BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) – An unusual offer from one of the richest men in the country could bring a herd of bison to Boulder, but the city is finding that the project would come with a hefty price tag.
Boulder Open Space officials have been exploring the idea of having a herd of bison similar to the one owned by Denver Mountain Parks along Interstate 70 since Ted Turner offered to donate 20 bison last December.
A study shows the land where the animals would go can only hold about a dozen of the animals. It also projected that there would be a cost of at least $450,000 to get the herd started, with much of the expenditures going towards fencing. It would cost about another $100,000 a year to keep the herd fed and cared for.
The bison would roam around one of two pieces of city property that straddle Highway 36 between Cherryvale Road and the Boulder Overlook. The city is exploring options to utilize the overlook as a place for tourists to see the herd, much like Denver Mountain Parks’ herd at Genesee.
Boulder Open Space spokesman Mark Gershman told CBS4 that the fence would have to be “about 6 feet tall and then three strands above that, bringing it up to about 7 and a half feet.”
“The top three strands would be discouraging the bison from jumping, then there would be an electrical internal strand to keep them from jumping over the fence,” he said.
Marty Homola oversees Denver’s bison herd and worked with Boulder on their study.
“Down at Daniel’s Ranch Park we had a bull jump over our 5 foot fence one time,” Homola said.
Homola said that while the startup costs seem exorbitant, he believes the community payoff is priceless.
“The (Denver herd) is a really big deal. This is probably one of the most viewed herds around Colorado,” said Holoma. “On Sundays it’s like a traffic jam (in Genesee).”
Boulder could recoup some of the expenses by selling the bison offspring. Last year Denver sold 32 of its animals, netting $40,000.
Many Boulder residents who have provided input on the idea have strong opinions about the herd.
“There were a number of people concerned about the expense, a number of people concerned about limitations on public access. And some people enthusiastic on seeing bison when you crest the hill,” he said.
If the plan for the herd were to be approved, the highway next to the grazing area might have an appropriate new name. A Colorado Senate committee passed a resolution Wednesday to rename the Boulder Turnpike the Buffalo Highway.
That would allow the Colorado Department of Transportation to accept gifts, grants and donations to pay for new signs to honor the University of Colorado and its mascot, Ralfie the buffalo.