The Ecology of Privilege
In Teton County, Wyoming, a spectacular residential landscape sets aside significant “public open space” for the owner’s sole benefit.
By Adam Regn Arvidson, ASLA
Courtesy David Swift
Suppose a developer sets aside 400 of 710 developable acres,
restores native trout streams, re-creates habitat for migrating birds, and
establishes a nature and raptor recovery center with a full-time
naturalist—then disallows public access. Is this public-spirited conservation?
Now, suppose this development is in a part of the country
already endowed with public land—an astounding 4.4 square miles of it for every
man, woman, and child in the area. Does it still matter whether those 400 acres
are open to the public or not?
The place is Teton County, Wyoming, where 97 percent of the
land area is public, a playground about four times the size of Rhode Island
comprising Yellowstone and Teton National Parks, the National Elk Refuge, and
Bridger–Teton and Targhee National Forests.
The project is 3 Creek Ranch, an upscale development just
south of well-heeled Jackson with stunning views of the jagged Teton Range.
There are 136 market-rate units here, from 1/2-acre cabin lots (strategically
placed to ensure the big-dollar views) to 35-acre ranchettes in restored riparian
areas. Resale values for the cabin lots, including “cabins” of between 3,500
and 5,500 square feet, are around $1 million, while the ranchettes go for
between $6 and $9 million.
3 Creek provides context for a smaller but complementary
project, the Livingood residence, about 10 miles away. Both projects are by
Verdone Landscape Architecture (VLA). Both address the complex hydrology of the
intermontane West. And both set aside a significant amount of open space that
is, quite strictly, closed to the public.
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