Group eyes land buy in Emma to help out wildlife |

Group eyes land buy in Emma to help out wildlife

Talks are under way to bring at least part of a midvalley propertythat provides critical wildlife migration routes and habitat intopublic hands. The Roaring Fork Conservancy, a nonprofit organization headquarteredin Basalt, is leading efforts to try to acquire at least two acresof an 11-acre parcel that houses the old Emma Store. The conservancy is lobbying a highly respected national organizationcalled The Trust for Public Land to help acquire the property,conservancy executive director Jeannie Beaudry told Basalt andPitkin County elected officials last week. A pond and wetlands area on the old Emma store land is one ofthe most critical riparian areas in the midvalley, Beaudry said.Representatives of conservation groups that have looked at theproperty have said it possesses numerous qualities that make itworth purchasing and preserving, she said. One of those qualities is a migration corridor for elk and otheranimals. That strip of land is used by elk crossing from the ChristineState Wildlife Area to public lands anchored by Light Hill. The property is either owned by or under contract to Owen Minney,who has tried unsuccessfully for more than three years to geta development plan approved by Pitkin County and Basalt. Minney wants to rehabilitate the crumbling, brick store and associatedbuildings, and renovate the charming white Victorian house nextdoor. The buildings are located just off Highway 82, about 2 mileswest of downtown Basalt. To pay for the rehab, he proposed turning half the old store intoa farmer’s market and converting the other half into two professionaloffices and two apartments. He also hoped to develop one free-markethome on the land. But Pitkin County wouldn’t approve the plan and Basalt wouldn’tannex the land into its jurisdiction. Pitkin County Manager SuzanneKonchan told her board and the Basalt officials that she’s heard”rumors” that Minney’s next proposal might not attempt preservationof the historic structures. She asked the officials if they were interested in exploring apurchase of the land for the public. The idea was embraced bysome officials. “I think there’s a good opportunity for public funds there,” saidBasalt Councilman Chris Lane. He said he would like to see thePitkin County Open Space board and Great Outdoors Colorado approachedfor help. Konchan said approaching state and national groups for funds toacquire the property night require matching local funds. Beaudry noted that the town of Basalt owns adjacent property thatcould be used to lure help. The town could offer a matching conservationeasement rather than matching funds, she said. Although no commitments have been made for funding by organizationsoutside the valley, the interest expressed by Basalt and PitkinCounty officials was going to be used by the conservancy to lobbyfor assistance.

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