Open space needs work of steward |

Open space needs work of steward

Jeremy Heiman

Pitkin County’s Open Space and Trails board wants to hire a full-time land steward to manage and maintain its properties.

Open Space Executive Director Dale Will told the Pitkin County commissioners yesterday that the program needs an interdisciplinary person to fill such a position. A person who is able to handle weed control and trail maintenance, but is also able to engage in discussions of appropriate use of the properties would fit the bill, Will said. The land steward should also be available and able to do public outreach and education on behalf of the Open Space program, he said.

Currently, the Open Space program pays 70 percent of county land manager Michael Craig’s salary. But on any given day, Will said, Craig can be pulled off Open Space projects to work for the county’s Public Works Department.

“These lands deserve a high-quality and wholly dedicated person to look after them,” Will told the commissioners.

Open Space Board member Rick Neiley said Will’s own time is more valuable when he is working on property acquisitions for the program – the primary job he was hired to perform. Will shouldn’t have to be spending time with weed management, Neiley said.

Will said he hopes to have consensus among his board members on a job description for a land steward by early summer.

In the meantime, Will said, he hopes some of the pressure can be taken off Craig this summer by contracting out weed control at the county landfill – where weeds take up much of his time. Will said he supports a suggestion that Craig and a crew of four focus on weed control on Open Space properties instead.

Deputy Director of Public Works Brian Pettet noted, though, that if the Open Space program hired its own land steward, the action would not be without impact on the county’s general fund, which would have to pick up the balance of the land manager’s salary.

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