Eagle County, BLM ink deal for the transfer of popular Colorado River sites | VailDaily.com

Eagle County, BLM ink deal for the transfer of popular Colorado River sites

Popular State Bridge and Two Bridges sites now under BLM management

Rafters make their way down the Colorado River. While Eagle County acquired two important access sites — State Bridge and Two Bridges — back in 2011, a deal has now been finalized for the US. Bureau of Land Management to take over the properties as permanent open space parcels.
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At a glance ...

The Upper Colorado River Special Recreation Management Area

  • 85 miles of river, stretching from above Kremmling in Grand County to below Dotsero in Eagle County
  • More than 90,000 people visit the area annually
  • Diverse uses include fishing, rafting, kayaking, paddle boarding and camping
  • River conditions range from advanced whitewater to family-friendly floating and angling.
  • The area connects critical wildlife movement corridors between the Flat Tops Wilderness Area and Bull Gulch Wilderness Study Area,
  • The area provides habitat for bighorn sheep, Colorado River cutthroat trout, Roundtail chub, bald eagle and peregrine falcon.

EAGLE COUNTY — Back in 2011, recreationists celebrated increased access to the upper basin of the Colorado River when Eagle County acquired the Two Bridges and State Bridge properties.

Now they can celebrate long-term provisions to keep those properties open to the public under the ownership of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

On April 30 the county teamed with The Conservation Fund to announce the property transfer. The Conservation Fund is a highly-regarded nonprofit that, since 1985, has worked in all 50 states to protect more than 8 million acres of land.

While the purchase is a big deal for the future of the sites, for the people who use the amenities, the change should be seamless.

The 17-acre Two Bridges property and 10-acre State Bridge property were acquired by Eagle County in 2011 to improve public access to the river. Additionally, the Eagle County Open Space Program financed improvements at both sites, including boat launches, bathroom facilities, and developed parking areas. During the county’s ownership, the sites were managed collaboratively with the BLM, together with nine existing BLM recreational sites within the Upper Colorado Special Recreation Management Area.

Sticking to the plan

While county officials decided eight years ago that it was important to purchase the formerly private parcels for public use, it was never the county’s intention to keep the sites as part of its open space inventory.

“They always intended to be an interim owner,” said Christine Quinlan of The Conservation Fund. “Everything has now come full circle. The parcels are in the BLM’s hands.”

“It’s also a win for the county because they have recouped $1.8 million through the sale,” Quinlan added.

“This sale fulfills our plan to enhance these two recreational properties for the public, while returning funds to Eagle County Open Space for future uses,” said Eagle County Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry. “We are proud of our partnerships to protect land and water while supporting excellent recreation management on the Colorado River.”

Bipartisan support

U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner and U.S. Representative Scott Tipton (CO-3) supported Colorado’s request for federal Land and Water Conservation Fund dollars and helped secure the Congressional appropriations for permanent protection of the State Bridge and Two Bridges properties. Permanently reauthorized by U.S. Congress this winter, LWCF is a 50-year-old bipartisan, federal program that uses a percentage of proceeds from offshore oil and gas royalties — not taxpayer dollars — to acquire critical lands and protect natural resources.

“Eagle County was patient and the BLM had perseverance. Both of those things were needed for this project to happen,” Quinlan said.

“The BLM’s partnerships with Eagle County and The Conservation Fund have been vital to increasing public access for recreational activities such as fishing and boating on the Colorado River,” said Connie Clementson, the acting Colorado Northwest District Manager for the BLM. “We will continue to work closely with Eagle County as we manage these areas for the long-term benefit of the public.”

The State Bridge and Two Bridges properties are heavily used for boating and recreation. The Two Bridges property provides a popular put-in and take-out site on the 10-mile stretch between State Bridge and the Catamount Bridge Recreation Site.

The conservation of the Two Bridges and State Bridge parcels complemented the previous addition of the 9-acre Dotsero Landing site to the Upper Colorado River Special Recreation Management Area. In 2016, in cooperation with Eagle County and The Conservation Fund, the BLM used similar federal funding to acquire Dotsero Landing, providing continued river access where the Eagle and Colorado Rivers join. Quinlan noted that together, the three river access sites are helping to secure the significant scenic, recreational, cultural, and wildlife resources along the upper basin of the Colorado.

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“These sites are important because they distribute the users over that stretch of the river,” Quinlan said. “The Colorado River is a tremendous national resource — an icon of Colorado and the West. Ensuring safe public access at these well-known sites serves a wide range of recreational users and sportsmen, including school groups, outdoor education groups, veterans’ groups and the disabled.”