Pitkin County on verge of major midvalley open space purchase | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County on verge of major midvalley open space purchase

Bob Ward
The Aspen Times

Pitkin County is poised to significantly expand its open space holdings in the midvalley with the proposed purchase of the 137-acre Glassier Ranch near Emma.

The Board of County Commissioners will consider Wednesday allocating $2.98 million in Open Space and Trails money toward the deal. Open Space and Trails Director Dale Will has put together a proposed agreement with Eagle County to split evenly the $5.9 million cost of the property between the two counties. Eagle County commissioners are scheduled to consider the purchase Aug. 6.

The ranch lies entirely within Eagle County, but in theory, residents of both counties would benefit from the acquisition. The contract resembles similar collaborative efforts on neighboring open space parcels, including the recently acquired 145-acre Red Ridge Ranch, or Saltonstall property.

“The combination of the Glassier Ranch to the Red Ridge Ranch would create a potential open space preserve of some 282 acres that reaches from the Roaring Fork River up to approximately 8,000 feet on the slopes of the Crown,” Will told commissioners in a memo. “The diversity of habitat, scenery, cultural, agricultural and recreational opportunities within those 282 acres would be truly unique in the midvalley.”

Will said the Glassier purchase also would include water rights of 4.35 cubic feet per second from the Home Supply Ditch, which originates at a diversion on the Roaring Fork River in Pitkin County.

“Our increasing stake as an owner of significant water rights will better equip our county to ensure that our valuable waters continue to benefit the public in this valley,” Will wrote.

Pitkin County’s 50 percent share of the purchase price would come from the Open Space and Trails Fund, but Will’s memo says the remaining half could come from multiple sources.

“We believe Eagle County is receptive to a 50-50 sharing of the $5.9 million purchase price, with a further caveat that we will also seek assistance from (Great Outdoors Colorado) and will share equally in the savings from that grant if we are successful.”

The main attraction of the Glassier parcel is its agricultural heritage and potential, according to Will. There is no management plan in place yet, but he mentioned the possibility of combining the Glassier and Red Ridge properties under common management with roughly 140 irrigated acres.

The Glassier property also includes a historic farmhouse and 9 acres along the Roaring Fork. Reselling this acreage is a possibility under the existing contract, but Will said Eagle County has stated that resale ought to be considered only if public access to the river is preserved. The farmhouse also could become a caretaker unit for the entire 282-acre Glassier/Red Ridge preserve if it is approved.

Commissioners are scheduled to consider the purchase agreement on the first of two readings Wednesday afternoon. A public hearing on the matter is set for Aug. 14.