BENSON — Singing Wind Ranch, a 500-acre property known for its picturesque setting and unique bookshop, is for sale.
“This is an iconic property made famous by Winn (Winifred) Bundy,” said Debbie Collazo, a family friend who wants to see the ranch preserved as an ecotourism hub and nature center. “I think it’s important to protect the property for its historic and conservation values.”
The San Pedro River winds through the ranch at its easternmost boundary, creating a natural haven for birdwatchers from around the world, said Collazo.
“Benson and its surrounding landscape have strong potential for an ecotourism market because of the area’s natural attractions,” she added, describing the river’s course through Benson as a “rich and somewhat unexplored treasure chest.”
The property that houses Singing Wind Ranch was purchased by Winn and Bob Bundy in 1956. Winn later named the ranch Singing Wind because of the sound of the wind rustling through the mesquite trees.
Winn Bundy started Singing Wind Bookshop in 1974 with an inventory of 600 books, which swelled to 30,000 through the years. Bundy ran the shop for 46 years out of her home until she died last year at age 90.
Bundy and her store became Arizona institutions, drawing visitors from all over the world. There are those who have hailed Singing Wind as one of the Southwest’s best bookstores.
After Winn’s death, her daughter, Cookie, son, T.C., and granddaughter, Tasha Bundy, temporarily closed the shop as they sorted through its vast inventory and responded to inquiries about Singing Wind’s status. For several months, they ran the store on an appointment basis.
“Now that we’ve decided to sell the ranch, I think all of us would be happy to find a way to protect and preserve it by keeping the property intact,” Cookie Bundy said. “It’s a beautiful place, and we would love to see it used as a nature center, as Debbie (Collazo) is proposing.”
Tasha Bundy echoed her aunt’s comments.
“We had hoped to find ways to conserve the property,” she said. “My grandmother loved the ranch, its natural beauty and the whole setting. My grandparents lived on the ranch for 70 years, so 70 years worth of memories are tied to the ranch. And then there’s the bookstore. Grandma left us quite a legacy. She instilled so much in all of us.”
After looking through Collazo’s nature center proposal, Cookie and Tasha Bundy said they are thrilled about the idea of preserving the property as a local natural attraction.
Collazo, who co-managed the Ramsey Canyon Preserve from 1981 to 1988 with her husband, said she saw first-hand how fascinated birders are with the San Pedro River and Sky Islands.
“They come from all over the country and world to experience Cochise County and its birding opportunities,” she said. “This area is a gold mine when it comes to these natural attractions.”
She has sent her proposal for the Singing Wind property to Benson City Council members with hopes of garnering support for “Singing Wind Nature Center” from the community.
Collazo’s proposal touches on the importance of protecting the land and water to create a nonprofit birding and nature center for northern Cochise County and tourists, establishing a nature shop, creating an environmental education site for school field trips and providing a community event site. She proposes partnering with a nonprofit or governmental agency for management.
“Singing Wind Ranch would make a perfect ecotourism destination for Benson with access to the San Pedro River,” she said in an interview. “The ranch has a main building that could house a nature bookshop, be used as a gathering place for volunteers and environmental education classes. There’s plenty of space for school buses to park for field trips. The ranch and its amazing setting would make a wonderful destination for birders and nature enthusiasts from across the country. I believe this could put Benson on the ecotourism map.”