Hardscrabble Ranch plan, and name change options, will be unveiled Wednesday night, Sept. 19 | VailDaily.com

Hardscrabble Ranch plan, and name change options, will be unveiled Wednesday night, Sept. 19

EAGLE — Spoiler alert: For those who just can't wait until the Eagle County Open Space Department unveils its management plan for the Hardscrabble Ranch property during an open house Wednesday, Sept. 19, the entire 131-page document is already available online.

Just visit http://www.eaglecounty.us/openspace and the expansive document will reveal everything from the property's history to the county's plans to balance differing interests, including ranching, recreation and wildlife habitat, on the 1,540-acre site.

Or for those who prefer a presentation to a personal examination of the plan, the county's open house is planned from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 19, in the garden level classroom of the Eagle County Building in downtown Eagle.

"I am really excited for the opportunity to finally share with the public, and our constituent groups, the ideas we have," Eagle County Open Space Manager Diane Mauriello said. "We have taken our time to contact potential user groups, and we have also spent a lot of time thinking about the land and those future uses. Now we really want people to comment on the draft plan."

This week's meeting represents efforts that began back on Dec. 13, 2017, when Eagle County acquired the 1,540-acre Hardscrabble Ranch for $15.5 million. The property was formerly part of the Adam's Rib holdings in the Brush Creek Valley, but the land has now been placed under a protective conservation easement held by the Eagle Valley Land Trust.

The public-management planning process for Hardscrabble Ranch began in March 2018. Eagle County Open Space and the management planning team solicited input and direction from key stakeholders, experts and specific user groups with an interest in the property. The team then hosted two open-house sessions in May to gather input from the community at large about what they'd like to see on the property.

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Open house

The open-house session Wednesday will begin with an overview of the draft management plan. Then community members will break into smaller groups to ask questions about specific areas of the draft, including agricultural management, habitat management, public access, programming and recreation. These smaller groups are designed to encourage attendees to delve deeper into a particular area or areas of interest and to provide an opportunity to ask questions and provide input.

One of the biggest areas of discussion surrounding Hardscrabble Ranch has been wildlife issues. Mauriello noted that the county has worked closely with Colorado Parks and Wildlife in its draft plan development.

"We have heard the concerns and we understand the property is an important migration corridor and calving ground," Mauriello said. "For those reasons, there are some areas where we are proposing longer seasonal closures."

She added that Colorado Parks and Wildlife representatives will be at the open house to discuss wildlife habitat concerns.

"There is a great deal of interest in this incredible property from many different segments of the community, and we've worked hard to incorporate those interests into the plan," Mauriello said. "We feel this draft plan does an excellent job of balancing various interests including ranching and conservation, as well as recreation and access. We hope the community will take the time to read through the plan and provide feedback to us."

What's in a name?

Along with the draft plan discussion, the open house will give attendees the opportunity to weigh in on a new name for the property.

The motivation for renaming the Hardscrabble Ranch open space parcel stems from a need to differentiate the property from nearby land areas. "Hardscrabble" is used extensively to refer to the Bureau of Land Management Hardscrabble Special Recreation Management Area between Eagle and Gypsum, as well as Hardscrabble Ranch on Valley Road in Gypsum. What's more, the Eagle County Historical Society has noted the name is not historically significant for the property.

Eagle County Open Space staff initially worked with the historical society and the Eagle County Open Space Advisory Committee to identify potential names. Staff also sought suggestions from the public during the community outreach portion of the management planning process. The proposed finalists were vetted by the Eagle County Attorney's Office to ensure the names were available for use, which resulted in the elimination of several options.

After introducing the idea to rename the property, Mauriello noted "Brush Creek" became a dominant theme. As a result, the public will be asked to vote on two potential names:

• Brush Creek Open Space and Ranch

• Brush Creek Valley Ranch and Open Space

"The final choices reflect the fact that Brush Creek flows through the property, and the area itself is commonly referred to as the Brush Creek Valley," Mauriello said. "'Ranch' refers to the working ranch aspect of the property, and 'open space' pays tribute to the fact that this property is now protected."

Members of the community can vote on their favorite of the two suggested names at the open house or through an online ballot at goo.gl/HWVWqu. Write-in suggestions will be accepted but will need to be vetted by the attorney's office. The Eagle County Board of Commissioners will announce the final name when the management plan for the property is adopted later this fall.

Final plan

After vetting the draft plan, the county will finalize the document for adoption by both the Eagle Valley Land Trust, as holders of the conservation easement, and the Eagle County commissioners, as the land owners. The plan will then be delivered to Great Outdoors Colorado as a condition of the grant received to assist with purchasing the property.

"Once the plan is adopted, it will be time for us to begin implementing some of the priorities identified during the process. Many actions will require further permitting. We'll also be looking for partnerships and funding opportunities, such as grants, to help execute top priorities within the next year or two," Mauriello said. "The plan is meant to be a working document and will be reviewed and updated as conditions on the property evolve."

If you go …

What: Hardscrabble Ranch Draft Management Plan Open House, including presentation of draft plan and small group discussion/comment session.

When: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 19.

Where: Garden level classroom at the Eagle County Building in downtown Eagle.

More information: The draft management plan will also be available at http://www.eaglecounty.us/openspace from Wednesday, Sept. 19, through Wednesday, Oct. 10 to allow the public to view it and comment online. For more details, contact Diane Mauriello, Eagle County open space manager, at 970-328-8698.