The Retreat & Links at Silvies Valley Ranch Seeks to Boost Local Economy

By | December 6th, 2017

The Seneca, Ore., property opened in July, featuring two 18-hole golf courses, a ranch-to-table restaurant, and lodging, but will be fully operational in 2018 when its spa and a seven-hole challenge course are unveiled. Plans are now underway to begin selling vacation homes.

In Dr. Scott Campbell’s latest venture, The Retreat & Links at Silvies Valley Ranch in Seneca, Ore., the retired veterinarian hopes to improve the local economy by bringing in outside money and investing his own to make Grant and Harney counties a destination for tourists, the John Day, Ore., Blue Mountain Eagle reported.

After six years of building on the ranch in the secluded Silvies Valley, 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, the Eagle reported.

C&RB reported on the property’s opening in July.

“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.”

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.

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

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

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, the Eagle reported.

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. The goal is to sell 5-10 per year, which would be needed for the resort to “break even on a cash-flow basis,” Campbell said.

They plan to market what the property has in abundance: beautiful vistas, recreational opportunities and quiet, Marshall said. “It’s a new frontier for recreation. It’s a new frontier for tourism. It’s a new frontier for golf,” he said. “If we can attract people here, we can maybe start changing the economy in a positive way.”

For The Links, course designer Dan Hixson created a reversible course. 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, the Eagle reported.

“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, the Eagle reported.

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, the Eagle reported.

“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, the Eagle reported.

“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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