Marc Katz, co-founder of Mercury Payment Systems, has purchased 1,850 acres on Ewing Mesa adjacent to Horse Gulch and said he wants to turn it into a public-recreation area and outdoor concert venue.
“Developing the property for these uses will take time, cooperation and hard work to realize,” Katz said in a news release. “In the meantime, I request that everyone continue to stay on the established Horse Gulch and Carbon Junction trails and not trespass on the property.
“I love this town, and am really excited about this project!” Katz said.
In his news release, Katz made clear he doesn’t plan to build housing on the mesa on Durango’s southeast edge.
“Ultimately, my dream is to see the property used for county and city recreational facilities and for a venue that can host music festivals, theater and other events,” he said. “I think it would be great for Durango to have an outdoor concert venue of our own.”
Katz referred to the property as Durango Mesa Park. Records from the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office show Katz formed Ewing Park, a limited-liability company, in October.
The Ewing Mesa property had been on the market for years by the Pautsky family, which owned the parcel through Oakridge Energy of Wichita Falls, Texas. Over time, they offered different plans for the mesa, including housing development and a proposed golf course. The former owners ran into roadblocks because of a lack of water and sewer services and road access.
“This is a long, long, protracted purchase,” said Greg Hoch, the city of Durango’s director of Planning and Community Development.
Katz did not disclose the terms of the transaction, and a search of La Plata County records Sunday failed to turn up the purchase. A message left at Katz’s home was not returned Sunday.
Katz is one of Durango’s most successful business executives. He was Mercury’s largest individual shareholder at the time of a March 2014 federal securities filing. Only Silver Lake, a California private equity firm, had a larger stake in the company. A few months later, the Durango-based company was sold to a larger competitor, Vantiv of Cincinnati, for $1.65 billion.
Katz founded Mercury along with his brother, Jeff, in 2001 in Brewster, New York, before the company moved to Durango the next year. He said he has lived in Durango for 24 years.
The purchase will preserve public access to a system of trails that links to Horse Gulch, said Mary Monroe Brown, executive director of Trails 2000, a Durango nonprofit group.
Trail 2000 board president Daryl Crites worked with former owner Noel Pautsky to secure public easements on the Telegraph, Meadow, Crites’ Connect, Anasazi, Yellow Brick Road and Old Car Loop trails. Those easements were then conveyed to the county.
“Marc’s magnanimous gesture still allows access to all those trails,” Monroe Brown said.
The popular trails are heavily used by mountain bikers, trail runners and other recreational enthusiasts.
“When I sit back and think about it,” Monroe Brown said, “it’s a remarkable gift.”
The first name of Daryl Crites was misspelled in an earlier version of this story. Also, Pautsky was misspelled on second reference. This story has been corrected.