Derek Franz

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March 6, 2013
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County open space applies for two more GOCO grants

Just when Eagle County Open Space Director Toby Sprunk was ready to take a break, he saw some opportunities and is back at the drawing board.

He's preparing two Great Outdoors Colorado grant applications for a project at the Duck Pond Open Space in Gypsum and a long-shot project in Red Canyon.

Sprunk is still wrapping up the final details of several big deals that were made last year, for which the county landed a $4.5 million GOCO grant.

"I don't write grants just for fun, but when there's money available, you have to strike while the iron is hot," Sprunk said. "It seems like whenever I think I'll finally be able to slow down another project comes up."

The GOCO application for the Duck Pond project was submitted yesterday (March 6). Sprunk is asking for $140,000 for the $280,000 project that would install a boat ramp, picnic area and bathrooms, and improve parking at the "West Duck Pond." The 55 acres of that area has about 4,000 feet of Eagle River frontage.

"We see this as a project with multiple benefits for anglers, river tubers and boaters," Sprunk said. "We have multiple partners that have expressed support."

He said Trout Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, American Rivers, Eagle River Watershed Council, Eagle Valley Land Trust and the town of Gypsum have all sent letters of support.

The new boat ramp might make the upstream stretch of river more popular for floaters.

"The Duck Pond provides a suitable takeout above a rapid that has jagged lava rocks," Sprunk said. "Or people might want to put in there to run the rapid."

Depending on how fast permits are approved through the Army Corps of Engineers, work could start this fall. More likely, construction will finish in the spring of 2014.

The other GOCO application is for $600,000. That project is speculative at this point, however.

"We don't have a deal under contract," Sprunk said. "We just have some vague conceptual agreements. This one could take a while to materialize but I talked to GOCO and was encouraged to apply for the grant."

After the county partnered with the town of Minturn to win a bid on a 4.39-acre parcel called the Boneyard for $2.3 million, Sprunk said the open space fund is nearly depleted.

"The open space fund started with $20 million, now we're starting to run out of money," Sprunk said. The program has had a busy year of buying land while prices have been drastically reduced from four years ago when the economy was at its peak.

The Eagle County Open Space program was initiated from a dedicated tax approved by voters in 2002. The bulk of those collections remained untouched until recently.

"We have gotten very close to zero dollars, it's amazing," Sprunk said.

With $4.1 million in property tax revenue expected to come in this year, $2.5 million that GOCO still owes from grants awarded last year and the money left in the bank, the program has about $6.7 million available for projects.

"When we close on the Boneyard (March 14), we're not going to hit the ground but we'll come close," Sprunk said.

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The VailDaily Updated Mar 6, 2013 12:59PM Published Mar 6, 2013 12:58PM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.