Pitkin, Eagle County open space programs honored for Emma preservation
Pitkin and Eagle counties were honored with a special award this week for conserving more than 450 acres of contiguous farmland in the Emma area of the Roaring Fork Valley.
The Colorado Open Space Alliance presented the counties with its 2015 Blue Grama Award for Outstanding Achievement on Tuesday during its annual conference in Snowmass Village. The Blue Grama Award is named after the native prairie grass that is Colorado’s official state grass.
The counties teamed to acquire land in three stages near the county line in Emma. The purchases included the Saltonstall Ranch and adjacent Glassier Ranch. Those properties are now called the Glassier Open Space.
The counties bought 145 acres of the Saltonstall Ranch for $5 million in January 2013. They bought 137 acres of the Glassier Ranch for $5.9 million in January 2014.
The counties added to their acquisitions by obtaining conservation easements on 49 acres of Emma Farms for $2 million earlier this year. Emma Farms owner Tom Waldeck previously placed a conservation easement on 67 acres of the cattle ranch.
The counties were assisted in funding by Great Outdoors Colorado, the town of Basalt and the Midvalley Trails Committee. Aspen Valley Land Trust co-holds the conservation easements at Emma Farms. The properties continue to sustain cattle operations, farming or both.
Dale Will, executive director of Pitkin County Open Space and Trails, and Toby Sprunk, director of Eagle County Open Space, accepted the award.
In an interview in August, Will said he was proud of the acquisitions in Emma because the ranches could have been converted into “nasty suburban development or a country club.” Acquiring the properties protects agricultural lands, preserves wildlife habitat and maintains open space vistas.
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A speeding car on Tuesday morning crashed into and destroyed part of the winter closure gate on Maroon Creek Road.