It was in late summer of 1993 that I first met Gina and John Raye. The next day I became a SFTR property owner, and these two delightful people became my friends. Over the intervening years, this friendship has developed into deep admiration and respect for two people who have given so much to the SFTR.
Both Gina and John have deep roots in the Trinidad area. Gina’s mother, Catherine Bujacich, was born in Gulnare at the family ranch at the base of the Spanish Peaks. Gina’s father, Bernie Ridolfi, was raised in Sugarite’s Coal mining camp outside Raton, N.M. In 1964 Gina’s father moved the family back to Trinidad and opened a tavern in town. Her mother taught school while raising the eight children. Gina was second in line of this tribe. In 1976 Gina graduated from Trinidad High School and went on to get a business degree from Parks College in Denver while working at Denver University Law School at night.
John grew up in Trinidad also. His family (the Mendines on his mother’s side) owned the Weston General Store and Post Office and farmed potatoes at the family homestead in Wet Canyon. His Grandfather Raye was a State Representative to the House and later the Senate in Colorado.
John met Gina when they were both attending Trinidad High School. They wed in Trinidad after Gina finished college and was working at a local law firm. In 1987 John was working for Burlington Northern Railroad and had an accident which seriously injured nerves and muscles through the left side of his body. After surgery and recovery for a year, he finished college with degrees in history and occupational health and safety at the University of New Mexico.
During that time, Gina was working several jobs: teaching business classes at Trinidad Catholic High, running their own business-Power Play Fitness and Training Center, and bartending at the Holiday Inn Lounge in the evenings. All this and raising their three children, Ivory, Luke, and newly born Cady. It was at this time that Gina met the Land Properties Group. Though she became friends with them and respected their business, being a local, Gina says she was naturally skeptical of any development of the local lands.
"I remember seeing Santa Fe Trail Ranch for the first time with Peggy Ralston-Poma and John. John and I both looked at each other in amazement and thought - we did not know this was here! I guess in all the years that Colorado Fuel and Iron (CF&I) had owned the many lands surrounding Trinidad, we had gotten very comfortable looking at horizons! We never even dreamed that one day we and many others could own a piece of this wilderness and mountain joy!"
In March of 1991 Gina became a member of the Land Properties, Inc., team. Later, John was also to join in the endeavor of helping folks achieve their dream of owning mountain property. Gina says it was easy for her to see to the right people because they could see her love for the ranch and the area as they looked through her eyes and heart.
“I will always reflect on the people of those years as special people that came to live and buy their dream while adding their ‘light’ to the melting pot of the Trinidad landscape and culture. Charles Baldwin had a great vision for this area, and Land Properties carried his torch. For that I am eternally grateful. The people of SFTR (including those from afar still working to get here) have added a depth to this community and have enhanced the beauty of the ranch with their respect for it. This has added validity to my joy and to my life.”
Most recently the Rayes were participants in the creation of the Gallinas Canyon Conservancy. When they, along with Pam and Dean Hook and Kevin and Brenda Meyer, learned that this beautiful canyon had been slated for development, they banded together and purchased the five “J” lots in Unit 12 with Gallinas Creek running the entire length of the properties. Since this is one of the most important wildlife habitats on the SFTR, they all felt that this land should be preserved from development. The land will be held in a conservancy trust by a public agency and managed by the POA. The land will not be open to the public, but will continue to be accessible to any SFTR property owners who wish to enjoy the wildlife and serene beauty of the canyon. Gina says it wouldn’t have been possible to achieve these goals if it weren’t for the motivation and support from Bob Holder of the Colorado Division of Wildlife and Charles Baldwin and Karen Ward for their agreement to sell the land in Gallinas and to cooperate with the project.
We can look forward to the dedication ceremony of the Gallinas Conservancy between Oct. 15th and Nov. 15th of this year. The date will be announced when the final details are completed.
-- by Carol Rawle, October 1999