Pitco and GOCO: A match made in open space heaven
Pitkin County is “batting a thousand” when it comes to receiving reimbursements from the state for open space purchases made during the past six months, a local official said.Dale Will, director of the county’s open space and trails department, said $703,000 that he requested from Great Outdoors Colorado to offset the purchase price of Cozy Point South earlier this year was recently approved. The 129-acre parcel, at the intersection of Highway 82 and Brush Creek Road, was purchased for $2.75 million, with a $50,000 contribution from Snowmass Village. The city of Aspen has also committed to contributing $100,000 to the purchase.Great Outdoors Colorado, or GOCO, is a trust fund created by state voters in 1992 to finance open space purchases or protect and maintain trails, parks, rivers and wildlife. The money granted to local governments comes from money collected by the Colorado lottery.On June 15, Wills found out that GOCO would fully fund the request for $703,000. The money will go right back into the county’s open space and trails program.”It means we can purchase more land sooner. When we get these grants, it just increases the balance we have in the open space fund and sets us up to acquire the next property,” he said.As a result of this grant and contributions from Aspen and Snowmass, the county’s open space fund will only dole out nearly $1.9 million for Cozy Point South.And that’s not the only property benefiting from GOCO funds, Will said. Pitkin County has had success in the last three grant rounds, as $750,000 was awarded on last fall’s purchase of the Seven Star property in the Brush Creek corridor. The 240-acre parcel is the last big piece of open space on the east side of Brush Creek Road before the rodeo grounds, and its critical elk migration area stretches to the top of the ridge. The county purchased it last fall for $5.3 million.Also, GOCO awarded $1 million for the 1,480-acre Harvey Ranch conservation easement above Snowmass Creek. The ranch is selling for $3 million. Visible from the Snowmass Ski Area, the ranch shares a border of more than three miles with the Maroon Bells-Snowmass wilderness.There was a time when local officials weren’t as successful with GOCO grants because of the county’s affluent reputation, Will said. That time has definitely passed, he said.”I have been spending a lot of time showing the GOCO board just how good our projects are, and how important the landscape is to the Roaring Fork Valley,” Will said. “It’s really been paying off now because they regard us as one of the best open space programs.”That is primarily because citizens repeatedly vote to support the open space program with tax dollars, he said. Seventy percent of voters approved a tax increase several years ago that supports the program during its second decade.In addition, Will and the open space and trails board choose properties that have critical features such as wildlife habitat, recreation, historical agricultural lands and scenery.”We’re able to show the GOCO board how much we’ve accomplished, and they like to participate in projects that make GOCO look good,” Will said. “It’s very gratifying.”Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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