Hardscrabble deal finally done; Eagle County owns 1,540 acres of open space | VailDaily.com

Hardscrabble deal finally done; Eagle County owns 1,540 acres of open space

EAGLE — That sound of rushing wind is conservation advocates exhaling all at once. The Hardscrabble Ranch open space deal is officially and completely done.

The 1,540-acre property was conveyed to Eagle County by The Conservation Fund, which was holding it until every last detail was hammered out. That hammering stopped this week.

Chad Brue, founder and CEO of Brue Baukol Capital Partners, is now the former Hardscrabble Ranch owner. Brue acquired the entire Frost Creek project in 2014 from former owner Fred Kummer.

"Selling Hardscrabble Ranch to Eagle County Open Space was one of the first things that came to mind in 2014 when I went under contract to buy the Frost Creek and Hardscrabble Ranch parcels as a package," Brue said. "Though it took a while to come together, we were as intent on making that organization the buyer as we could appropriately be."

For example, Brue said the sale price of $15.5 million wouldn't have been the sale price to a developer — or any other buyer, for that matter.

"We were willing to come off our list price significantly for Eagle County Open Space because it was the right thing to do for our interest at Frost Creek, and the right thing to do to preserve part of what made me fall in love with the Brush Creek Valley in the first place. It's one of the most naturally beautiful places I've ever seen," Brue said.

Recommended Stories For You

Forty-Five-year fight

Hardscrabble Ranch is south of Eagle up the Brush Creek Valley and has been a working ranch since the late 1800s, when the area was homesteaded.

Open space is a far cry from the hundreds of homes that could have been built there when Hardscrabble Ranch was part of the proposed Adam's Rib project, Kummer's residential and ski resort idea that several Eagle residents fought zealously since it first came to light in 1972.

Adam's Rib would have also meant 30,000 car trips a day through the Brush Creek Valley. A call on water in the Brush Creek Valley could have meant water problems all of the way to Vail, said Vern Brock, who was Eagle's community development director in the 1990s.

Sylvan Lake State Park

Nearby Frost Creek and its 140 homes is as far as developer Kummer's vision advanced. Kummer sold much of his Brush Creek Valley holdings for expanding Sylvan Lake State Park.

In 1999, Great Outdoors Colorado was instrumental in adding 1,782 acres along East and West Brush Creek to Sylvan Lake State Park. Michele Frishman, open space program manager with Great Outdoors Colorado, said the creeks that flow through Hardscrabble Ranch are candidates to reintroduce the cutthroat trout, Colorado's state fish and an endangered species. The ranch also contains 2.5 miles of Salt Creek and Brush Creek, which flow into the Eagle River.

Deer and antelope still play

The county owns Hardscrabble Ranch, and the Eagle Valley Land Trust holds a conservation easement, ensuring that the deer and the antelope that play there, always can. The Colorado Hunting Atlas lists migration corridors across the state, and Hardscrabble Ranch is prime area for mule deer and elk migration.

It will also remain a working ranch. The agreement with I/H Hay LLC calls for a $1,250 monthly lease for agriculture operations through 2019.

Recreational amenities will be added over time, including trail connections to adjacent Bureau of Land Management land and a paved trail connection between Salt Creek and Eagle.

Like many open space parcels, trails through Hardscrabble will be closed during the winter.

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

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: County’s open space fund, which will drain it completely

$750,000: Loan from Eagle County’s general fund

$3.1 million: Great Outdoors Colorado grant

$600,000: Town of Eagle

$700,000: Eagle Ranch Wildlife Committee

$1.35 million: The Conservation Fund.

Source: Eagle County Open Space Department