Forest Service mulls selling Dowd Junction parcel
Eagle Valley Enterprise
EAGLE – The U.S. Forest Service is asking Eagle County if it wants to buy some land.
Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams and District Ranger David Neely met with Eagle County commissioners and staff, and a representative from Eagle County Ambulance District on Tuesday for a work session to explore future possible land deals, especially pertaining to a site at Dowd Junction.
“We need money to reinvest in our aging facilities,” Fitzwilliams said. “Right now, we have two offices in Eagle County to staff and maintain. I can’t afford it anymore, period.”
Fitzwilliams said that the conveyance program passed and recently extended by Congress allows the Forest Service to sell land and keep and reinvest money from those sales. Counties, cities and the state have a right of first refusal to buy such land for its appraised value before it is offered on an open market.
“Legally, I can’t sell for less than the appraised value,” Fitzwilliams said.
Besides Dowd Junction, similar deals for other Forest Service properties are also being considered by Eagle County.
Dowd Junction houses one of the county’s current Forest Service offices on an approximately 15-acre parcel, located next to the eastbound Interstate 70 exit ramps for Minturn. The county and other entities, including the ambulance district and the Forest Service, consider it a prime site.
“I see it as representative to the county,” Commissioner Peter Runyon said. “I see it as a potential regional information center.”
Runyon mentioned that Vail Resorts, the ambulance district and other entities might have an interest in becoming financial partners for such a hub.
The goal of the Forest Service in this case is to cut overhead costs and consolidate its offices and employee housing, preferably maintaining a presence in Eagle.
“How do you cover an area from the top of Vail Pass to Glenwood Canyon effectively with one location?” Neely said with a shrug and a chuckle.
Neely suggested partnering with the county to help cover permanent employee housing and maybe some seasonal as well, noting the disrepair of the Forest Service’s current buildings.
If the Forest Service does decide to sell the Dowd Junction parcel, it wouldn’t happen at least for another year or two.
“I might pull the plug entirely if it looks like land values will go up,” Fitzwilliams said. “It might turn out that we only need to sell 75 percent as much land as we initially thought.”
There are two other Forest Service parcels in Minturn that are going to market. Fitzwilliams said he is waiting to see how those sales work out before making decisions on others.
The Dowd Junction site has not even been appraised at this point – something the county wants before it even entertains the idea of buying it.
“Basically, we need to sell some stuff to pay the appraiser. That’s the situation we’re in,” Neely said. “We have no safety net. We are in danger of selling land we might end up needing and be left with no land for our buildings.”
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