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Ranch resort aims to attract visitors, improve economy

Campbell hopes destination tourism will be a boost for region.

By Sean Hart

Blue Mountain Eagle

Published on December 5, 2017 5:19PM

Last changed on December 5, 2017 5:21PM

Dan Hixson, who designed The Links at Silvies Valley Ranch, tees off on the 16th hole of the Hankins course. Hixson said he designed the reversible course with many architectural challenges but wide fairways.

The Eagle/Sean Hart

Dan Hixson, who designed The Links at Silvies Valley Ranch, tees off on the 16th hole of the Hankins course. Hixson said he designed the reversible course with many architectural challenges but wide fairways.

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The Links at Silvies Valley Ranch opened for a trial year in 2017. Dr. Scott Campbell, an owner who attended high school in Burns, hopes the resort will bring destination tourism to Grant and Harney counties.

The Eagle/Sean Hart

The Links at Silvies Valley Ranch opened for a trial year in 2017. Dr. Scott Campbell, an owner who attended high school in Burns, hopes the resort will bring destination tourism to Grant and Harney counties.

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Guests and staff enjoy a cocktail before dinner in the bar at The Retreat at Silvies Valley Ranch.

The Eagle/Sean Hart

Guests and staff enjoy a cocktail before dinner in the bar at The Retreat at Silvies Valley Ranch.

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Jeff Wallach, left, and Renee Renfrow enjoy a round of golf at The Links at Silvies Valley Ranch.

The Eagle/Sean Hart

Jeff Wallach, left, and Renee Renfrow enjoy a round of golf at The Links at Silvies Valley Ranch.

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The Lodge at The Retreat at Silvies Valley Ranch features a large dining area, a bar and a room with a pool table. The back deck offers outside seating with views of the pond and ranch, as well as a fire pit with great views of the night sky.

The Eagle/Sean Hart

The Lodge at The Retreat at Silvies Valley Ranch features a large dining area, a bar and a room with a pool table. The back deck offers outside seating with views of the pond and ranch, as well as a fire pit with great views of the night sky.

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The Links at Silvies Valley Ranch features one of the first reversible courses in the United States. With 26 greens and some shared fairways, golfers can play the 18-hole Hankins course one day and the 18-hole Craddock course the next. Players can also try a nine-hole, par-3 course, and a seven-hole challenge course is being constructed.

The Eagle/Sean Hart

The Links at Silvies Valley Ranch features one of the first reversible courses in the United States. With 26 greens and some shared fairways, golfers can play the 18-hole Hankins course one day and the 18-hole Craddock course the next. Players can also try a nine-hole, par-3 course, and a seven-hole challenge course is being constructed.

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The cabin suites at The Retreat at Silvies Valley Ranch feature a hot tub with spacious views of the ranch between John Day and Burns.

The Eagle/Sean Hart

The cabin suites at The Retreat at Silvies Valley Ranch feature a hot tub with spacious views of the ranch between John Day and Burns.

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The 17th hole on the Craddock course at The Links at Silvies Valley Ranch with the clubhouse in the background. The Links features a reversible course that is flipped daily, offering golfers a chance to play two different 18-hole courses. A nine-hole par-3 course is also on site, and a seven-hole challenge course is under construction in the fall of 2017.

The Eagle/Sean Hart

The 17th hole on the Craddock course at The Links at Silvies Valley Ranch with the clubhouse in the background. The Links features a reversible course that is flipped daily, offering golfers a chance to play two different 18-hole courses. A nine-hole par-3 course is also on site, and a seven-hole challenge course is under construction in the fall of 2017.

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A view of Silvies Valley Ranch from one of the peaks visited on a tour of the ranch.

The Eagle/Sean Hart

A view of Silvies Valley Ranch from one of the peaks visited on a tour of the ranch.

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The John Hopper Homestead, builtt in the late 1800s, is one of six homesteads preserved on the Silvies Valley Ranch between John Day and Burns.

The Eagle/Sean Hart

The John Hopper Homestead, builtt in the late 1800s, is one of six homesteads preserved on the Silvies Valley Ranch between John Day and Burns.

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Silvies Valley Ranch Vice President Colby Marshall sends a target down the line at one of the shooting ranges at The Retreat at Silvies Valley Ranch. The Retreat features three shooting ranges: rifleman, sharpshooter and pistolero.

The Eagle/Sean Hart

Silvies Valley Ranch Vice President Colby Marshall sends a target down the line at one of the shooting ranges at The Retreat at Silvies Valley Ranch. The Retreat features three shooting ranges: rifleman, sharpshooter and pistolero.

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Silvies Valley Ranch raises certified organic cattle and goats. The Lodge at The Retreat serves meat from the operation.

The Eagle/Sean Hart

Silvies Valley Ranch raises certified organic cattle and goats. The Lodge at The Retreat serves meat from the operation.

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The Silvies Valley Ranch is still a fully functioning ranch with 2,700-3,500 head of cattle and 1,700 goats on 90,000 acres of private land and 50,000 acres of Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management grazing allotments.

The Eagle/Sean Hart

The Silvies Valley Ranch is still a fully functioning ranch with 2,700-3,500 head of cattle and 1,700 goats on 90,000 acres of private land and 50,000 acres of Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management grazing allotments.

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The suite in one of the cabins at The Retreat at Silvies Valley Ranch. Each cabin contains a suite and a separate bedroom that can be purchased individually or together. The suite features a hot tub, two bathrooms and its own bedroom.

The Eagle/Sean Hart

The suite in one of the cabins at The Retreat at Silvies Valley Ranch. Each cabin contains a suite and a separate bedroom that can be purchased individually or together. The suite features a hot tub, two bathrooms and its own bedroom.

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The Links at Silvies Valley Ranch.

The Eagle/Sean Hart

The Links at Silvies Valley Ranch.

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The spacious cabin suites at Silvies Valley Ranch feature living, dining and bedrooms with a hot tub, fireplace, fridge, wine fridge, ice machine, dishwasher, Keurig coffee maker, microwave and dinnerware.

The Eagle/Sean Hart

The spacious cabin suites at Silvies Valley Ranch feature living, dining and bedrooms with a hot tub, fireplace, fridge, wine fridge, ice machine, dishwasher, Keurig coffee maker, microwave and dinnerware.

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The bedrooms in the cabin suites feature a walk-in shower with dual ceiling-mounted rain heads and a traditional shower head.

The Eagle/Sean Hart

The bedrooms in the cabin suites feature a walk-in shower with dual ceiling-mounted rain heads and a traditional shower head.

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Golf course designer Dan Hixson picks up his ball at The Links at Silvies Valley Ranch.

The Eagle/Sean Hart

Golf course designer Dan Hixson picks up his ball at The Links at Silvies Valley Ranch.

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A gift shop at The Retreat at Silvies Valley Ranch offers a variety of Silvies-themed merchandise.

The Eagle/Sean Hart

A gift shop at The Retreat at Silvies Valley Ranch offers a variety of Silvies-themed merchandise.

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Most business owners want to make money.

Dr. Scott Campbell already did that.

In his latest venture, The Retreat and Links at Silvies Valley Ranch, the retired veterinarian hopes only to break even.

His goal: improve the local economy by bringing in outside money.

His method: invest his own money to make Grant and Harney counties a destination for tourists.

After six years of building on the ranch in the secluded Silvies Valley between John Day and Burns, Eastern Oregon is now home to a high-end reversible golf course, luxurious lodging and a ranch-to-table restaurant.

The resort recently wrapped up its first season, and plans are underway to begin selling vacation homes on the serene country property.

“What we’re trying to do here is give back to our community in a way that’s sustainable,” Campbell said. “One little thing like this is not going to change the world, but you’ve got to start someplace.”


Recognizing the need


When Campbell graduated from Burns High School in 1975, he said, Harney and Grant counties often boasted the highest per-capita state income with high-paying jobs from lumber and support industries.

Growing up on a ranch, the son of a rural doctor, Campbell said he intended to return to the area after college, but few opportunities existed for him and his wife, Sandy, a registered nurse.

Instead, they moved away, and Campbell purchased a veterinary hospital in Portland in 1987. He grew the business into Banfield Pet Hospitals, which leased space from PetSmart, with 750 hospitals in 42 states, the United Kingdom and Mexico.

Campbell sold the business and retired a decade ago, about the time he purchased the Silvies Valley Ranch as a real estate investment.

During his time away, however, the counties’ economies fell from the best to the worst in the state with the implosion of the lumber industry. He said Oregon State University’s dean of forestry told him, even with a virgin forest that had never been harvested, newer technology would allow sustainable logging in the area to be completed by only a few hundred people — not nearly enough to bring back the economic prosperity of his youth.

“You really just need to create a stronger economy,” Campbell said. “What’s going to be the economy here?”


Community focus


On 90,000 acres of private land with an additional 50,000 acres of federal grazing allotments, Silvies Valley Ranch is a working operation with 2,700-3,500 head of cattle and 1,700 meat goats — all certified organic, Vice President Colby Marshall said.

Marshall, also originally from Burns, formerly served as deputy chief of staff for Rep. Greg Walden but said, after spending time with the Silvies team, he and his wife knew they wanted to raise their children here.

“This is a hometown project, so there’s a passion to help those communities we come from,” Marshall said.

Campbell said local contractors and materials were used to construct and make upgrades for the resort and golf course. It took six years — instead of one or two with help from outside contractors — but the goal was to help the local community, he said.

In August, the business employed 93 people: about half for the resort and golf course, a quarter for construction and a quarter for the ranch, Campbell said. Next year, when the resort is fully operational, another 30-40 employees will be needed, he said.

With the increase in property value, Campbell said the construction already completed would add significantly to Grant County’s tax base, even before building any of the 500 vacation homes approved by the legislature for the property. He said the goal is to sell 5-10 per year, which would be needed for the resort to “break even on a cash-flow basis.”

Marshall said they plan to market what the property has in abundance: beautiful vistas, recreational opportunities and quiet.

“It’s a new frontier for recreation. It’s a new frontier for tourism. It’s a new frontier for golf,” Marshall said. “If we can attract people here, we can maybe start changing the economy in a positive way.”


Economic opportunities


For The Links, course designer Dan Hixson created a reversible course — the first to be started in 500 years, Campbell said, though a course in Michigan was completed before it and several others are now under construction.

The two 18-hole courses share some fairways and greens, and staff alternate between them daily to offer golfers a more diverse experience. Hixson designed the “big, wide course with lots of architectural challenges” to be enjoyable for different levels of golfers.

“We knew we had to have a quality that would draw people from markets all over,” Hixson said. “It’s really cool to think about people coming to Eastern Oregon who have lived in Oregon their whole life and have never been here.”

The Links also features a nine-hole, par-3 course, and a seven-hole challenge course is under construction.

To avoid competing with courses in Burns and John Day, the course is not priced for local customers — $290 with a required cart — but residents who are members of the local clubs can golf for $110. The course can also accommodate more than 80 rounds per day, Campbell said, but the resort only has 34 rooms, potentially boosting the demand for lodging locally and encouraging local economic activity.

“There’s a lot of opportunity for people to piggyback on this,” Campbell said. “The communities are going to have to learn how to cater to everyone.”

The resort features shooting ranges, but not a trap range because Seneca already has one. Local art is displayed, but guests who want to see more will have to travel to local galleries. Tours of the ranch will be offered, but it’s not a dude ranch, Campbell said, so others could provide a more hands-on ranch experience for visitors.

“There’s a lot of places that certainly aren’t as pretty as Grant County that have thriving economies from destination tourism,” Campbell said. “If we can bring in people from outside the state — or the country — that’s new money.”































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