Family wants Eagle-area ranch to be open space |

Family wants Eagle-area ranch to be open space

Scott N. Miller
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

EAGLE, Colo. – The owners of the Sleepy Hollow Ranch have been trying to sell the 85-acre property for several years. Now they’d like Eagle County’s taxpayers to be the new owners.

The ranch owners – Cheryl Jackson and her daughters, Trynis and Tawlys Tonso – want to sell the ranch to the county for open space. The family, which now calls Durango home, has taken the proposal to the Eagle County Open Space Advisory Committee, which recommended that the county’s open space fund pay about half the family’s $2.9 million asking price.

Eagle County Commissioners Jon Stavney and Sara Fisher got their first look at the proposal Tuesday. They were interested, but had several questions.

The main one, of course, is money. At this point, there are no funding partners involved in the deal, a key element in most open space purchases. If the deal is funded only by money from the county’s open space fund, use of the land would be heavily restricted.

Those restrictions would, in fact, require the home on the ranch – and possibly the outbuildings, too – to be torn down or moved.

Still, the commissioners were interested in the deal, and asked the county attorney’s office and county planner Kris Valdez to research answers to a handful of questions. One of the big ones is whether the county could buy the ranch, restrict its use to agriculture only, then re-sell it to an interested buyer in the future. Another is what it would cost to maintain the property.

If the county buys the ranch, it would create access to about 2,400 feet of Brush Creek streamfront that has never before been open to the public. It would also create a potential link to several existing trails.

Lifelong county resident Rachel Gerlach told the commissioners they should support the deal.

“This is an important purchase for Eagle County,” Gerlach said. “It’s the headwaters of Brush Creek… It’s a great opportunity.”

Eagle resident Scott Schlosser also came to Tuesday’s meeting to support the deal. He talked about the ranch’s importance as wildlife habitat, and noted that it could provide a link in the trail between Eagle and Sylvan Lake State Park.

“You could make this something very special to the public,” he said.

While the commissioners talked about various ideas for the ranch, they scheduled another hearing, probably in early June. Both Fisher and Stavney said they wanted fellow commissioner Peter Runyon to participate in the decision, and wanted to talk more about their options.

“There’s a lot of different opportunities there,” Stavney said. “We need to take another look at this.”