skiing. It’s sandwiched between nine acres of wetlands he also dug and Highway 82. He’s proud of the fact there are people who’ve lived in the area for decades and have never heard of Kodiak Lake. It’s tucked away and surrounded by trees, which are the other reason he bought the property.
He runs a landscaping business and has planted more than 40,000 trees, which he sells to clients.
Lane’s home is a quarter mile up the road from the ski lake. In the hillside behind his house, he’s dug an earthen room. Inside are a collection of bonsai trees. There he has a bald cypress, which was dug up in a swamp in Louisiana. He also has a redwood that’s over 180 years old.
“Truly, this is the baseline inspiration for what I do,” said Lane.
To understand why, you first need to understand why his body is completely covered in scars. When he was 12, he and a friend almost died in a welding accident. They were trying to unlock two pieces of steel.
“We were not having success with it, and things went bad in a hurry,” he said.
He spent a long time in the hospital after the fire. In the midst of his recovery, his mother introduced him to a Japanese man, who taught him about bonsai trees. Lane started collecting them and filled his childhood room in Chicago with plants and little trees.
When Lane’s team presented to Eagle County’s Commissioners, he mostly sat quietly as members of the community either criticized or praised his project
During one meeting, Ellie Taylor, a small business owner in the mid-valley, said “None of my friends, none of my colleagues want this. We want to preserve and protect why we live here.”
Lane claims to understand the fear of growth, but he thinks development can solve problems for people commuting hours each day up and down the valley.
“They can spend more time with their family because they’re spending less time on the road. [There’s] less traffic on the road because they’re closer to work,” he said.
Lane’s wetlands will become open space, but people living at the Tree Farm won’t be able to come explore it.
“Then it would be overrun. It’d be too much,” he said.
The Tree Farm now moves to a third round of approvals, which could take an entire year.