A plan to save Woody Creek
WOODY CREEK ” Two recent conservation easements might help rural Woody Creek look the same for a long time.
Members of the Craig family recently gained approval for a home on a 1-acre site, but preserved a 600-acre parcel along Woody Creek (the asking price for the land is $45 million).
And Pitkin County commissioners recently approved a deal to preserve 300 acres of mining claims and 88 acres of George Stranahan’s Flying Dog Ranch, located just north of the Craig land.
“[Stranahan] is one of the pioneers in conservation easements in the valley,” said Dale Will, director of Pitkin County Open Space and Trails.
Stranahan was the first Colorado property owner to put land under a conservation easement, preserving mining properties above Lenado as early as 1978 ” long before it was a common practice, Will said.
His efforts prompted county commissioners to congratulate him for enduring the slow negotiations, which took place over five years before concluding last week.
“He trusted the county,” Will said.
The county agreed to exchange two transferable development rights (TDRs) Stranahan needs to build on his Flying Dog Ranch for outright ownership of some 331 acres of mining claims and the sterilization of 88 acres in a conservation easement.
Stranahan also threw in some extra mining parcels completely unsolicited.
For Stranahan, however, the negotiations were not about getting more, but preserving land and making it easy to pass on his estate.
A trail connecting to the Margy Hut crosses the mining claim parcels, and Will stressed the importance of protecting that access permanently, adding that the 88-acre parcel is an important view-plane for people driving up the road to Lenado.
“It was just complex,” Stranahan said of negotiations to create four lots and preserve the land he called “wonderfully wild country.”
“At some point in your life, you kind of look out and say, ‘Am I doing a good job?'” Stranahan said.
Stranahan wasn’t satisfied with his answer, so he decided to protect his ranch.
“The motivation was to really guarantee no development,” he said.
Using the two TDRs the county granted him, Stranahan can build a 10,750-square-foot home on one parcel, but he said he hopes he doesn’t have to.
“I’m actually hoping that somebody might buy it just to not have a home site on it,” Stranahan said, a process he called “defensive buying.”
At least one potential buyer has expressed interest, Stranahan said.
“I would like to leave it tidy when I’m gone,” he said, adding that his one personal interest is to avoid hefty estate taxes and simplify things for his six children.
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