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Open space committee accepting applications

Veronica Whitney

Folks seeking money to preserve land in Eagle County have a month to apply for part of the $3 million open space tax passed by voters in 2002. The Eagle County Department of Community Development is now accepting applications for 2004 funds. The deadline for mid-summer funding is March 29.

The Conservation Fund’s Christine Quinlan said they’ll ask for $2 million for the Bair Ranch project. The Boulder nonprofit group is putting a $5 million conservation deal that would bar development on 4,300 acres of Bair Ranch, which straddles the Eagle and Garfield county line.

Cliff Simonton, a county planner working on the county’s new open space program, said that while most open space deals are complex and time consuming, valid funding requests can much more simple than Bair Ranch.

“Maybe it’s an outright purchase of a piece of property that has excellent characteristics for open space,” Simonton said. “Or maybe the owner is willing to donate some of the market value of the property. That would seem fairly simple.”

Any landowner, landowner’s representative or sponsoring agency or organization may apply for the funds.

Simonton said he doesn’t anticipate spending all the open space money right away. There might be a second funding cycle in July, or funds could be carried forward to next year.

“The county isn’t obligated to spend the money this year,” said Simonton.

Any good idea will be considered, said Ron Wolfe, chairman of the Open Space Advisory Committee.

“We’re open for business and we will do the same quality evaluation on all applications,” said Wolfe. “We will be accepting both conceptual applications and applications that are ready for funding decisions.”

This month, the committee will be meeting with the Yampa Land Trust for a presentation on how they operate in Routt County.

“We’d like to see what kind of purchases and easements they do,” Wolfe said. “Our committee’s objective also is to get a more complete understanding of what kind of open space there is in the county, and locations of the wildlife habitats, migration routes, scenic areas and access points.”

Future meetings will also include the Colorado Division of Wildlife, Wolfe said.

“We’re very interested in knowing of any potential projects, regardless of time frames, that might seek to utilize this funding source,” Simonton said. “This information will be helpful in establishing long range open space funding goals and strategies.” All inquiries at this conceptual level will be kept confidential.

Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454 or at vwhitney@vaildaily.com.


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