Rincon Creek Ranch
How it all came to be....
For the Shirley's, it all began in 2007, while walking their 200 pound English Mastiff, Jackson. They had both reached a point in their respective corporate careers where they could make a change. Gretchen had worked for almost a decade in radio and television advertising, and followed that with a nearly fifteen year career in real estate finance. Bill had worked as a licensed structural engineer for twenty-seven years. Although very successful in their careers, they both longed for something slower paced and less stressful. One day Gretchen asked Bill, “If you could do any job you wanted, what would it be?” Bill, a Tucson native, had grown up on a rural property. He loved the outdoors and enjoyed fixing and maintaining things. He had a working knowledge of water wells, plumbing, electrical, and building construction. He answered, “I'd love to be foreman of a Ranch. How about you?” Gretchen, an avid chef and Hallmark movie watcher, told him she always longed to own and operate a Bed and Breakfast. That was it. They decided to make the change.
They both had been eyeing a gorgeous property on 20 acres near their home. The property had everything they desired, except a price they could afford. They struggled for nearly a year trying to make it work. Gretchen had already developed a photo album and was working out marketing ideas, but ultimately, they had to give it up. Bill was confident, that with his understanding of property development and construction, gained from his years as a bridge and commercial building engineer, and Gretchen's skills at decorating and marketing, that they could build what they were looking for, if they could find the land. Bill's only criteria was that the Property not be the only draw for visitors. In other words, there had to be something to bring in visitors and tourists other than their property alone. They knew they couldn't build a Disneyland, so out-of-the way locations, no matter how beautiful, were out. Gretchen began to look for any property greater than 20 acres that was for sale.
In November 2009, they booked the honeymoon suite at one of the Tucson resorts to celebrate their anniversary. On the way, Gretchen told Bill that there was something she wanted to show him. A half hour later, they were standing at a gate taking in their first view of Rincon Creek Ranch. Gretchen explained that the property was about 70 acres, shared a border with Saguaro National Park, had pasture land, several out-buildings, its own water well, and a Ranch House. It was also close enough to Tucson (15 minutes to anywhere on the East side, and 30 minutes to Downtown) to be viable for Tucson visitor's and tourists. Bill saw the potential right away, and as soon as their weekend was over, he began a thorough investigation of the property. A few weeks later, Bill and Gretchen got an appointment to visit the Ranch and were given an extensive tour of the whole property by the owner, Mike Schultz. Mike showed them the ranch house then provided ATV's to tour the land. He pointed out features that could only be seen with a boots-on-the-ground tour. He answered all of their questions and regaled them with tales of the Ranch's history, how he acquired it, and his life there.
At the same time, two other similar properties came on the market, but after performing the same detailed investigation, and visiting, they were dismissed. Gretchen and Bill both noted that every time they went back to the Ranch, it felt like home. They dug deeper into all aspects of the property and began to plan out what would be required for it to become the vision they had in mind. From their research, they knew that constructing and operating a minor resort was a permitted conditional use of the property. They also discovered that the original owner and developer of the Ranch, Gilbert Acosta, specifically planned and detailed this plan for the Rincon Creek Ranch in the covenants and deed restrictions that he placed on all of the original Ranch property which comprised nearly a 1000 acres in the Rincon Creek valley.
Mike Schultz told them everything he knew about Gilbert Acosta and Gilbert's wife Betty. He also showed them pictures of the Acosta's and a framed newspaper article on the Ranch. Further research into Gilbert Acosta revealed the life of a strong civic leader, and together with his wife Betty, a couple strongly committed to the mentoring of disadvantaged youths, and preserving and celebrating Hispanic culture.
Gilbert Acosta was born in Hermosillo Mexico in 1906, and moved to Arizona as an infant with his parents. At the age of three, the family moved back across the border. At the age of six, his father was killed and the town they were living in, Cananea, Sonora, was under regular attack by hostile natives. With a desire for peace, and to educate Gilbert in the United States, Gilbert's mother, Adela, moved them back to Tucson. Gilbert began to sell newspapers in downtown Tucson to help support his mother, and at age ten, he was formally hired by the Arizona Daily Star. With hard work, Gilbert's career steadily grew. At age sixteen, he was the Mail Room Foreman, and by twenty-one, he became the Circulation Bookkeeper. In 1932 Gilbert applied for, and received, U.S. citizenship. A year later, he married Elizabeth “Betty” Hunter, an eight year employee of the Star. Beginning in the 1940's, the Acosta's began acquiring land in the Rincon Creek valley. Gilbert loved ranching, and raised cattle and crops on the property. Gilbert retired from the Arizona Daily Star in September 1959 as it longest career employee, and began ranching full time. Gilbert was a member of numerous civic organizations and a scoutmaster for twenty years. The Acosta's fully embraced the Ranch life. Gilbert would travel up and down the creek in his old Jeep, originally a newspaper delivery vehicle. If he wasn't in the Jeep, he was on the back of a horse. In 1936, Gilbert and Betty lost their only son at birth, and never had any other natural children of their own. However, Their lives were not without children. Gilbert and Betty mentored and fostered numerous children throughout their lives together, They imparted their values of hard work and civic responsibility often using the hard but rewarding Ranch life, to teach those values. Today, many of those children have become judges, attorneys, highly successful business owners, civic leaders, and outstanding citizens. Several of the Acosta's “kids” still get together to honor them. Gilbert passed away in 1984 and Betty followed him in 1988. They are both buried in the Rincon Cemetery, a few miles southeast of the Ranch.
Mike Schultz had an interesting career as well. Mike, also a Tucson native, was a successful entrepreneur and avid storyteller. He had the good fortune to partner up with a gentleman that had several copy shops in Tucson. He started in sales, then became manager, and ultimately an owner. The businesses were purchased by the Xerox corporation, and Mike used part of his share to purchase the Rincon Creek Ranch from the Acosta estate in 1990. When Gilbert Acosta first obtained the property, the only structure was a cowboy line cabin which is now the main Ranch House master bedroom. Gilbert added an office, living room, dining area, den and kitchen. Gilbert butchered cattle in a room off of the kitchen and hung meat in the adjacent screened porch. After Mike purchased the property, he spent most of his energy beautifying and modernizing. He wanted a recreational ranch. He cleared a lot of the fencing and overhead electric lines. He kept the old tack room and adjacent structure as a landscaping shed and storage room. He built a large masonry chicken coop, constructed new fenced corrals at the pasture, replaced the old gravity fed water tower supply with a modern a hydropneumatic tank, installed irrigation in the pastures, planted the lawns, constructed a shop and carport/ramada, and built the in-ground swimming pool. He also remodeled the Ranch House, adding a master bathroom, three bedrooms, a “Jack & Jill bathroom, a laundry room, and guest bathroom. Ever the entrepreneur, Mike grew restless with all the peace and quiet of the Ranch. Mike had dabbled in the go-cart business and then the auto racing business, before landing in the motorcycle business. He opened a Victory motorcycle dealership in Tucson and Phoenix, and those businesses soon required his full attention, so he decided to put RCR up for sale. Mike had strong interest from land developers and a corporation specializing in providing outdoor retreat/counseling for troubled youths, but he really liked the Shirley's idea of pursuing Gilbert's dream of a guest resort.
The Shirley's knew that taking RCR to the next level would be a major undertaking. With all of the development hurdles and regulatory steps necessary, they couldn't risk just purchasing the property and then hope that everything would work out. Fortuitously, they found a cooperative seller in Mr. Schultz. After agreeing on price, the Shirley's were able to identify several critical milestones that they would have to achieve in the development of Rincon Creek Ranch, before the task would become only a technical and budgetary effort. The Shirley's sat down with Mr. Schultz and outlined the necessary steps and they were able to reach an agreement to pursue the development of the Ranch together. Once they had achieved the critical milestones, then the Shirley's would finalize the purchase and take over the development. The first thing the Shirley's wanted was to meet with all of the neighbors and outline their plans. The last thing they wanted was to invest their life savings into a property and venture, where they were not wanted. They were surprised to learn that one of the biggest concerns the neighbors had was that Bill and Gretchen were some kind of front for a large corporation that was trying to sneak in and mega-develop their valley. After they finally realized that it was just Bill & Gretchen and their big dog, and that their plans were going to have far less impact than a permitted housing development, they dropped their suspicions and concerns. Meeting the neighbors was just the first step. The Pima County development plan process is long and arduous. The Shirley's retained the services of a well known local civil engineering firm, and numerous consultants including geotechnical, hydraulic, hydrological, electrical, environmental, and architectural to help them develop their plans. Finally, in April 2010, all of the preliminary investigation and planning was completed, numerous meetings with Pima County and a public hearing had been held, and the project looked viable. The County approved use of the property as a Minor Resort, and the Shirley's were given permission to proceed. The next day, they concluded the purchase from Mr. Schultz. Now the real challenge began.
Ultimately, it would be another three years before they could break ground on the first guest “casita”. Bill and Gretchen spent the first year completely remodeling the Ranch House while furthering the development plans for the lodging facilities. As they would do for all of the project, Bill concentrated on infrastructure while Gretchen handled decorating, furnishing, and marketing. When they first looked at the property, Bill asked Gretchen, “What would you need to make this work for you?” She answered, “A new kitchen. Definitely a new kitchen.” The existing Ranch House had a small, galley-style kitchen at the end of the house with a kitchen sink window that looked out onto the carport. Bill and Gretchen decided to enclose the existing carport, open the wall between the two, and use the entire space for a main kitchen, prep kitchen and pantry. The existing galley kitchen was cleared and the space re-purposed as a reception area. Betty’s original wood stove still remains as does a stone metate and mano. Since the lodging plan included possibly using rooms in the main house for guests, and the kitchen for food service, the kitchen was remodeled to include all of the attributes necessary to qualify it as a commercial kitchen. The challenge was to retain all of the style of an elegant gourmet kitchen, but have everything look as if it were built as part of the original ranch. Gretchen called it “Rustic Elegance”, and kept the theme throughout the remodel and all of the new construction. Bill gave her a floor plan of the space, and Gretchen designed the layout, color scheme, and finishes. She chose all the appliances including a gourmet Ilve gas/electric range and double oven that looks like an antique and blends beautifully. The finished kitchen is a masterpiece and was featured in the September 2012 issue of Tucson Lifestyle magazine.
The remodel did not proceed without difficulty. Since Rincon Creek bisects the property, Pima County had serious concerns that in a flood, the new kitchen might be in the floodway. A structural solution utilizing grade beams and caissons was suggested by Bill, and approved, but the cost would be exorbitant. The Pima County Flood Control District suggested retaining a civil/hydraulic and geotechnical engineering consultant to create a computer model of Rincon Creek and then project out for a hundred years of erosion and deposition, under historic and flood flows, to verify any meander of the watercourse and its projected floodway borders. The engineering analysis was going to be extremely expensive, and it was stressed to the Shirley's that at the end, it might only prove that their new kitchen was in a hazard zone. Bill and Gretchen discussed it, and rolled the dice. Six weeks later the study was completed and approved. Good fortune had smiled on them. The study showed that the erosion hazard zone stayed more than a dozen feet below the Ranch House slab elevation, and more than sixty feet away from any occupied part of the structures. Ultimately, throughout the development and construction of the new additions to RCR, challenges like this arose constantly. With faith and perseverance, Bill and Gretchen moved steadily forward, taking each obstacle as it came, and used their wits and talents to find solutions.
Ultimately, every single room of the Ranch House was updated and remodeled. Every window was replaced with two pane wood/aluminum Sierra Pacific windows. The old screened in porch was completely remodeled into a sun room with skylights, custom built-in cabinets and shelves, a new window wall with double french door, and new ceiling fan lights. The den was remodeled into a library with custom built-in cabinetry and shelves, skylights, and new floor tile. The end wall was punched out and a new circular card room added. Cat 6 Ethernet cable, CATV cable, and security wiring was routed to every room and to a smart panel demarcation point. The entire old two-pole electrical service was scrapped and a new 600 Amp service with all new wiring, panels and outlets was installed. Lighting and plumbing fixtures were updated and added. A new wraparound porch was constructed extending from the front entry, all the way around the new kitchen, to join with the existing rear porch outside the sunroom and master bedroom. Eleven lighted fans adorn the full length of the porch ceiling, and have now become a favorite location for hummingbirds to build their nests. Gretchen wanted music throughout the home, so speakers with individual volume controls were installed on the porches and in the public rooms. The only rooms that were left looking completely original, were the large entry living room with the big stone fireplace where Gilbert's hunting trophies adorn the walls, and the original dining area, which Gretchen furnished to match Betty's original design seen in a photo. The only changes to those rooms were the new windows and additional lighting. The Ranch House remodel was completed in 2011, and the Shirley's moved in full time Until then, they had only stayed on the property weekends, in their RV with Jackson.
Once the Ranch House remodel was complete, Bill and Gretchen began concentrating on completing the development plan and designing the guest casitas. There are approximately twenty-four departments within the Pima County Development Service that must review and approve ant development plans. Additionally, the plans must also be reviewed and approved by all utilities companies and the local Fire Department, Everyone of these departments and agencies have their own regulations and policies that must be met. Although, this makes land development an extremely difficul and costly undertaking, its the only way the to gaurantee that a land owner treats the land and the community responsibly. At times the process became frustrating and difficult, but then the Shirley's always though, “We are in the hospitality business, and we want the highest quality facility for our guests”, and the process became easier.
At one point the Shirley's found themselves in a classic “Catch 22”, with no clear resolution. Pima County Cultural Resources first required a historical study to determine if any archaeological activity had ever been recorded in the vicinity of the Ranch. This review uncovered a small site in Saguaro National Park. This triggered a full archaeological survey of the Ranch property, and the Shirley's were required to hire an archaeological consulting firm. Bill was confident that the property was clear, as he had grown up in an area of Sabino Creek in Tucson, that was the site of a Hohokam (historic native American) village. Their property was covered with pottery shards, and Bill had seen nothing like that at RCR. A team of archaeologists surveyed the property for four days and on the last day discovered a site at the proposed location of the new multi-purpose building, Luella-Boomer Hall (LBH). Bill and Gretchen walked the site, and sure enough, pottery shards were spotted. The site was very small, but nonetheless, a full exploration and mitigation plan was now required. The Shirley's could have cordoned off the area, but the loss of the Luella-Boomer Hall would seriously damage their business plan. The approved mitigation plan required eight trenches approximately one hundred feet long and four feet deep be excavated criss-crossing the site. The trenches and each scoop of excavated dirt would be examined by a licensed archaeologist. This exploration required heavy equipment, and that was the problem. The development plan called for a new driveway to be constructed from the Ranch House drive up to the site of the casitas and LBH. However, the ground for the new drive could not be cleared to transport the required equipment, until the Development Plan was final and approved, and that couldn't happen until the Archaeological study and all native plant conservation was complete, which required the equipment. The classic “Catch 22”. The Shirley's tried to negotiate a solution, but to no avail. The project stalled.
About a month later, Bill and Gretchen took a break and visited Silver City, New Mexico for the weekend. They were in a bar and grill enjoying lunch when they spotted a very distinctive looking gentleman, whom they recognized as the owner of the adjacent contiguous property, east of the Ranch. Gretchen looked around and spotted the man's wife. The couple's parents had received their property from the Acosta's as a gift, and always planned to build on it but never did, There was an existing drive on their property that crossed back onto the Shirley's property and led to the site of the existing water tower and new guest casitas. The Shirley's had met the couple during the meetings leading up to their purchase, and the couple made it clear that the Shirley's were not to use their driveway for any kind of access. Mr. Schultz had used the access without permission regularly, and they were adamant for that to stop. The Shirley's honored the agreement, and that's why their plan included a new driveway on their own property. The two couples greeted each other and shared a table. Over lunch, the possibility of purchasing the property came up, and within a few weeks they came to an agreement. With an existing driveway now in their possession, the Shirley's moved forward once again. The Development Plan was finally approved, and in April 2013, they finally broke ground on the new guest casitas.
After all the struggles to finally get permission to proceed, the construction of the casitas and Luella-Boomer Hall went surprisingly smooth. In part it was because all of the new construction was meticulously planned over three years. The Shirley's used an Architect that Bill had known in school. Bill started studying architecture at the University of Arizona before switching to engineering. After the construction plans were completed, the Shirley's developed spreadsheets itemizing every item in every room, including square footage of walls and linear feet of baseboard. A cost estimate was developed for the full project to insure they had the budget to complete. It was essential that they utilize a general contractor that was on the same page. The project was bid to four contractors with dubious results. Then the architect suggested a contractor that he worked with regularly. They met and it was clear right away, that they had found the one. As bids came in from subcontractors, they went over each line item to insure that everyone considered and included everything that was in the Shirley's spreadsheets. In most cases subs had to increase their bids, but that was the Shirley's plan: Make sure everybody was on the same page. Everything was included and an agreed upon price reached. That way the Shirley's knew they had the budget, there would be no squabbling over the bill, and the contractor was assured the funds were available. The Shirley's utilized Luella-Boomer Hall for float. At ground breaking, it was agreed to build the building in stages, starting as a shell, then completed as able, depending on the progress and budget remaining as the casitas were completed. Bill and Gretchen contributed labor all along the way. The glued together miles of PVC conduit that ran between buildings and installed light and plumbing fixture, towel racks and TP holders. They made daily trips to construction material suppliers to pick up materials, and contracted ancillary services like trash and port-a-johns. No construction project is ever problem free, but this project was the smoothest Bill had ever worked on in his career. The construction teams working on RCR were intelligent, skilled, consummate professionals. When problems did occur, there was no drama. There was usually instant agreement on how to proceed to mitigate the issue. As hoped and planned, there was no corner cutting in an attempt to make up for a short bid, and everything asked for was already in the plan, with minimal new asks from the owners. In the end, the project was completed, including all of LBH, by April 2014. That was six months faster than expected, and the final cost was only 0.08% over budget.
Over the next two months Bill and Gretchen furnished and decorated. It was Bill's idea that every unit should be identical and all buildings be of the same color thereby maximizing efficiency. This idea was immediately nixed by Gretchen. Later, comments and reviews by guests proved overwhelmingly that Gretchen was right. Guests loved the variety, and couldn't wait to try out different casitas on subsequent stays. Gretchen created a design book on each casita that covered every room. When she worked with the kitchen cabinetry designer, she insisted that each kitchen have a novel design. All of the kitchens were full ten foot by ten foot with all full size appliances, but she made sure that not only were door face design and colors different in each unit, but little features like nooks and corbels were incorporated uniquely each time. When the paint bid was reviewed, the contractor was asked how many colors he included. He answered, “I don't know...three….four?” He was told that Gretchen was going to want six to seven colors for each casita and no casitas would be the same. The bid was revised higher, but there was no argument when the interior painting was completed. The Shirley's shopped furniture stores all over Tucson, Green Valley, and Phoenix. Often they could find several pieces, or a room set that would work, but often, the remaining furniture in the store just didn't meet the high quality they were looking for. They also made it a rule, that any extra furniture they owned could only be used it it fit the design theme of the casita. One of Bill's personal pet-peeves was staying at small lodging venues and ending up in a room furnished with a 1970's style oak bed, a green corduroy sitting chair, and white wicker nightstands. The Shirley's had another rule that they had to agree on a piece, or it wouldn't go in. Fortunately, their tastes agreed when it came to décor and quality in furnishings. There were a few exceptions. The chandelier over the kitchen table in Sonoran Vineyard was a piece Gretchen thought was perfect. It was displayed among highly modern glass and chrome fixtures at the lighting store, and Bill just couldn't see it working in an “old world Vineyard” décor. Gretchen prevailed, and wouldn’t you know it, the light fixture received more compliments than any other they had chosen.
Nearing the end of their decorating during the Summer of 2014, the Shirley's were contacted by a resident of Academy Village, an over 55 community located a few miles away. Apparently, the new construction was visible with binoculars from their home. They had discovered that the property was a lodging/resort property, and when they saw the exterior of the buildings get painted, they reasoned that it was close to opening. The resident informed the Shirley's that they had a family member celebrating their 80th birthday in October and wanted to have a family reunion at the Ranch. Bill and Gretchen were excited at receiving their first unsolicited stay request, but then looked at each other realizing they had not set up a business. Gretchen wanted to move full speed ahead, and Bill panicked over how to get the appropriate licenses in place, set up bookkeeping, and pay the required taxes. As they did with everything when it came to RCR, they re-invented the wheel. They dove in to educate themselves and getting everything ready. They moved quickly setting up, registering, and opening the business. The obtained the required licensing, and took a check from their first customer. The next day Bill went to the Arizona Department of Revenue, explained that he just accepted money for his business and now knew he owed the government money by the end of the month. They were very helpful. They sat down with him, showed him the proper forms to fill out and explained how lodging tax was calculated and paid. They were in business! It was the first time either one of them was self employed.
Over the coming months the operation got smoother and smoother. They had a process that worked, but Gretchen was always looking to improve and get better. From the very beginning, the business revenue more than covered the business expenses. Even as they added more an amenities for the guests, increased advertising, and improved the property, they kept the business expenses in line with the business growth. In the very beginning, they were inundated with calls from service providers telling them that they could triple their business overnight, and Bill's standard response was, “And you'll put me out of business overnight because, I won't be able to service those guests the way I need to.” But they did grow. From beginnings where guests mailed them a paper check and got letter confirmations via a Yahoo.com email address, to a top-notch website, credit card acceptance, online reservations, and a RinconCreekRanch.com address. Gretchen commissioned an artist to develop their logo, and she got the Ranch partnered with a foreign travel agency. There were growing pains of course, but as any small business owner will tell you, there is an incredible satisfaction in seeing your creation come alive and thrive.
It wasn't long before Bill and Gretchen began getting requests to use the property as a wedding venue. They accepted a few and found them to be a lot of fun. They developed a “Diamond Package” that became the most popular. It included renting out the venue and guest casitas for two nights, usually a weekend. Bill and Gretchen threw in use of Luella-Boomer Hall which was utilized for rehearsal dinners and bridal preparations the following day. As the business grew, the Shirley's decided to limit the weddings they would accept to only a few a year. The Shirley's still receive a few wedding requests each week. The individual guest lodging side of the business was thriving and they had gotten into a rhythm. They really enjoyed meeting and spending time with their guests. It was Gretchen's idea to host an impromptu, a gratis party, once a week in Luella Boomer Hall. The Shirley's provided complimentary appetizers and refreshments. The get togethers became very popular, but some guests were disappointed when they found out the parties were not every night. Often guest would come by just to say hello indicating they had plans later, and the next thing you knew, they were canceling plans as the party had gotten too good to leave. As with every successful business, repeat business grows every year. Many of the Shirley's guests have become close friends.
No “A-List” celebrities have stayed at the Ranch, although they have had some very private guests that booked through agents, and remained very secluded during their stay. They have had CEO's of major corporations, inventors, popular published authors, artists, radio announcers, and guests from all over the world. Throughout their years in business they have never received any less than a five bubble review on TripAdvisor. Some of the more interesting guests included the owner of the world's largest producer of reptile hobby equipment. Based in Belgium, he booked the Ranch for an entire week as he sponsored a reptile show in Tucson and awarded winners of his photography contest, a stay in the casitas. Another year, a famous British woman’s fashion apparel designer picked the Tucson area to shoot photography for their upcoming catalog. For a full week, Bill and Gretchen got to enjoy a behind the scenes look at fashion models, clothes designers, and photographers. Another great feature of the Ranch is the long concrete table adjacent to the original Santa Maria BBQ grill. The table and grill are located in a mesquite shaded patio with overhead string lights. The site was used by all of the large groups that stayed at the Ranch, and was the location for several “invitation only” dinners prepared by some very well known Tucson chefs.
Bill and Gretchen quickly realized that it didn't make sense to operate year-round. They needed a break, and there was so many infrastructure improvements they still wanted to make. Summer was the obvious choice for ending a season. There were so many nicer. more comfortable places to visit other than Arizona. Taking a break over the Summer also allowed them to upgrade systems and take care of the myriad of small details they put off during the guest season.
During the first guest's stay in October 2014, Rincon Creek flowed and although everyone dealt with the imposition, it became clear that a permanent all-weather crossing was needed. Additionally, the south part of the property was scheduled for development and a crossing would be need then as well. A bridge along Rincon Creek Ranch Road at Rincon Creek would require a a multi-span structure capable of carrying full highway loads and two-way traffic. About two thirds of Bill's engineering career was spent designing bridges. He knew the required structure would cost anywhere from three to five million dollars. Additionally, the middle supports in the creek would require a clearance from the Army Corp of Engineers. That was difficult to obtain even if the client was a municipality. Prospects of Bill and Gretchen achieving that on their own were dismal. And since the road was on the upstream side of their property, there were hydraulic issues and FEMA regulations that would prevent the design from being approved. At the opposite side of their property there was an existing dirt utility drive that accessed one of the property's well sites. The geography of the property was such that a significant widening of the floodplain occurred halfway across lowering the flow velocity and shrinking the channel. It was possible to bridge the channel with a single span, and since the location was not open to the public, a single lane, lower loading, private, purpose built bridge could be built. Due to insurance and liability concerns it was required that the property be fully fenced to prevent any outside access. A building permit was granted and in the Summer of 2016 a steel truss bridge for pedestrian/equestrian and utility vehicles was constructed. Typically, seasonal rains only make the main road impassable for a day or two, but the Shirley's could now offer their guests all-weather access.
In 2015, the Shirley's completely refurbished the existing swimming pool to bring it in compliance with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act. The old surface was chipped out, and a new double drain, warning tile signage, new pump equipment, a Pebble-Tec finish, handrail and safety equipment were installed per insurance requirements. In January 2017, construction began on a half mile steel tubular rail fence along Rincon Creek Ranch road. The fence was part of the original development plan, but never built with the casitas. With the bridge completed, liability and insurance requirements mandated the fence be completed to block off any public access. Also in 2017, the entire Ranch House roof was replaced and all new 16 seer HVAC units were installed. In 2020, the Shirley's added a 1200 square foot, sixteen foot high, aviary enclosure to the existing chicken coop. Coyotes and bobcats are regular visitor's to the Ranch where they enjoyed all of the amenities, often including a free chicken dinner. The aviary, constructed of structural steel framing and steel mesh looks like a professional zoo enclosure, and is tall enough to retain all of the mesquite trees growing inside. Through the years many, many, more improvements have been added including a groomed Zen garden, a one and a half mile signed nature trail, refurbishment of Mike Schultz' RV site, and installation of keypad accessible electric ornamental gates for owner and guest access.
The Shirley's still envision more for the property. They plan to construct an eight to ten bedroom “Bunkhouse” building on the property east of the casitas overlooking “Canyon Meadow” for family reunions. The building would have its own kitchen and recreational great, and bedrooms split into wings for adults and children. The property has high demand by Arizona Trail hikers (the AZ Trail is only two and a half miles away), but the rental rate and minimum nights, precluded a lot of users. The Shirley's plan to put exterior doors on some of the bedrooms and have the option to block them from the main portions of the building, allowing them to be rented as single night rooms, as an alternative to the full casita rental they currently offer. Construction of a multi-stall barn with restroom, tack and feed storage, and an exterior restroom building still remain to be completed from the development plan. Development of the southern thirty acres is also planned opening up even more possibilities.