City of Aspen kicks in $1M for Moore open space acquisition

Aspen City Council votes to partner with Pitkin County to preserve 274 acres off McLain Flats Road

The city of Aspen will contribute $1 million toward the $10 million acquisition of open space along McLain Flats Road, preserving it from ever being developed with mega mansions.

Aspen City Council voted on Tuesday to enter in a memo of understanding with Pitkin County Open Space and Trails and to allocate $1 million from the city’s open space fund.

The property under consideration is the Moore Ranch, owned by longtime residents Tom and Carolyn Moore, to conserve the historic 274-acre tract.

Discussions among Pitkin County Open Space and Trails officials and the Moores have resulted in an agreement that conserves the property in two general parts, with roughly 95 acres to the west of McLain Flats Road being conveyed directly to the county, while placing a conservation easement on the remaining 179 acres of land.

Councilwoman Rachel Richards thanked county and city officials, and especially the Moores, for working together to preserve such a special piece of land.

“It could have been developed into more energy- and employee-consuming monster homes,” she said. “I just want to thank our taxpayers who have supported our open space program.”

Austin Weiss, the city’s director of parks and recreation, said Richards hit the nail on the head.

“So many of us drive across McLain Flats and we see that elk herd so frequently and this acquisition, this property, not only is in the viewplane up on McLain Flats but it goes all the way down to the Rio Grande Trail and it’s just a tremendous chunk of land to conserve and preserve,” he said.

The Pitkin County Open Space and Trails Board has agreed to put $9 million toward the acquisition and the Board of County Commissioners will consider the contract Wednesday.

Partnerships between the city and the county have been common over the years, according to Matt Kuhn, the city’s parks and open space director.

The city and county have partnered on projects such as Sky Mountain Park, with the municipal government’s contribution of $1 million; the James H. Smith parcel at North Star, which was a $6.75 million split between the city and county; and Smuggler Mountain Open Space, with the city and county paying $7.5 million each.

Kuhn said the municipal government has acquired open space outside the city limits, notably at Cozy Point Ranch and the Aspen Mass properties.

The preservation of the Moore parcel will help maintain the integrity of an important wildlife corridor for a variety of animals like elk and migratory songbirds and will serve as a continued connection to numerous conserved lands in the surrounding area, according to Kuhn.

Also, the lower bench of the 95-acre open space parcel is intact sagebrush habitat adjacent to the Rio Grande Trail.

The preservation of this parcel adds to the conserved land within the Roaring Fork Gorge landscape and ensures that the county and the city can maintain the corridor for recreation and transit along the Rio Grande Trail, according to Kuhn.