Vote for open space; vote yes on 1C |

Vote for open space; vote yes on 1C

Dear Editor:

A yes vote on Referendum 1C will add 367 acres of open space to the Pitkin County Open Space program at no cost to the taxpayers or the Open Space acquisition fund. Sound too good to be true? Read on and judge for yourself.

The core of the transactions behind Referendum 1C is a three-way land swap between the Forest Service, Pitkin County Open Space and the Aspen Valley Trust Fund (AVLT) for which no cash changes hands, only land. This package was approved by the U.S. Congress in 2006. This transaction is being brought to the Pitkin County voters because part of the land swap involves the Forest Service taking ownership of a 35-acre parcel in Ashcroft (called the Ryan parcel) which is currently co-owned by Open Space and the AVLT. The Open Space charter requires that this change of ownership first be approved by the voters. Under the Act of Congress, the Ashcroft parcel would become part of the White River National Forest and would not be eligible for future sale or development.

Another aspect of the swap is that Open Space will receive ownership of an 8-acre parcel east of Aspen that includes a private cabin and where ownership has been claimed by both the Forest Service and a neighboring owner. The cabin site is also surrounded by privately owned parcels. The Open Space Board has negotiated a settlement of the title issue whereby this cabin will then be redeveloped by the private owner who will pay for the purchase of the highly visible 266-acre Sawmill Hill property near Redstone. Additionally, Open Space will obtain ownership of 12 small mining remnants on Smuggler Mountain, as well as a 40-acre parcel straddling the Crystal River that has been designated by the BLM for disposal, i.e. sale to a private party. Finally, the Forest Service will take ownership of two 10-acre mine claims above Smuggler that are currently owned by AVLT.

Adding up the acreage of all of the parcels, a total of 367 acres will be preserved in perpetuity and not one cent of taxpayer money will be spent! The complete agreement has been approved by the Forest Service, the county commissioners, the Open Space Board, and the U.S. Congress, not to mention the Wilderness Workshop, Aspen Valley Land Trust, and Wilderness Land Trust. For these transactions to now go forward, Pitkin County voters must approve the conveyance of the Ashcroft parcel into our National Forest.

Vote yes on Referendum 1C on Nov. 4 for Pitkin County Open Space.

Chuck Downey


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