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would have looked
at these 67 acres
in the California desertcovered with dilapidated sheds, crumbling Styrofoam
and an abandoned, 5,000-gallon ethanol stilland seen one giant mess.
Architect Stuart Resor C64 saw an opportunity.
Last summer he
bought the Borrego Springs property, site of a failed solar-energy farm,
for $30,000 (one tenth of its original price) and is planning to turn
the site into an RV park, campground and desert-discovery and adventure
center, tentatively named Desert Star Ranch.
Dreaming: Stuart Resor C64 wants to turn an abandoned solar-energy
farm into a campground and desert-discovery center.
In the early
1980s United Energy Corporation built what it claimed would be the worlds
largest solar-generating plant on the property, attracting several thousand
investors seeking a legal tax shelter. But according to Resor, It never
produced one watt of electricity for the public benefit. The federal
government went after the company in the mid-1980s, alleging a Ponzi scheme
in which the money that was doled out came from other investors rather
than the sale of electricity.
Resor, who has
been camping in the Borrego Springs desert for more than three decades,
decided he could use his experience in hotel and resort design to transform
the leftover eyesore, which was last occupied in 1987 as a tilapia fish
farm, supplying sushi restaurants. I had always pictured doing a kind
of learning classroom-type campground, he says, so people could really
come back [from their vacations] with a new knowledge about the desert,
from the really cool [stargazing opportunities] to the wildlife to the
At his dream
campground, which he hopes to have operating within three years, Resor
envisions a swimming pool, palm trees and vintage trailers, two of which
will be devoted to the themes of his favorite musicians, Elvis and the
Beach Boys. He hopes to eventually add an ornamental cactus nursery and
a wildlife preserve, as well as a desert-science, paleontology and astronomy
Part of the
idea is to [take] stuff other people dont want and put it to good use,
Resor explains. For instance, nurserymen in the desert are constantly
digging up and throwing away cactus. Resor plans to use these castoffs
to start his own cactus-growing operation that will sell to customers
worldwide. He also would like to create a wildlife preserve on the property
to educate people about the huge network of animals, from bobcats to
mountain lions, that live in the desert. Right now when a mountain lion
gets in trouble, they kill it.
Resor, who maintains
an architecture practice in Cardiff, California, has spent another $30,000
on property cleanup and repairs, but thats much less than might have
been necessary. He put an ad in the paper to get rid of most of the usable
pieces of Styrofoam to homeowners who want to insulate their garages.
He took apart the old sheds and saved the lumber for future construction.
like the ethanol stillwhich was supposed to be used in the solar-energy
operationResor plans to leave intact to preserve some of the sites storied
past. Its too bad the solar farm was a sham, he says. It seemed like
a good place to use the more than abundant sunshine to make electricity.
It still is a good place for that, but Im not capitalized to do this.
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