Funding almost settled for Hardscrabble Ranch open space purchase
Hardscrabble Ranch Open Space
1,540 acres: Ranch land to be preserved in the Brush Creek Valley south of Eagle
$15.5 million: Purchase price
To buy it
$9 million: From the county’s Eagle County’s voter-approved open space fund, which will drain it completely.
$3.85 million in loans from the county’s general fund to the open space fund. Those will be repaid by open space tax revenue and donations.
$3.1 million: Great Outdoors Colorado grant
$600,000: Town of Eagle
$700,000: Eagle Ranch Wildlife Committee
$1.35 million still needed to give Eagle County clear title
Source: Eagle County Open Space Department
EAGLE — The Eagle County commissioners on Tuesday voted to boost the county’s contribution to the Hardscrabble Ranch open space purchase by greenlighting a $3.85 million loan from the county’s general fund to its open space fund.
“We have multiple ways of paying it back. It’s going to take some time, and some things will have to happen,” said Toby Sprunk, Eagle County’s open space coordinator. “What remains unpaid at closing will be repaid by the open space funds. … Either way, the deal is going to close at the end of this month.”
The $3.85 million loan from the general fund will help push the 1,540 Hardscrabble Ranch open space purchase across the finish line by the July 31 closing. The county has done this before. A six-week loan made an open space purchase in Basalt possible, Sprunk said.
“We’ve got this. There’s still a gap no matter what you do. But we’re still going to close the deal,” Sprunk said.
Follow the money
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The county will pay $15.5 million for the Hardscrabble Ranch.
Of that, $9 million comes from Eagle County’s voter-approved open space fund. That will drain it completely, but for a good cause, Sprunk said. The town of Eagle has pledged $600,000 toward the purchase, and the Eagle Ranch Wildlife Committee is kicking in another $700,000. That brings the total to $10.3 million.
The county enlisted the real estate, engineering and legal expertise of The Conservation Fund, a national conservation organization, to handle all of the moving parts of the Hardscrabble Ranch deal. The Conservation Fund was originally going to supply the remaining $5.2 million to get the pot up from that $10.3 million to the purchase price of $15.5 million.
Now, in order to close on the land by July 31, that $5.2 million will be split into two loans: $3.85 million will come from the aforementioned loan from the county’s general fund, Sprunk said. They won’t be able to buy anything else this year, or probably next year, he said.
The remaining $1.35 million will come via a smaller loan from The Conservation Fund, which will close on the property and temporarily hold the title to the ranch until that loan is paid off.
When money from a $3.1 million Great Outdoors Colorado grant secured in mid-June finally arrives later in the summer, it will go toward paying off those two loans. The remaining debt owed to the county’s general fund will be paid back through the dedicated, voter-approved open space tax, which replenishes the open space fund at a rate of about $4 million per year, Sprunk said.
All in all the way
Tom Macy, with The Conservation Fund, had high praise for the Eagle County staff.
“We could only succeed if the agency we’re working with is responsive. They have been able to turn things around with … deadlines looming,” Macy said. “The teamwork and responsiveness is what gets you across the goal line.”
All sorts of funding partners have stepped up to push the project forward, Macy said.
“The town of Eagle, Eagle Ranch — so many others. Everyone is all in. That is the hallmark of the community,” he said.
This was the only project funded during this round of Great Outdoors Colorado grants.
“If they’re looking at projects all over the state and they choose only one, you, that says something great,” Macy said.
“This is a ranch that will be owned by the citizens of Eagle County, and it’s not just vistas. It’s fishing and recreation,” said Kathy Chandler-Henry, Eagle County commissioner.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials are considering Hardscrabble Ranch to reintroduce cutthroat. The ranch will be under a conservation easement through the Eagle Valley Land Trust and will include hiking and biking trails, some picnic areas and some fishing access.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.