Pitkin County acquires Smuggler mining claim assets
Representatives of Aspen and Pitkin County’s open space programs secured mineral rights beneath the jointly owned Smuggler Mountain Open Space on Thursday, submitting a winning bid of $34,000 at an auction in Glenwood Springs.
Acquiring the Smuggler mineral rights, sold as part of an auction of myriad mining claim interests held by the estate of Ed Smart, eliminates the potential for an unlikely, but nonetheless possible, future attempt to conduct mining operations on open space that Aspen and Pitkin County have spent $21 million to acquire, according to Dale Will, county Open Space and Trails director.
“It was a good price to eliminate the potential nuisance, however slight, posed by the mineral rights, considering how much we’ve invested on Smuggler Mountain,” Will said.
Will and Jeff Woods, manager of Aspen Parks and Recreation, both attended the auction, along with other open space representatives. Securing an open space asset via the fast-paced bidding of an auction was a first for both men.
Interest in the Smuggler claims was also coming from an online bidder — someone who paid some significant sums for other Smart holdings, according to Woods.
“We were pretty nervous. There was not anybody we knew in the room,” he said.
Will and Woods were given the green light to bid, up to an established limit, on the Smuggler rights. Auction fees put the total price at $37,400, which will be split by the two jurisdictions as the latest in a series of collaborative investments on Smuggler. City and county elected officials and the open space boards for both governments all were in agreement on the wisdom of acquiring the Smuggler mineral rights if it could be accomplished, Woods noted.
Ed Smart owned mineral rights more than 500 feet below Smuggler Mountain Open Space and some that reached to just below the surface, as well. The city and county acquired other mineral rights extending below the surface when they purchased much of the open space from the late Wilk Wilkinson.
“We now own Smuggler Mountain Open Space to the center of the earth,” Will quipped.
Smuggler Mountain is dotted with the remnants of what were significant mines during Aspen’s silver boom, the Iowa Shaft and Park Regent among them. The mine sites are located on what is now a popular local recreation area. Singletrack trails and old roads on the open space wind among interpretive signs that explain Smuggler’s mining history.
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