Deadline drawing near for Harvey Ranch conservation | AspenTimes.com

Deadline drawing near for Harvey Ranch conservation

Shelly BensonSpecial to The Aspen Times

Conservation of the Harvey Ranch is on a tight deadline.A $1 million grant from Great Outdoors Colorado is set to expire if the money isn’t used by the end of the year, potentially leaving Pitkin County with little choice but to make up the difference.”The grant must be used by the end of the year – and we are already at the end of one extension they gave us,” said Dale Will, executive director of the county Open Space and Trails program.If the grant expires, the county will have to come up with $3 million to buy the land. For the grant to be used, Pitkin County commissioners must approve a wilderness conservation plan along with the application for residential buildings on a 420-acre area by the end of the year. Pitkin County commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday to approve ranch owner Connie Harvey’s proposal to create eight lots for development along the Snowmass Creek side of her ranch and downzone approximately 1,400 acres.Aside from the money issue, access to the proposed homesites was the principal concern from the commissioners. The original hope from the Harveys was to gain access from the Sheild-O-Mesa subdivision that would allow a second road through the property. Sheild-O denied the request, leaving the Harveys to redesign an already difficult road.Basalt Fire Chief Scott Thompson stated his concerns about the narrow road and the problems it may present to firefighters if they are ever called to the site. “Our primary concern is the Harvey family’s safety, and our 50 firefighters,” he said. Bill Harding of the Basalt Rural and Fire Protection District said the road problems could be overcome as long as they had the time to do it right. Time, however, is working against the project and the $1 million grant. Will wants the plans to be finalized as quickly as possible, while Commissioner Michael Owsley said, “I am feeling rushed” to approve a plan lacking in technical details of how to work out road access issues.The Harvey Ranch conservation easement was approved for purchase two years ago by the Pitkin County commissioners. GOCO gave the grant in June 2004. The area set for conservation includes 1,435 acres of working ranchland that is home to a wide range of habitat. The project includes eight residential buildings that have been zoned in areas that have the least impact on the surrounding wildlife along with using already existing resources for water and electricity.The Harvey family is known for its efforts in wildlife conservation and environmental issues. The Harveys have been working the ranch since 1962 and have said they have a strong passion to continue the ranch lifestyle while also preserving the land that hosts year-round wildlife. Without the conservation easement, the land could have been divided into 60 lots and fetched $20 million or more on the open real estate market.Connie Harvey used the Child ranch conservation easement as a model for her project. Because the Harvey Ranch abuts the Child ranch, the conservation easement will create an uninterrupted wilderness corridor along Snowmass and Capitol creeks.The second reading of the project by the county commissioners will be Nov. 7. The details and adjustments for fire protection and the access road will be discussed at that meeting.”The Harvey Ranch is a wonderful gift to the Snowmass Valley and the greater Roaring Fork Valley,” said community member Sue Helm.