Pitkin County eyes beefing up agricultural uses on ’midvalley gem’ | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County eyes beefing up agricultural uses on ’midvalley gem’

The Glassier property is already famous for its trails; now the focus is on ag

The Glassier house is tucked behind trees on the historical ranch in the midvalley. The house could be key to enhancing agriculture uses. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Pitkin County Open Space and Trails wants to restore a historic ranch in Emma to some of its former glory.

A new management plan approved Tuesday for the Glassier Open Space focuses on “reactivating” a farmstead and expanding the surrounding agricultural uses.

The two properties that comprise the Glassier Open Space were acquired in 2013 and 2014. The property is probably best known for a trail that is immensely popular with mountain bikers, hikers and trail runners. Now the open space program is looking to round out the uses at a 282-acre property it considers a “midvalley gem.”

One of the big issues is determining whether or not an old Victorian brick farmhouse, dating from sometime around the turn of the 20th century, can be salvaged.

“To successfully activate and manage the Glassier Open Space farmstead, a residential tenant who is a steward or caretaker of the surrounding land is needed,” the plan says.

There is no estimate yet on what it would cost to rehabilitate the house.

“If at any point it is determined that the cost of rehabilitating the home for residential use is too great or there are other unforeseen challenges that make utilizing the home feasible, alternatives can be explored,” the management plan says.

The alternatives could include a “modified rehabilitation” of the farmhouse, adding separate residences or scraping the home for new construction.

Another option would be leaving the house in a state of “arrested decay” where it is stabilized for safety but left to the elements.

“It would be allowed to be reclaimed by nature over time, while remaining a site of historic interest,” the plan says.

The open space staff will explore the release of a “request for concepts” to determine if any individuals or groups are interested in an extended lease of the farmstead.

“Additional priority will be given to concepts that have a community benefit, for example: providing local food for school lunch programs, food pantries, senior programs, etc.,” the new plan said.

The lease of the house could be tied to leases on two nearby agricultural parcels to make it more attractive.

The new management plan also contemplates building a trail that would cross the Glassier Open Space and connect to the existing Nancy’s Path on adjacent property. The new trail would be for hikers and equestrians only and no dogs would be allowed.

Two neighboring property owners urged the open space board to avoid adding the trail. They said the alignment is an important access area for elk and other wildlife traveling between the Crown and the Roaring Fork River. The Glassier Open Space is closed to all uses during the winter for the benefit of wildlife.

Separate requests for new trails or expanded use of trails from mountain bikers and equestrians did not make the cut in the plan. Equestrians were seeking new trails in meadows on the Glassier Open Space. Mountain bikers wanted an existing equestrian/hiker trail that climbs into the Crown to be opened for uphill biker traffic to relieve pressure on an adjacent two-way trail. The Crown, held by the Bureau of Land Management, includes an extensive network of trails.

While the new management plan did not add trails, it tweaked some of the regulations for trail use. The winter closure was amended to open the trails earlier in the spring. The fall closure will remain on Nov. 30. The spring opening date will be moved to April 30 from May 16 to align it with use of the Rio Grande Trail through the Rock Bottom Ranch stretch.

“Based on current climate conditions, observed wildlife use and input from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the April 30 opening date still meets the needs of wintering wildlife, in particular offering deer and elk undisturbed access to high quality forage in the early spring,” the management plan said.

A dusk-to-dawn closure will be maintained during the months the trails are open.

The open space program will also evaluate adding a bench and bike racks at the trailhead where the biking, hiking and equestrian singletrack trails begin as well as on scenic overlooks on the trails as they climb into the Crown.

The comprehensive plan covers numerous issues about management of the property and can be found at https://www.pitkinostprojects.com/glassier-open-space-management-plan.html.



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