New open space adds to Basalt river access | AspenTimes.com

New open space adds to Basalt river access

Janet UrquhartThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

Courtesy Pitkin County Open Space and Trails

BASALT – The acquisition of 2.72 acres squeezed between Highway 82 and the Roaring Fork River near Basalt in early December may pale in comparison to some of Pitkin County’s headier open space purchases, but the land’s significance wasn’t lost on river enthusiasts.The $276,611 purchase by the county’s Open Space and Trails program secured yet another piece of what is now a nearly contiguous swath of public land along 2.5 miles of the river.”It may be small, but that’s kind of a remarkable acquisition there,” said Bill Kane, town manager. “It was a real gem of a buy, I thought.”The sliver of land, part of the Cerise family’s St. Judes Ranch, is on the northeast side of the river, but the open space deal includes a fishing easement on the west bank, as well. The parcel boasts a mature stand of cottonwoods – an undisturbed landscape separated from the remainder of the ranch.In addition, the property is just upstream of a proposed Basalt kayak park and just downstream from the private Roaring Fork Club, where public access to the river is part of the development’s annexation agreement with the town.A map of the river corridor from above Basalt, through town and downstream to Emma, reveals the collective significance of piecemeal land deals by the two governments – public access extends along the river virtually throughout that stretch, on both sides of the waterway, with a couple of short gaps.”I guess the thing that everyone’s buzzing about … no one ever dreamed that we’d own that whole 2.5 miles,” said Dale Will, county Open Space and Trails director. “Some of these acquisitions are starting to grow into something more than anyone would have hoped when it began.”For the county, it started with acquisition of the 5.85-acre Meyer Open Space in 1993. The river parcel, located above town and referred to as Fisherman’s Park, contains a small boat launch that is located at the upper end of the envisioned kayak park. Among its subsequent dealings, the county conserved the Grange Ranch, part of which borders the river below Basalt, and bought open space along the river at Emma.The town has protected swaths of river frontage closer to the town’s core and, with the nonprofit Roaring Fork Community Development Corp., is now contemplating the purchase of the riverfront Pan & Fork Mobile Home Park. The goal is relocating park residents to housing out of the floodplain and creating a campus for nonprofits.Nearby, the Roaring Fork Conservancy has purchased land from the town, next to Basalt’s riverfront Old Town Park, for a proposed education river center. Downstream from the conservancy parcel and across the river are lands that conservancy Executive Director Rick Lofaro considers key among the riparian acquisitions.”That’s really a gem of intact wetlands habitat,” he said of the former Emma townsite property, acquired by the county in 2008. “That one, in particular, is a spectacular property,” he said.The potential for a trail opposite the river from lower Two Rivers Road has been noted, according to Will, and the many connected river parcels create the potential for a longer river trail through Basalt, though no formal plans are in the works, Kane said.”Enough of these parcels come together and I’m sure that possibility is going to come up,” he said.janet@aspentimes.com