Growing interest at Aspen’s Cozy Point Ranch
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
ASPEN – Community agriculture may be the next endeavor to sprout at Aspen’s Cozy Point Ranch, a city-owned open space parcel where there’s already more going on than meets the eye.
Cozy Point, located outside the city’s boundaries at the intersection of Highway 82 and Brush Creek Road, is home to an equestrian facility and small cattle operation, both of which are visible to anyone driving by the property on the highway. What passers-by may not see are the chickens, rabbits and alpacas, not to mention the ranch’s potential to join the local-food movement.
But nonprofit Aspen T.R.E.E. and Monroe Summers, managing partner of Cozy Point Ranch LLC, which operates the ranch through a lease arrangement with the city, have a vision for a greenhouse, food crops and maybe even a farm stand where produce is sold.
The first step is determining whether the city shares the vision because it owns the property.
The city’s Open Space and Trails Board has discussed the concept, and Summers is hoping for an audience with the City Council to review the ideas. Since the ranch is located in unincorporated Pitkin County, a review by the county’s Planning and Zoning Commission also will occur if the proposals move forward.
While the agricultural ambitions grew out of Aspen T.R.E.E.’s interests, Summers said he’s glad to bring the ideas forward. They fit in with his goal of expanding uses of the ranch.
“I, a long time ago, came to the conclusion … that it would be a good thing if we had more things at the ranch for the public beyond just equestrian facilities,” he said.
“It’s really an opportunity to increase the public’s exposure to the property,” agreed Brian Flynn, open space and special projects manager for the city Parks Department.
The immediate goal is the construction of a greenhouse – a dome structure similar to the one built behind Carbondale High School – that Aspen T.R.E.E. would manage. The organization already has raised about half of the roughly $80,000 it needs to build the greenhouse, according to Eden Vardy, founder and executive director. He’s hoping to break ground on the structure this spring and harvest the first crop from the indoor garden next winter.
One of Aspen T.R.E.E.’s priorities is local food production (it is the group that hosts the free Early Bird Farm-to-Table Community Meal each November). The greenhouse fits within that mission.
“The goal is to find out what we can grow up here and get people inside and excited about growing food at this elevation,” Vardy said.
He hopes to operate the greenhouse in part through a cooperative approach – co-op members already raise chickens at Cozy Point using the same arrangement and the organization has made the ranch its home base for various other activities. The alpacas and rabbits there are also an Aspen T.R.E.E. endeavor, and the organization moved its summer day camp for youngsters to Cozy Point last year. An expanded version is planned this summer, Vardy said. (See http://www.aspen-tree.org for more on the organization and its programs.)
If a greenhouse is next for Cozy Point, Summers said he’d like city and county officials to consider other logical developments that could follow. There has been interested in cultivating row crops at the ranch, potentially using movable, greenhouse-like shelters that extend the growing season, he said. And, Summers sees the potential for an eventual farm stand where produce, eggs and other locally raised products could be sold.
Cozy Point could also be the future home to another community garden where locals tend their own plots. The existing Aspen Community Garden at the Marolt Open Space has a waiting list of interested participants.
“I know there is demand for it,” said Summers, though he sees community gardening as something to consider down the road, given the management demands associated with such an enterprise.
If the city and county are going to talk about expanded agricultural opportunities at Cozy Point, though, officials might as well address all of the possibilities, he reasoned.
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