Local partnership gets GOCO grant to preserve parcel | AspenTimes.com

Local partnership gets GOCO grant to preserve parcel

The Roaring Fork Conservancy has received a $400,000 Great Outdoors Colorado grant toward the purchase of 74 acres of river corridor, agricultural land and wetland near Basalt.

The property extends between Bureau of Land Management land on Light Hill and the Christine Lake State Wildlife Area. It contains a wildlife migration corridor linking those two areas.

The preservation of the property is a cooperative effort between the conservancy and several other groups. Pitkin County’s Open Space and Trails program is to put up the greatest share of the $1.75 million purchase price.

The town of Basalt will donate a conservation easement on two acres of land it owns adjacent to the property. The Colorado Division of Wildlife is donating $40,000 and Eagle County has agreed to put up $20,000, said Kristine Crandall, research and writing specialist for the conservancy. The Trust for Public Lands, a nationwide nonprofit based in San Francisco, has also been involved in negotiations and legal aspects of the deal, she said.

The Pitkin County Open Space board of trustees has recommended that county commissioners release up to $1 million in Open Space funds for the purchase, said Dale Will, director of the Open Space program. When the deal is completed, the title to the land will be held by Pitkin County, through the Open Space program.

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The Open Space program will convey a conservation easement to the Roaring Fork Conservancy, to further secure the property from development, Will said. The groups hope to close the deal by the end of April 2000, Crandall added.

The conservancy’s grant application was one of nine to receive funding out of 27 applications in a competitive grant process, said Chris Leding, communications director for GOCO.

“This project scored very well,” Leding said. The project was highly rated because it involved partnerships, was based on matching funds, and because there is some urgency to complete the purchase, Leding said. The fact that the land is threatened by residential development lends urgency to the preservation project, she said.

Crandall said management of the riparian part of the property would be oriented toward public access to the river. The Roaring Fork River flows through the property for about 2,000 feet.

“One of our ideas is to design two designated river accesses from the road,” Crandall said. This is desirable because some riverbank areas tend to be damaged by overuse, she said.

The conservancy will pursue its educational goals on the property, too, Crandall said. The town of Basalt land would be an excellent site for some interpretive signs, she noted.

Trail access will be provided to BLM land on Light Hill, Crandall said, and to the trail to be built along the valley’s rail corridor.

About 58 acres of the property are currently used for hay production and pasture, Crandall said. Will said if the deal goes through, the Open Space program hopes to forge an arrangement with a neighboring rancher to continue that use.

The Roaring Fork Conservancy is involved in numerous conservation projects in the valley. The group recently started a water-quality study that will gather information on the effects of magnesium chloride, an ice melter, on the river.

The conservancy provides or assists educational activities and programs, and it holds conservation easements on several properties along the river, including the parcel containing the great blue heron nesting area adjacent to the proposed Sanders Ranch project in Garfield County.

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