Final Stranahan donation sterilizes upper Lenado

George Stranahan
File courtesy photo

Completing a process that began more than 40 years ago, local icon George Stranahan donated the last piece of property he owns in the upper Lenado area to Pitkin County’s open space program Wednesday.

“George has done so much along these lines, something should be named after him,” Commissioner Greg Poschman said. “George’s legacy is rooted in all these parcels he’s put in the public trust.”

Stranahan — who lived on a large ranch in Woody Creek about halfway to Lenado for 40 years before moving to Carbondale about a decade ago — first conveyed a conservation easement to the Aspen Valley Land Trust in 1978 on 338 acres of mining claims he owned in the upper Lenado area.

In fact, that easement marked the first time a Colorado land owner placed such an easement on his property after a state law allowing it was passed, said Dale Will, acquisition director for the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails Program. The 1978 easement excluded the 10.4-acre parcel donated Wednesday because Stranahan had selected the area to build a cabin, which occurred in 1982, Will said.

“This is a journey that really began 40 years ago,” he said. “George decided to try and protect upper Lenado.”

The cabin was removed from the property in 2009, while a transferred development right was issued in 2017 and a deed restriction placed on the property, according to a memo from Will to commissioners.

“This is the last of Mr. Stranahan’s properties in this large area,” Will said. “Everyone who’s been there knows it’s a stunning place.”

The donation effectively sterilizes the upper Lenado area from development, with only a couple of parcels containing cabins, he said.

“Accepting this parcel would make the county owner of all the mining claims heretofore owned by George Stranahan,” Will wrote in the memo. “We appreciate Mr. Stranahan’s vision in keeping this area wild.”

Will and others hiked to the site in September and found no mining pollution or any other obvious environmental hazards, he said. It will be managed as part of the open space program’s “backcountry parcel management policy,” which dictates that property bordering federal lands be managed in the same manner, Will said.

Commissioner Rachel Richards thanked Stranahan for the donation Wednesday and suggested creating a “certificate of appreciation” for him as a lasting thank you from the county.

“We really should commemorate and give something substantial to people who donate,” she said.

“I think that’s a great idea,” said Board Chairwoman Patti Clapper.

Stranahan, an heir to the Champion spark plugs fortune, is a longtime supporter of local nonprofits, a benefactor of the Aspen Community School and was long considered the patriarch of Woody Creek.

Stranahan did not attend Wednesday’s meeting and did not return a phone message seeking comment.