Big week of acquisitions for Pitkin County open space | AspenTimes.com

Big week of acquisitions for Pitkin County open space

Aspen Times Staff Report
Aspen, CO Colorado

Courtesy Pitkin County Open Space and Trails

PITKIN COUNTY – Pitkin County completed the acquisition of a scenic ranch in the Crystal River Valley south of Carbondale, closed on a key parcel in the Hunter Creek Valley outside of Aspen and secured an approval to allow construction of the Crystal Bike Trail – all in two days.

“It’s been a big week,” Dale Will, director of Open Space and Trails, said Friday, shortly after the county completed the purchase of the Virginia Pet Lode mining claim on a ridge overlooking the Hunter Creek Valley. The parcel, where former owners Bill and Janet Mohrman raised their children in a yurt, was the last buildable parcel in the valley, according to the county.

The $900,000 purchase ends the threat of development in an area dubbed Aspen’s back yard.

On Thursday, the Cold Mountain Ranch conservation easement and a parcel accessing the Crystal River were conveyed to the county Open Space and Trails Program through a $7.5 million purchase, a third of which came from Great Outdoors Colorado. GOCO is funded through state lottery proceeds.

In its application for a GOCO grant, the county wrote: “Conserving Cold Mountain Ranch will not only keep alive part of the ranching community’s critical mass, it will also create a barrier to the march of urban sprawl spreading south from Carbondale. In the past decade we have seen several subdivisions, including a high-end golf community, reach south from Carbondale into rural lands. With real estate sales in Pitkin and Garfield County at an all-time high, the development pressure on the surrounding ranches is astronomical. The proposed conservation easement on Cold Mountain ranch will set a firm southern boundary for development of Carbondale.”

Cold Mountain Ranch, located just south of the Division of Wildlife fish hatchery south of Carbondale, was homesteaded before the turn of the last century and, according to an Open Space and Trails news release, once produced enough potatoes for the entire New York Central Railroad. The ranch has remained in agricultural use, under the stewardship of Bill Fales and Marj Perry for the last 30 years. The easement allows the ranching operation to continue.

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The ranch is located on the county line; about 40 acres extend into Garfield County.

The property is divided into two separate tracts, including about 160 acres on a mesa, surrounded by Bureau of Land Management property between the Crystal Valley and Jerome Park, according to Open Space and Trails. The sage-covered bench is an important wildlife habitat in conjunction with the surrounding federal lands, the press release said.

The remaining 451 acres lie in the Crystal Valley, stretching from the flanks of the valley’s western slopes across Highway 133 to the Crystal River. This piece of the ranch includes roughly 200 acres of irrigated hay fields, grazing pastures, ranching operation headquarters and the Fales-Perry home. Fales is the former chairman of the county’s Open Space and Trails Board.

Pitkin County also acquired a 2.5-acre Crystal River access parcel on the Pitkin-Garfield County line.

Finally, the county received the Colorado Department of Transportation’s OK to begin construction of the paved Crystal Bike Trail from the edge of Carbondale south to Seven Oaks Bridge (near the BRB Crystal River Resort). Construction is expected to begin shortly.

Funding for the trail includes $1 million from Great Outdoors Colorado, $1.5 million from Pitkin County, $200,000 from Garfield County and $195,000 from the town of Carbondale, plus $200,000 from a State Trails Grant, a Safe Routes to School Grant, and $50,000 from a private donor.