Citizens push to save parcel near Ashcroft for public use |

Citizens push to save parcel near Ashcroft for public use

Jeremy Heiman

A group of interested citizens is organizing a letter-writingcampaign aimed at preserving a piece of land essential to AshcroftSki Touring.The letters, addressed to Rocky Mountain Regional Forester LyleLaverty, promote efforts to bring the land into public hands.The goal is to prevent development of a monster home deep in thelargely undeveloped Castle Creek Valley – and in the midst ofthe popular nordic ski area.The property, known as the Ryan parcel, is presently owned byElk Mountain Lodge owner David Middleton.A series of meetings have been held this year, involving partiessuch as Middleton, Ashcroft Ski Touring owner John Wilcox, AspenDistrict Ranger Rob Iwamoto and other interested parties. Iwamotosaid two methods to bring the Ryan parcel into public ownershiphave been discussed.An outright purchase with money from the Land and Water ConservationFund is one possibility. The other, more likely avenue to preservethe parcel is a land swap.The federal money, intended for the acquisition of land for thepublic, is limited, and competition for it is intense, Iwamotosaid. Various federal land agencies such as the Bureau of LandManagement and the National Park Service apply for those dollars.Placing that source of funding further out of reach is the factthat wilderness inholdings and key wildlife habitat areas generallyreceive priority in consideration, he said.A land exchange, however, is a possibility, Iwamoto said. Thiswould involve trading the property to the Forest Service for aparcel of public land of comparable value adjacent to privateland, in an area where development is appropriate. Middleton couldthen sell the land and get out from under the debilitating interestpayments on the property, reported to be in the neighborhood of$200,000 annually.The process would probably take at least two years, Iwamoto said.The 35-acre parcel, formerly owned by the estate of skiing pioneerTed Ryan, is located halfway between the King Cabin and the Cookhousein the scenic Castle Creek Valley south of Aspen.Ashcroft Ski Touring has leased the property from the estate sincepresent operator John Wilcox took over the business in 1986. Keycross country ski trails cross part of the property.Middleton contracted to buy the parcel to prevent its developmentin 1997 when it appeared it would be sold for a luxury home. Heput the parcel on the real estate market in January.

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