Forest Service proposes sale of heavily visited property in El Jebel | AspenTimes.com

Forest Service proposes sale of heavily visited property in El Jebel

The U.S. Forest Service wants to sell this property along the Roaring Fork River behind Crown Mountain Park in El Jebel. The lower parcel is popular with hikers and provides river access to anglers.

The U.S. Forest Service wants to sell this property along the Roaring Fork River behind Crown Mountain Park in El Jebel. The lower parcel is popular with hikers and provides river access to anglers.

PUBLIC MEETING ON PLAN

A meeting to discuss the Forest Service proposal to sell two parcels in El Jebel will be held Thursday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Eagle County office building and El Jebel Community Center adjacent to Crown Mountain Park.

The U.S. Forest Service is proposing to sell two parcels of land adjacent to Crown Mountain Park in El Jebel.

One of the parcels is 40 acres of predominantly riparian area along the Roaring Fork River. The upper parcel is 30 acres that includes three employee residences, one mobile home pad, horse pastures and vacant land.

The parcels are adjacent to one another. White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams said in a prepared statement that the agency would attempt to protect the lower parcel, though there are no guarantees at this point. A conservation easement or deed restriction would be intended to protect the wetlands, floodplains, wildlife resources and public access.

“We recognize the lower parcel has special ecological characteristics,” Fitzwilliams said. “Any sale of the lower parcel could potentially include deed restrictions on development and a conservation plan to protect the wetlands and habitat located there.”

Informal trails on both parcels get substantial use from residents of surrounding high-density subdivisions as well as visitors to Crown Mountain Park. The property also provides about 1 mile of access to the river for anglers. The lower parcel is as popular with El Jebel area residents as Smuggler Mountain Road is by Aspen residents.

The upper parcel includes some of the only affordable housing the Forest Service maintains in the Roaring Fork Valley.

The Forest Service considers the holdings administrative property that it no longer needs. Congress gave the agency permission to sell such lands under the Forest Service Facilities Realignment and Enhancement Act of 2005. The Forest Service gets to keep the proceeds.

“Money from this sale will be used to improve existing administrative facilities in desperate need of updating in other locations of the Forest,” Fitzwilliams said in the statement.

Eagle County officials were considering a purchase of the property. There was interest in using the upper parcel for affordable housing and keeping the lower parcel as open space.

However, separate questions establishing a sales tax for affordable housing and extending a property tax for open space were defeated in the November election.

The Forest Service said the property could be sold directly to an identified purchaser or in a competitive bid process. The method of sale will be determined as a later date, the agency said.

The Forest Service is initiating a scoping process on the proposal. Scoping is part of an Environmental Impact Statement that will be performed on the proposed sale.

Additional information related to the project can be obtained from the project webpage: http://www.fs.fed.us/nepa/fs-usda-pop.php/?project=50663.

Send written comments to Scott Fitzwilliams, Forest Supervisor, c/o Carole Huey, Lands and Conveyance Program Manager, White River National Forest, 900 Grand Avenue, Glenwood Springs, CO 81601. Comments may also be sent via https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public//CommentInput?Project=5066, by email to clhuey@fs.fed.us, or via fax to (970) 945-3266.

scondon@aspentimes.com