Who donated $6.5M to Burning Man for Fly Ranch?

Jenny Kane

After 20 years of dreaming of buying Fly Ranch, Burning Man finally did it.

For $6.5 million, the Burning Man organization on Friday officially purchased the stunning, hot springs-filled 3,800-acre property about 21 miles north of Gerlach. The location is several miles from the site of Burning Man, a 70,000-person arts gathering held in the Black Rock Desert since 1990 each year.

But where did the money come from? It did not come from ticket revenue, vehicle passes, coffee sales, general donations to the nonprofit Burning Man Project, or any previously existing source of Burning Man income.

The funds for the purchase came from Burners who "who have been deeply affected by the spirit and principles of Burning Man, and felt called to give back to the community by enabling us to explore the potential of having a year-round home," the Burning Man Blog stated.

So who are these donors?

The organization intends to reveal the names of the specific donors next week, according to Burning Man spokeswoman Megan Miller.

The property, home to the rainbow-colored, man-made Fly Geyser, has been shut off to the public for several years, as it is on a grassy swath of private land formerly owned by Bright Holland Co. Although few have been able to access the geyser, it is a well known landmark in the northern Nevada region.

Although 10,000 people assembled at Fly Ranch in 1997 to attend the 11th annual Burning Man, the main event will not be held at the ranch in the near future. No activities relating to the main event will be held at that location for the time being, either, though a possibility exists in the future, Miller said.

"Our intention in the longer term is to have it more accessible or available, but we have a lot of work to do before we host anyone or anything there," Miller said.

The nonprofit, which already owns a 200-acre working, storage ranch that neighbors Fly Ranch, will use the newly acquired property for year-round gatherings and events, according to Miller.

The property includes 640 acres of wetlands, dozens of hot springs of varying temperatures and a mini-playa on the property. The Fly Geyser itself is not natural, but instead the result of someone drilling in the land for geothermal energy and forgetting to cap the hole in 1964. Mineral deposits and algae are responsible for its saffron, copper and green coloring.

The Fly Ranch property is undeveloped besides a single road that allows for private access to the geyser. It’s believed that the ranch is so named because in the 1930s there was a biplane training facility on the property, according to a Burning Man Blog post on Friday.

While the Burning Man organization and Bright Holland Co. owner Todd Jaksick have been working on negotiations for several months, several attempts to purchase the property have failed in the past, according to Miller. The arts nonprofit has had its sights on the ranch for two years, she said.

The sale was finalized, however, on Friday after Burning Man CEO Marian Goodell signed final documents Thursday; those documents were then recorded with the Washoe Co. Recorder's Office on Friday.

The Burning Man organization does not own the site of the Burning Man event, which is overseen by the Bureau of Land Management. The BLM issues a $4 million special use recreation permit, the largest in the country, to the organization each year for use of the Black Rock Desert, a flat alkaline expanse.

The purchase of the ranch, and plans to further develop Burning Man's working ranch, have put to rest rumors that the organization plans to relocate the main event to Utah.