Garfield County agrees to study open space program
October 19, 2009
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – A group of open-space advocates, spurred by a recent controversy surrounding a proposed open space swap for private land, has won Garfield County’s cooperation in at least considering a countywide open space program.
Area contractor Jock Jacober, who has been active in efforts to preserve the Thompson Creek area from oil and gas exploration, told the county commissioners on Oct. 12 that the Sutey land exchange proposal near Carbondale was the impetus behind a request that the county look into the concept.
Another open space promoter, Chris Harrison, said the idea arose after the county’s lack of an open space program was mentioned in connection with the exchange.
Under the proposed exchange, billionaire retailer Leslie Wexner hopes to trade private land – the 513-acre Sutey Ranch near Red Hill – for roughly twice as much public land bordering his ranch at the base of Mount Sopris.
Jacober, Harrison and other supporters at the Garfield County meeting urged the board to endorse a study by the nationally respected Trust For Public Lands as to how the county could formulate and fund an open space program.
“Garfield County’s long-term prosperity is tied to the scenic, recreational and historic ranching heritage provided by remaining ranch lands and open spaces,” says a written statement presented to the commissioners. “Now is the time to develop a program to help preserve those lands for the residents, visitors and businesses of Garfield County.”
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The two commissioners at the meeting, Tresi Houpt and John Martin, agreed that a study would be a good idea and pledged to formally request that the study be undertaken.
Martin, however, said he believed there already is a good example of an open space program for Garfield County to follow – the one in place in neighboring Routt County.
That program, according to Aspen Valley Land Trust Executive Director Martha Cochran, is primarily designed to preserve agricultural lands rather than see ranches cut up into subdivisions or other uses.
Other agencies and entities, she said, are then able to work on preserving recreational access to public lands, scenic vistas and other open-space goals.
Cochran also said that the Trust for Public Lands will be conducting its survey at its own cost, a service it provides to local rural communities where money for such studies is scarce.