County eyes Crystal River property
REDSTONE The Pitkin County Open Space and Trails board hopes to preserve seven acres and a historic hydroelectric plant along the Crystal River in Redstone.The board has contracted with landowner Bob McCormick for the $250,000 purchase, but the deal must go before Pitkin County commissioners for final approval, according to Dale Will, director of the county open space board.”It’s just not worth risking that riparian land. … We’d rather purchase it,” Will said. “By having it, we’re going to be able to manage it as public property.”McCormick was not available for comment Thursday, but Will said the owner is working closely with county staff.The narrow parcel follows the Crystal River adjacent to the Redstone Castle. The riverside land is home to the remains of a hydroelectric plant – dating back to the early 1900s – officials hope might be restored. One bend in the river along the parcel is secluded from busy Highway 133 and would be an ideal spot for river access, Will said.”I want to facilitate public access to the river,” Will said, but stressed that the board would study the site carefully before making any moves.In the past, fisherman required special permission from McCormick to use the spot, but if the sale goes through, fishermen and others could have access to the river, Will said.The open space board gave Will approval for the expenditure, but the county commissioners must first hear the proposal in their regular meeting June 27 and once again before final approval.Powering up history”Redstone is a historic jewel,” said Ron Sorter, president of the Redstone Historical Society. “It’s good for the town to keep our history intact.”Sorter, who was active in saving the coke ovens of Redstone, said preserving the plant, an early-1900s Queen Anne structure which sits riverside on a concrete foundation, is the group’s next goal.The plant provided electricity to the historic Redstone Castle as early as 1903, and in renovating the site, Sorter hopes to not just improve the structure, but get the power plant going again.The original sluice for the hydroelectric plant was wood and is long gone, McCormick said, but getting electricity running again would be tantamount to returning “the soul of the building.””Maybe not enough [electricity] to brag about, but enough to say with a straight face the hydroelectric plant is generating power again” is the group’s goal, Sorter said.”It’s right on the river, which makes it risky and threatening,” Sorter said. And he credits McCormick with getting permission from the Colorado Department of Transportation to carve a road to the site and make necessary improvements that saved the building from washing down the river.Historical society members will do research on the plant to learn more about its original state. And Sorter said the group has already lined up an architect to do a required assessment of the building to earn government grants.In the end, Sorter hopes to open the plant to the public.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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