Brush Creek Valley Ranch and Open Space plan approved, now work begins
EAGLE — The comprehensive planning effort for the Brush Creek Valley Ranch and Open Space is complete.
“Now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get busy with implementation,” Eagle County Open Space Manager Diane Mauriello said.
On Tuesday, Nov. 13, the Eagle County commissioners formally approved the management plan for the 1,540-acre property located southeast of Eagle. Formerly part of the Adam’s Rib holdings, the $15.5 million open space purchase was completed last year with funding from Eagle County, Great Outdoors Colorado, Eagle Ranch Wildlife Committee, Eagle Valley Land Trust, The Conservation Fund, the town of Eagle and numerous public and private donors. The ranch will be managed by the county’s open space department and preserved through a conservation easement held by the Eagle Valley Land Trust. Long-term plans for the site include wildlife habitat preservation, new recreation opportunities and continued ranching operations.
While the newly approved management plan contemplates those various options, it doesn’t detail how they will be financed. That’s the next step.
Mauriello said the county is working to complete a cost estimate for the various projects proposed at Brush Creek Valley Ranch and Open Space. There are big-ticket items — such as trailhead improvements and comprehensive riparian restoration — that will need significant dollars. There are also smaller items that can be tackled in the near future.
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“I would say some of the low-hanging fruit includes signage, identifying very clearly what’s open and identifying the property more clearly,” Mauriello said. “I do think the riparian restoration work can begin with smaller-scale improvements and projects. The management plan contemplates large-scale riparian restoration, which would have a much larger price tag, as a project that might occur in the future.”
Wherever possible, the county hopes to use existing conditions to realize the plan’s vision. For example, in the Salt Creek Area, the plan anticipates taking advantage of the old Salt Creek Road as a trail amenity.
But the plan does call for new trail construction, as well. In particular, the new rim trail has been proposed for the property, which would include a north and south connection for Hardscrabble Mountain to a new trailhead. The trail will require a U.S. Bureau of Land Management permitting process. The trail will be designed so that wildlife closures can be instituted during elk calving season. Additionally, the trail will be planned to separate the recreation uses from the agriculture operations.
Hunting for dollars
As the county looks to finance improvements for the Brush Creek Valley Ranch and Open Space, the hunt for grant dollars will intensify.
“Great Outdoors Colorado has been very generous with Eagle County, and they may have opportunities that tie in with their educational programs,” Mauriello said.
Additionally, organizations such as the Natural Resource Conservation Service have grant programs that would tie in with the ranching operations on the site. Colorado Parks and Wildlife could be tapped for habitat efforts.
“And we certainly have lovely partnerships with different groups in the community,” Mauriello added.
As county staff digs into the specifics of Brush Creek Ranch and Open Space programing, last week they received a big show of support. County voters overwhelmingly — with an 82 percent approval — supported ballot question 1A, which extends the 1.5 mill property tax that funds the county’s open space program. With the action, the county’s open space program funding has been extended through 2040.