If it quacks like a Duck Pond, it’s open space | VailDaily.com

If it quacks like a Duck Pond, it’s open space

Tom Edwards, center in the black cap, is chairman of Eagle County's open space advisory committee and congratulates former Eagle County Commissioner Jon Stavney at this week's dedication of the new Duck Pond open space. It's 55 acres along the Eagle River between Gypsum and Dotsero.
Megan Ehrenberg|Eagle County |

Duck Pond

The 55-acre Duck Pond open space is located along the Eagle River between Gypsum and Dotsero.

Amenities include a new boat ramp, parking area, driveway, picnic area and restroom.

A new stretch of the Eagle Valley Trail runs through the property.

Duck Pond serves mainly as a takeout for boaters and anglers coming from upstream.

A designated area will be available for duck hunting. Call Colorado Parks and Wildlife at 970-947-2920.

Eagle County’s new Duck Pond open space has been a ranch, contractors’ storage yard and SWAT team training site.

Now those 55 acres along the Eagle River are open space and will stay that way.

“We’re trying to provide as much access to river as we can. If we can save it now and create access, we can have it forever,” said Tom Edwards, chairman of the open space advisory committee.

How they did it

The county’s open space committee, using voter-approved open space funds, bought the whole thing out of foreclosure for $725,000.

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“In the scheme of things it’s relatively inexpensive — although nothing in Eagle County is cheap,” Edwards said. “It’s something that’s economical and provides a permanent public benefit. We got it at what I consider a really good price.”

Duck Pond was originally two parcels, 45 acres and 10 acres, that both were in foreclosure.

The 10-acre parcel was owned by a bank in Dallas and the county had a signed deal to buy it for $300,000.

Almost before the ink was dry on the contract, the bank came back and asked $350,000.

“No, thank you,” replied Eagle County’s open space staff.

A couple weeks after that the bank came back with, “Instead of $300,000 how about $315,000?”

Part of any negotiation is the takeaway — your willingness to walk away from the table.

“We’ve gotten better at getting properties at, or below the appraised value,” Edwards said.

The county metaphorically pushed back from the table and headed toward the door.

Eventually, they got those 10 acres for the original $300,000, said Toby Sprunk, Eagle County’s open space coordinator. The other 45 acres cost $425,000.

Guns and grenades

There used to be a big yellow house that had fallen into a state of serious disrepair on the property, sort of like people in their 50s and 60s who could get back in shape with enough rehab, but it’s easier and more fun to eat chocolate cake.

Anyway, contractors from all over the place had been storing equipment there. They were informed by county’s open space staff that when the deal closed, everything left would belong to the county and its beloved taxpayers.

When they got that cleared up, local law enforcement used it for training exercises for a few days. They treated it like a crack house, breaking windows and doors, shooting it and throwing stun grenades. They had a great time and learned some important skills.

Once they were done with that, the county staff leveled the big yellow house with big yellow machinery and hauled it away.

Worth the wait

On Wednesday, four years after they acquired it, the Duck Pond area was dedicated as part of Eagle County’s open space portfolio.

It had to wait a few years while four parcels along the Colorado River were finished first: State Bridge, Two Bridges, Dotsero Landing and Horse Creek on Colorado River Ranch.

“We’re glad to get it done,” Sprunk said.

Boaters need to take care when making their way down the river. Downstream from the Duck Pond, the Dotsero volcano pushed some volcanic rock into the river.

“Rafts and sharp rocks are a short-term arrangement,” Sprunk said.

Buy low

Like so many others, the county’s open space advisory committee got aggressive when land prices fell during the recession. After some fairly aggressive acquisitions the past few years, the county’s open space fund is about $3.5 million, from a peak of around $20 million.

That should rebuild to about $6 million by the end of the year, Sprunk said.

In the meantime, they have a couple deals cooking, including bringing in some partners.

“We’re trying to make the money to go as far as we can. Any time we can get partners to go along with us, that makes Eagle County taxpayers’ money go that much further,” Edwards said.

Because they’re real estate negotiations, the open space advisory committee is not at liberty to discuss what parcels they’re looking at — at least not yet, Edwards said.

“We’re looking at all kinds of things all the time,” Edwards said.

What’s next?

The open space committee moved away from the large ranches that dominated acquisitions in the early years, to rebalancing the portfolio to include several parcels that provide public access to rivers and public lands, Sprunk said.

No one is ruling out ranches, especially if they come with public access to rivers and public land, Edwards said

“Land conservation is and always will be part of what open space does,” Sprunk said. “Each parcel is considered on its own merits. From the first phone call and sitting down over coffee, it’s a long process.”

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

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