Eagle County’s most expensive boat ramp at ‘Colorado River Ranch’ will be free

Derek Franz

EAGLE — If all goes according to plan, then the boat ramp at Colorado River Ranch will be open to the public in August.

“Referring to it as ‘Colorado River Ranch’ is kind of deceiving, since CRR is private property that’s under a conservation easement — so we’re thinking of another name so that it is clearer to the public that the boat ramp is not accessed at the ranch, it’s south of the ranch,” Eagle County Open Space Director Toby Sprunk told commissioners Tuesday.

The name being kicked around for the new 2-plus acre open space parcel is Horse Creek, since that creek flows into the Colorado River on the opposite bank from where the boat ramp will be.

The winding dirt road to the river access was finished Monday, Eagle County Project Manager Rick Ullom said. He estimated the ramp construction to take 45 days.

“This ramp is potentially going to be the most expensive of the other boat ramps the county has done so far,” he said.

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Accounting for the expense is the fine silt on which the ramp will sit and the 6-foot drop that will require a longer ramp than usual.

The Open Space Advisory Committee recently recommended approval of $380,000 for all the work at the Horse Creek put-in. That figure will come before commissioners for final approval in the near future.

Despite all the work and expense, Horse Creek is going to be free of day-use fees, unlike the Dotsero, Two Bridges and State Bridge sites, which are managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Those sites cost $5 per day, but users only have to pay the fee once at one area. A $20 season pass is also available through the BLM.

Sprunk predicts the Horse Creek site will get a lot of use.

“We see this as a pretty major site where people will be taking out and putting on, as opposed to Dotsero, which is almost exclusively used as a takeout,” Sprunk said.

The Horse Creek project is part of a huge series of open space acquisitions and improvements that happened after Great Outdoors Colorado awarded more than $4.5 million in grants to Eagle County Open Space last year. Dotsero, Colorado River Ranch, Two Bridges and State Bridge — which provide access along a previously isolated stretch of the Colorado River — and the Homestead L at Edwards were all part of that effort.

“Bodies were lying all over the field at the end of last year,” Sprunk said. “We opened four properties. I figure opening two a year will be a more sustainable pace. If we try to get it all open in one fell swoop, it won’t be as easy to take advantage of matching funds.”

The Duck Ponds parcel near Gypsum on the Eagle River is an example of a project that missed out on grant money this year. That is partly because the county had already received so much funding for other projects. Sprunk said the Duck Pond application will be resubmitted in the fall.

“Let’s face it, the Duck Pond is pretty much all about fishing access — fishermen are going to be the main user group of that boat ramp,” Sprunk said. “We try to balance all our open space projects. Not all should be boat ramps and not all should be preserving ranches that the public can’t use. We look for the projects that have the most benefit for the most people, and I think we have a lot of good ones to do here in Eagle County.”

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