The dream of a resort community in Borrego Springs had existed since the first homesteaders entered the Valley. But to make it happen would require vision, money, persistence, hard work, and a little luck. Four men, in particular, were required to turn that dream into reality: Alphonse A. Burnand, Jr., Robert DiGiorgio, James Copley, and George (Bud) Kuhrts.
The Men Who Shaped Borrego Springs: A Look at the Key Figures Behind the Community’s Growth and Development
Alphonse A. Burnand, Jr. is considered the “Father of Borrego Springs”. He saw the area’s potential as a resort, despite the challenges of growing grapes in the desert. He began buying railroad in-holdings in the Park area, trading them with the State for valley land, and picking up property from tax sales and homesteaders wanting out. His holdings grew to about 17,000 acres. In 1945, Burnand announced plans for a resort community. He gathered several Los Angeles investors and incorporated the Borrego Valley Land and Development Company and the Borrego Springs Company. Burnand also formed the Borrego Valley Water Company to supply the development with this most precious resource in the desert.
From Grapes to Golf Courses: How Borrego Springs Became a Thriving Resort Community
Robert DiGiorgio was scouting areas for early grape production when he first came to Borrego in 1939. In 1944, right after the war, DiGiorgio founder Joseph DiGiorgio, Robert DiGiorgio, and Burnand traveled from Delano to Borrego. The DiGiorgio’s bought 1200 acres of land from Burnand, which became the company’s first holdings in the Valley. After a dozen years of trying to make farming work in the Valley, the DiGiorgio Company decided to stop farming virtually overnight. Robert DiGiorgio assumed the presidency of DiGiorgio Fruit Corporation in 1962 and initiated a shift from farming to development, leading to the renaming of the company as DiGiorgio Corporation, dropping the “Fruit” label to reflect the diversification of their business.
Under his leadership, the company was renamed the DiGiorgio Corporation. The first development project was de Anza Country Club in 1955, with DiGiorgio providing the major financial backing.
James Copley was Chairman of the Copley Press, which owned the San Diego Union and Tribune, along with a dozen papers in other parts of California and Illinois. In 1954, Copley purchased the Borrego Sun newspaper from Borrego Valley Associates, modernized it, and moved it to publication every two weeks. In addition, the San Diego Union ran a weekly column on news from the Borrego Valley and full features in the Sunday Home section. In 1960, Copley (through his MACOP Corporation) purchased the Desert Lodge from the Kuhrts family and began a major renovation that resulted in La Casa del Zorro, for many years the Valley’s only 4-star resort. The annual “Copley Conference” would expose his paper’s editors to Borrego’s beauty.
George (Bud) Kuhrts, III was the day-to-day organizer of virtually every major development project in the Valley. He was born in Los Angeles in 1923, and in 1947 Kuhrts came to Borrego to work with his stepfather, A.A. Burnand. He led the development of de Anza Country Club and was instrumental in creating Borrego Springs Airlines. He was also a director of the Bank of San Diego and Borrego Springs Bank in the 1980s. In countless articles in the Borrego Sun for more than three decades, it was Kuhrts who was the face of progress in the Valley; who would turn the vision and money
of Burnand and DiGiorgio into reality. His contributions to the development of Borrego Springs were many, and he played a crucial role in shaping the community’s growth and development for several decades.
Kuhrts’ leadership and organizational skills were key to the success of many major development projects in the Valley. He was President of the Borrego Valley Golf and Improvement Company, which led the development of de Anza Country Club, one of the Valley’s premier golf courses. Under his leadership, the club added de Anza Villas and Vista Villas, providing more housing options for residents and visitors alike.
Kuhrts was also instrumental in creating Borrego Springs Airlines, a subsidiary of the DiGiorgio Corporation. He served as the company’s President when it changed its name to Sun Aire in the 1970s. He helped establish air service between Borrego Springs and other California cities, providing an important transportation link for the community.
In addition to his work in development, Kuhrts was also involved in the financial industry, serving as a director of both the Bank of San Diego and Borrego Springs Bank in the 1980s. He was committed to the growth and success of the community and worked tirelessly to ensure its future prosperity.
Throughout his career, Kuhrts was a fixture in the Borrego Sun, the local newspaper, and was often featured in articles about the community’s progress and development. His leadership and dedication to the community helped to make Borrego Springs the thriving resort community it is today.
Kuhrts passed away in 1995 at 72, but his legacy lives on in the many development projects he helped to create, the businesses he helped to establish, and the thriving community he helped to shape.
Borrego Moves On
Borrego Springs today is a thriving resort community with a population of around 3,000 residents, with an influx of tourists in the winter months. The community is located in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and is surrounded by natural beauty. Visitors can enjoy hiking, biking, golfing, off-roading, stargazing, birdwatching, and the local flora and fauna.
The legacy of the four men who played a crucial role in the development of Borrego Springs lives on today. A.A. Burnand, Robert DiGiorgio, James Copley, and George Kuhrts all had a vision for the community. Through their hard work and perseverance, they could turn that vision into a reality.
As Borrego Springs continues to grow and evolve, the legacy of Burnand, DiGiorgio, Copley, and Kuhrts will play a crucial role in shaping the community’s future. Their vision, dedication, and hard work laid the foundation for a community that is not only beautiful and vibrant but also sustainable and committed to preserving the natural environment that makes it so unique.
If you are looking for more details, this is a great article to read: THE DREAM