Fate of Ryan parcel remains up in the air
The fate of a piece of land in the middle of Ashcroft Ski Touring remains up in the air.
David Middleton, owner of the 35-acre parcel, went before the Pitkin County commissioners Wednesday to get county approval for construction of a house on the site. After some discussion and public comment, the board continued the issue until Sept. 22.
Middleton, owner of the Elk Mountain Lodge near Ashcroft, contracted to buy the so-called “Ryan parcel” to prevent its development in 1997 when it appeared it would be sold for a luxury home. He put the parcel on the market in January, when it appeared no one would come forward to help him get out from under the debilitating interest payments on the property, reported to be in the neighborhood of $200,000 annually.
Realtor Perry Harvey, representing Middleton before the commissioners, said the requested 1041 hazard review and establishment of a building site on the property is necessary to create a baseline for establishing the value of the parcel.
He also noted that a series of talks to preserve the parcel, involving the county’s Open Space and Trails Board, Aspen Valley Land Trust, U.S. Forest Service and other interested parties, only started after Middleton’s application sparked fear that the property would be lost to development.
“Until David put his foot down and announced he was applying for a 1041, these meetings didn’t start,” Harvey said.
As part of the application, Middleton and representatives of the Forest Service and the county designed a long driveway winding through National Forest land to the property, to prevent the need for plowing Castle Creek Road to the site. The snow-covered road is used by skiers to reach the backcountry beyond the ski touring area.
King Woodward, representing the Castle/Maroon Creek Caucus, attacked the driveway plan, saying the number of trees that would have to be removed was far too great. “The caucus would have to say `no,’ ” he said. “It’s really going to tear the hell out of the place.”
Woodward recommended tabling the issue and getting on with the business of working out a land trade for the property with the Forest Service and possibly other agencies.
A land exchange would involve trading the property to the Forest Service for a parcel of public land of comparable value, in an area where development is perhaps more appropriate. A major reason cited for continuing the discussion until next month was to allow more time for land-exchange negotiations.
The idea of allowing winter access to the property by over-the-snow travel only was brought up, but Middleton told the commissioners he’d already discussed that possibility with appraisers, and he had been told it would take away up to two-thirds of the value of the property.
The 35-acre parcel, formerly owned by the estate of skiing pioneer Ted Ryan, is located halfway between the King Cabin and the Pine Creek Cookhouse, on the west side of Castle Creek Road. Ashcroft Ski Touring has leased the property from the estate since present operator John Wilcox took over the business in 1986. Key cross country ski trails cross part of the property.
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International visitors have traditionally accounted for 10 to 20 percent of Aspen Skiing Co.’s skier visits in recent past seasons. Travel fears and restrictions tied to the coronavirus are expected to wipe out most of that market for 2020-21.