Tree farm ready to play ball? |

Tree farm ready to play ball?

After years of endless discussions, fruitless planning and occasional bickering, midvalley residents might finally be coming close to seeing soccer and ball fields built at the Sopris Tree Farm.

The town of Basalt has applied for a $144,000 grant this fall from Great Outdoors Colorado (GoCo), a state agency that funds open space and recreation projects from lottery proceeds.

If the funds are granted, two soccer fields and two ballparks would be built at the tree farm, according to Nick Alcorta, recreation director for the town of Basalt.

The Town Council has agreed to maintain those fields, but hopes to share costs with Eagle County.

The town won’t learn until December whether it was selected for funding by GoCo. Even if it is, work on the fields probably couldn’t start until next spring at the earliest.

“If God and everyone else is with us, we may be playing on those fields by the end of the summer,” said Alcorta.

Proponents of recreational facilities at the tree farm are used to waiting.

About 128 acres of the property were acquired by Pitkin and Eagle counties in a 1994 land swap with the U.S. Forest Service. The counties wanted to preserve the bulk of the former tree farm as open space. Recreational facilities and space for county offices were also contemplated.

Eagle County has prepared a plan for a 14,500-square-foot community center and office building. Special interests among midvalley residents brokered a compromise on a plan for two soccer fields, one baseball diamond, one softball diamond, two volleyball courts, one playground, two tennis courts, two basketball courts, a BMX court and an outdoor skateboard area.

Other recreation amenities would include: picnic shelters, a concession stand with bathrooms, pedestrian and bike paths and parking lots.

The plan is currently being reviewed by Eagle County. It sailed through the first of three stages of review with high marks.

However, funding has always loomed as the biggest hurdle. A citizens’ task force was unable to get a ballot question prepared for November 2000 that would have sought creation of a special district specifically to raise funds to build tree farm amenities.

The GoCo grant could be the first step in coming up with some of those funds.

Even if GoCo funds are awarded, Eagle County regulations prohibit any work from being undertaken until the project receives its final approval, according to Eagle County aadministrator Jack Ingstad.

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