Open Space, Land Trust see uptick in interest
RED CANYON — Horn Ranch has all the characteristics the Eagle County Open Space program looks for in a property. The landscape, located between Wolcott and Eagle, offers a glimpse at the county’s heritage and history, is rife with wildlife, has beautiful scenery and also offers opportunities for recreation.
It’s an example of the type of land the county had in mind when they created the open space program, says director Toby Sprunk, and will continue to provide scenic and recreational opportunities for generations to come, thanks to a conservation easement on the land stewarded by the Eagle Valley Land Trust.
The land trust, a private nonprofit organization, and the open space program, a county entity, say interest in their efforts and offerings has picked up in recent months thanks to Colorado Senate Bill 206, which was signed into law in June. The new law quadrupled the overall tax credit cap limit from $375,000 to $1.5 million, and provides an additional $25,000 in tax credits to landowners which can then be sold for cash.
“It just goes to show that conservation is a bipartisan priory, for ranchers and hunters as well as enviros,” said Jim Daus with the Eagle Valley Land Trust. “I can’t tell you about private negotiations with private property owners, but we’re working on some really exciting things right now.”
FOUR HIKES PER YEAR
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On Saturday, Daus and Sprunk were joined by 15 or so community members for a hiking tour of Horn Ranch.
Completed in December 2013, the Horn Ranch Conservation Project protects 403 acres between Eagle and Wolcott. The project was funded by Eagle County Open Space and Great Outdoors Colorado. The property is permanently protected by conservation easements held by the Eagle Valley Land Trust. Part of the property is still private land, but as part of the transaction, Eagle County acquired an access easement that permits four guided hikes per year to the site’s historic stone quarry.
At Saturday’s hike, Kathy Heicher with the Eagle County Historical Society joined the group to detail how the site was has been a major part of the county’s early heritage.
“Historians at the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver can prove that the sandstones on that building did come from Wolcott,” she said.
Heicher shared stories of Leonard Horn, whom the property is named after, and his prowess as a horseman.
“Leonard was an Eagle County native, born in McCoy in 1909,” she said. “He was known for his talent with quarter horses, he was quite the horseman, and he liked to take his horse up on Red Point and jump it across the crevasse … Leonard was the last person I ever heard of who could do that.”
Red Point is a recognizable cliff overlooking Red Canyon north of Interstate 70. Heicher shared a photo of a man standing on Red Point in 1917.
“That cliff has always been fascinating,” Heicher said. “Everybody always wants to go out on that cliff.”
EAGLE RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT
While the scenery of the area has been appealing to people for more than a century, the future of the property could hold many recreational opportunities besides the guided hikes to the quarry. Approximately 1.4 miles of the Eagle River runs through the Horn Ranch property.
Sprunk said in the coming months, the county will begin work on constructing a small, five-car parking lot near Horn Ranch and the Eagle River, working in conjunction with the Colorado Department of Transportation who also owns part of the land near the property along U.S. Highway 6.
“This part of the Eagle River has great fishing, so it’s a popular area with anglers,” Sprunk said. “This will give them a place to park.”
South of I-70, the public portion of the Horn Ranch property could also serve as a key component in connecting the Eagle Valley Trail between Edwards and Eagle. The trail is currently 19 miles shy of spanning the whole of the county from East Vail to Dotsero.
“We would really like to have the trail go through Horn Ranch, because it’s very scenic, public and it breaks down the 14-mile section between Edwards and Eagle,” said Ellie Caryl with ECO Trails.
For more information on Horn Ranch, visit http://www.evlt.org/horn-ranch. To inquire about the next guided hike through the quarry site, contact Sprunk at 970-328-8698 or by at email firstname.lastname@example.org.