Deal is sought for ranch property near North Star |

Deal is sought for ranch property near North Star

Jeremy Heiman

A 70-acre ranch property next to the North Star Nature Preserve may become public open space if an agreement can be reached with the owner.

Owned by Montana resident Joy Smith, the property was once part of the North Star Ranch owned by her father, Jimmy Smith. At issue is the price of the property and whether the city of Aspen will be a partner with Pitkin County’s Open Space and Trails program in the purchase.

The Open Space and Trails program hopes to be 50-50 partners with the city of Aspen. But that can only happen if Aspen’s open space and parks ballot issue is embraced by voters Tuesday.

“Our ability to do a deal for the Joy Smith land and other high-value purchases in the Aspen area will be dramatically enhanced if the city of Aspen’s open space proposal is successful on Tuesday,” Dale Will, director of the Open Space program, said.

The land is immediately south of the preserve and is sandwiched between the preserve and a 60-acre property owned by the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies.

“If you combine Joy’s parcel with the ACES parcel and add them to North Star, you double the size of North Star,” said Will.

One of the things that makes the Smith property attractive to open space advocates is it has more area that’s suitable for public access, Will said. The strip of land between Highway 82 and the Roaring Fork River at North Star is quite narrow. But on the Joy Smith parcel the river swings away from the highway, leaving a wider area.

That part of the property contains a ranch road and a barn, too, so it won’t be considered for strict habitat preservation. The area would be excellent for hiking, Will said.

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