Pitco eyes open space along Crystal River near Redstone
Aspen Times Staff Writer
Pitkin County is poised to purchase 50 acres of Filoha Meadows, a “stunning” stretch of open space along the Crystal River north of Redstone.
The acreage is adjacent to the 143-acre Hot Springs Ranch, which the county’s Open Space and Trails Program acquired last year. Together, the two parcels create an unbroken swath of 185 acres east of the river in the scenic, narrow valley.
The Open Space and Trails board is scheduled to make a recommendation on the Filoha purchase this morning. An ordinance approving the acquisition will go to county commissioners for first reading this afternoon.
The $800,000 purchase price for Filoha Meadows may be offset by a $230,000 contribution from Great Outdoors Colorado, according to Dale Will, county Open Space and Trails director. The GOCO board will consider the grant on Friday.
The lush meadow of the Hot Springs Ranch and the Filoha parcel to the south, once part of the Kelly Grange homestead, are arguably “the most scenic spot on the Crystal River,” noted Will in a memo to county commissioners.
“It’s stunning. I think of it as the North Star of the Crystal. When we’re done, it’s every bit as beautiful,” said Will, in reference to another swath of river land acquired by Pitkin County and the city of Aspen. The North Star Nature Preserve and James H. Smith North Star Open Space are located east of Aspen along the Roaring Fork River.
The 185-acre Hot Springs/Filoha meadow is dotted with hot springs that provide habitat for rare plant species and attracts large mammals with unusual winter forage, according to Will. The meadow provides winter habitat for bighorn sheep and elk; herds can frequently be seen by passersby on Highway 133 during the winter months.
“It’s not uncommon to see a hundred sheep milling around in the winter,” Will said.
With the Filoha purchase, the Open Space and Trails Program would also move a step closer to its goal of a trail linking Redstone to Avalanche Creek on the abandoned railroad corridor that runs the length of the Crystal River Valley.
The Grange ranch was subdivided into two large blocks in 1979. The county acquired the Hot Springs Ranch on the northern end last year, subdividing about 8.5 acres containing a single-family home. The Conservation Fund took title to the homesite with an agreement to sell it and transfer the proceeds back to the county.
The house is under contract for $950,000, according to Will.
Filoha Meadows to the south consists of about 63 acres. Owner Dr. Bernarr Johnson and his family will retain the residential enclave on about 13 acres between the river and the highway.
They will also keep about two acres east of the river, containing a greenhouse and a water wheel that was built for the 1994 Disney movie “Tall Tale,” part of which was filmed on location in the meadow. That piece of land will be protected from further development with a conservation easement.
Also part of the proposed deal is a lot-line adjustment to connect Filoha Meadows to an existing county right of way through the Wild Rose subdivision, creating a continuous trail link on the old railroad bed from Redstone through the Hot Springs Ranch. The county won’t open the link to the public for three years, however, according to the terms of the agreement.
The trail will probably be open to summer use only, given the use of the meadow by big game in the winter, Will said.
The purchase of Filoha Meadows has been in the works for two years, according to Will.
“They approached me in my first summer on the job -1999,” he said. “We’ve been talking ever since.”
Filoha, Will explained, means “hot water” in Ethiopian. Dr. Johnson spent time in Ethiopia, he said. Johnson could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
With the sale of the house on the Hot Springs Ranch and the anticipated GOCO grant, the net cost for acquisition of the combined meadow is $2,620,000.
Already under county ownership are the popular Penny Hot Springs on the west side of the Crystal River, directly across from the Hot Springs Ranch.
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