DOTSERO, Colorado - Boaters have another spot to hit the river with the third new launch ramp to open this summer.
Dotsero Landing's grand opening earlier this month marks the third new Colorado River access bought and built this summer with the county's voter-approved open space funding.
"We've done what we wanted to do when we set out. We've spent a lot of money, and I think it's been money well spent," said Toby Sprunk, Eagle County's open space coordinator.
The open space committee identified six properties along the Colorado River and bought three of them in 2011, and opened the three ramp areas, Sprunk said.
The open space committee hopes to close on two more of those six later this year, with the sixth on the horizon, Sprunk said.
Third this year
The Dotsero Landing site is the third Colorado River access project completed by Eagle County this year. Dotsero Landing follows State Bridge River Access and Two Bridges River Access, opening this summer. Funding for all three came from the county's dedicated open space fund.
Dotsero Landing (8.5 acres) cost $650,000, State Bridge (10 acres) was $1.4 million and Two Bridges (17 acres) cost $690,000.
Dotsero Landing will cost $3 fee to use the property to help cover maintenance costs, Sprunk said.
"It's more for the general public to come to the area and enjoy the river," said Greg Caretto with Nova Guides.
Four miles downstream is a great half-day fishing trip, especially if you dawdle, which most folks do, Caretto said.
A little history
Rudi Neumayr sold the Dotsero Landing site to the county.
A dozen feet or so off into the river is an island to calm the waters. The area was a sheep ranch and the sheep needed a spot to get water without floating away and drowning, Neumayr told the crowd during Monday's dedication.
Decades later it turns out he created the perfect boat launch area.
Before it was a ranch the Utes camped along the river in the winter, before heading over the Flattops into the next valley for the summer.
When land surveyors took the lay of the land to run the railroad to the Moffat Tunnel, they started at "zero" at the confluence of the Eagle and Colorado rivers, Dotsero.
"We're on a very historic spot," Neumayr said, gesturing to the river behind them.
Changes in focus
Dotsero Landing is part of a plan that goes back a few years. County commissioner Jon Stavney and county attorney shifted the open space purchases away from large ranches, and spend the money to provide public access to local rivers, Sprunk said.
It's economic development and spreads out river users.
Upstream from State Bridge the Colorado River gets 65,000 river visits a year, according to the Bureau of Land Management.
The downstream section from State Bridge to Dotsero gets 5,000 river visits.
"That's a 45-mile stretch of river that relatively few people use," Sprunk said.
Most of that's because of river access, the BLM says. Some is reputation.
"You learn about river runs from other river people and there was never any buzz about that stretch of river," Sprunk said.
Providing public access to the two large rivers that run through this valley is a complete shift from early purchases with open space funds.
The first few projects were multi-million dollar purchases of remote ranches to which people had no access and faced little or no development pressure.
Opponents were challenging the point of the program, pointing out that 85 percent of the county is already public land.
"It's a fair argument," Sprunk said. "In a county with so much federal land with those two great rivers running through it, it's important to provide public access."
Still, conservation means different things to different people. In Routt County, open space funds buy the development rights for ranches.
Eagle County's open space shift to public river access has softened some of the opposition, Sprunk said.
"The feedback for river projects has been overwhelmingly positive and not just from river people. People like to go up to State Bridge and just be by the river and enjoy themselves," he said.
Two more to go
Conservation easements for the Colorado River Ranch, and purchasing the Nottingham parcel along the Colorado River are nearly done.
The Colorado River Ranch is a conservation easement project that will provide public river access. The Nottingham Red Dirt parcel is just over 200 acres.
When they're done they'll comprise miles of public river frontage and hundreds of acres of open space.
The county's open space funds for those two purchases will be augmented by $3.96 million in grants from Great Outdoors Colorado.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.