Pitkin County eyes purchase of Snowmass Canyon parcel
Pitkin County commissioners will consider Wednesday the purchase of a Snowmass Canyon property offering access to the Roaring Fork River and national forest lands.
The Pitkin County Open Space and Trails Board voted May 7 to recommend the $2.5 million purchase of the 37.9-acre Deer Creek Ranch property. The long, narrow parcel extends from the mouth of Arbaney Gulch on its northeast end, across the Rio Grande Trail, Upper River Road, the river and the highway and up a flank on the southwest side of the highway.
The public has never before had access to the mouth of Arbaney Gulch, a tributary to Snowmass Canyon where the property abuts the White River National Forest. Imposing red cliffs mark the entrance, easily visible from Highway 82, opposite the Roaring Fork River.
“It’s incredibly beautiful,” said Gary Tennenbaum, assistant director of open space and trails. “I’d never been there before I was invited to view the property. I’m told peregrine falcons have been known to nest up there.”
Deer Creek Ranch also offers 500 feet of Roaring Fork River frontage, plus access to existing public fishing easements to either side of the property where no public access currently exists. In addition, the parcel features about 10 acres of irrigated land and senior water rights from Deer Creek and the Eli Cerise Ditch, opening it to a potential agricultural lease. The Rio Grande Trail crosses through the property.
The property’s attributes, particularly access to public lands, scenic qualities, recreation potential and preservation of agriculture, fulfill the mission of the Open Space and Trails program on several fronts, said Executive Director Dale Will.
An old road winds up Arbaney Gulch. It is not recognized as an official trail by the U.S. Forest Service, but it is open to dispersed recreation for hiking and equestrian use only, Will said. Open Space and Trails will consult with the Forest Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife before allowing access by the general public, he said.
“The county’s decisions regarding public access will follow careful evaluation of potential habitat impacts,” he said. Motorized recreation is not permitted on open space properties, he added.
Also on the property are one vacant residence of approximately 2,000 square feet and a caretaker dwelling unit of approximately 1,000 square feet, according to county documents. The proposed ordinance recommends the commissioners maintain flexibility regarding the future of the structures. An activity envelope allowing for one residence of 5,250 square feet was approved for the property in 2011 but expired last year.
The Open Space and Trails Board has recommended purchasing the property outright, with the ability to transfer ownership of two small residences on the parcel in the future.
Deer Creek Ranch is currently listed for sale for $2.9 million.
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