County takes first step toward buying platform on Smuggler |

County takes first step toward buying platform on Smuggler

Jeremy Heiman

Pitkin County has taken the first steps toward buying two mining claims, one of which contains Smuggler Mountain’s popular observation deck.The county commissioners gave preliminary approval Wednesday to a deal set up by Aspenite Harley Baldwin and Dale Will, director of the county’s Open Space and Trails Program. The commissioners’ final vote on the lease/purchase agreement will be after a public hearing Sept. 13.The commissioners are expected to authorize the expenditure of $650,000 of Open Space money for 100 percent interest in the surface rights in the two claims. The land is said to be worth millions on the open market.Will called the deal “one of the most significant conservation gifts in Pitkin County history.” The Smuggler Mountain observation deck is a popular destination for hikers, mountain bikers and others traveling up Smuggler Mountain Road from Aspen.Baldwin owns the Little Maud Mining Claim outright and shares ownership of the B & M Claim with Gaard Moses. Each claim is about 10 acres.The agreement calls for Baldwin to buy out Moses’ interest in the B & M for $550,000. The county will buy the Little Maud for $550,000, essentially reimbursing Baldwin.A lease agreement with the option to purchase has been drawn up for the B & M claim. Baldwin will lease the claim to the county for recreational use for four years, after which time the county will have the option to purchase it for $100,000.”The bottom line is that Harley’s donating all his interest in the claims,” Will said. The county is putting up the $550,000 Baldwin needs to buy out his partner in the B & M and $100,000 that will cover administrative costs of the deal, he said.The county will get the properties for far below market value, and Baldwin will receive tax benefits by donating his interest in the claims to the county.Will said the closing date for the sale has not been set, but he and Baldwin intend to complete the deal before the end of the year.The Smuggler Road switchback and the platform, as well as part of the Hunter Creek Cutoff, are in an upper corner of the B & M claim, Will said. The remainder of the claim is below. The Little Maud claim is just to the northwest, falling off toward the Hunter Creek Valley.With the claims in public hands, two development rights on Smuggler will be extinguished, noted commissioner Leslie Lamont.

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