Basalt wades into Bair Ranch |

Basalt wades into Bair Ranch

The Basalt Town Council gingerly waded into an Eagle County open space controversy last night by deciding to support the purchase of Bair Ranch at the east mouth of Glenwood Canyon.

The Basalt council’s voice will be added to a debate that should be decided on June 1.

The Eagle County open space advisory committee voted 9-1 earlier this year to recommend spending $2 million to help purchase conservation easements at the 4,830-acre Bair Ranch.

Eagle County would team with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Great Outdoors Colorado and the Eagle Valley Land Trust to preserve the working ranch, which has been in the Bair family for close to 100 years.

The partnership would acquire 512 acres of the ranch and gain a conservation easement that would prohibit development on another 4,318 acres.

The ranch stretches from the confluence of the Colorado and Eagle rivers at Dotsero into Glenwood Canyon. It extends south about two miles from the Colorado River. Some of the ranch is visible from Interstate 70.

The total cost would be $5.25 million. Eagle County would contribute $2 million through its fledgling open space program, which won narrow approval from voters two years ago. Revenues are raised through a property tax.

Although the open space advisory committee voted overwhelmingly to support the Bair Ranch deal, the county commissioners have been deadlocked 1-1. Arn Menconi supports the deal; Tom Stone does not. Commissioner Mike Gallagher is facing health issues and hasn’t voted on the issue. He will attempt to break the deadlock at a June 1 meeting.

Proponents of the deal claim it will preserve critical wildlife habitat in forests and along the river, preserve a working ranch, protect views and prevent sprawl.

Opponents claim the money in the open space program would be better spent elsewhere, on land with more public access.

The Basalt Town Council got involved at the request of Eagle County commissioner candidate Peter Runyon. “I am convinced we need to control development,” he told the council.

The Basalt council wanted to voice its support without wading too deep into the controversy, primarily because they didn’t have time to sort through the pros and cons of the deal before June 1.

Ultimately the board decided it could have its say simply by writing a letter that says it supports the vote of Steve Ellsperman, its representative on the open space board. He voted to support the deal.

The letter will be sent to Eagle County prior to the June 1 meeting, the board said.

Scott Condon’s e-mail address is

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