Change at the top of Pitkin County open space program
For the first time in 17 years, there’s a new leader of the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails program.
Gary Tennenbaum was promoted from assistant director to director Sept. 6. Dale Will, who was the director since May 1999, took over a new position as acquisition and special projects director.
The moves were made to take advantage of both men’s strengths, Tennenbaum said. Will took the helm when the open space program was much smaller and oversaw it through a period of substantial growth. His forte is negotiating land purchases and easements and securing grants for purchases. But as the program evolved, the director’s time commitment for operations surged without shedding responsibilities on the acquisition side, said Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock.
The director’s position used to be oriented almost entirely on acquisitions.
“As you acquire properties, the operations side grows with it,” Peacock said.
The department evolved from three full-time employees to 11. It now owns 5,000 acres of land and another 15,000 acres preserved through conservation easements. There are 70 miles of trails and several agricultural leases to oversee.
If anything, working out acquisitions is tougher now than it has been over the 26 years of the program after it was started in 1990, according to Peacock.
“If properties are easy to acquire, we’ve already acquired them,” he said.
The realignment will allow Will to focus on the acquisitions. He will report to Tennenbaum.
Tennenbaum joined the open space program 14 years ago as land steward and has regularly worked his way up the ladder. His forte, he said, is supervising the operations and staff.
There was a “realignment” of the open space and trails staff to create supervisors for four divisions. That reduces the number of people that report directly to Tennenbaum. Creation of the division supervisors eliminates the need for an assistant director, Peacock said.
The four divisions are acquisitions, agriculture and conservation easements, planning and outreach, and resource management.
“We needed to align our staff with our mission,” Tennenbaum said.
The changes were approved by Peacock and endorsed by the open space board and Pitkin County commissioners earlier this month.
“Overall, the department is functioning at a very high level and is very effective at acquiring, planning and managing open space and trails,” Peacock wrote in a memo to the boards Sept. 6. “This structure will allow the program to handle the current and future planning more efficiently, manage the natural resources and trails to the high standards the public has come to expect, and continue to acquire additional lands and easements.”
“Incremental costs” associated with the reclassification of position can be absorbed into the current open space budget, Peacock said.
“It is estimated that over the next five years these costs will average approximately $17,500 per year,” his memo said.
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