Purchase photos

Bidder assures public access to rocks





More than a week after the final bid was offered, it's still not yet known if the existing owners will accept the $8.5 million offered.

Despite that, the top bidder offered assurances if he's successful in purchasing the 12,900-acre ranch, "the public will end up with as good or better access than they do now," Mark Faulkner said of the message he was given to pass along if there were queries about access to the rock spires that have drawn people en masse since the ranch went on the auction block.

Faulkner said that's what he was told by the individual who offered the first and final bid of $8.5 million for the ranch. The bidder's initial offer was for $4 million.

Concern about access to Monument Rocks -- designated a National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service and one of the state's 8 Wonders of Kansas, an honor it shares with Castle Rock -- has brought a sharp increase in visitation to the site.

First, however, the current owners of the ranch will have to decide if the $8.5 million bid is adequate.

"They're supposed to have a shareholders' meeting," said Faulkner, whose Ulysses-based Faulkner Real Estate firm handled the private auction. "I don't think they're going to like the $8.5 million bid."

Instead, he's thinking the owners might counter with an offer to the individual who submitted the final bid.

All along, Faulkner said he wouldn't be identifying the bidders until an offer is accepted or a contract is signed on the ranch.

The prospective buyer reiterated he didn't want to be identified prior to a conclusion to the sale.

Because the mineral rights to most of the ranch transfers with the land, there's considerable disagreement on what the per-acre values should be.

"The big unknown is the oil," Faulkner said, and there has been a flurry of activity in the area.

Oil has been hit on the property, but there also have been a few dry holes.