Open space may cost Eagle County less |

Open space may cost Eagle County less

Chris Outcalt
Eagle County, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY – She didn’t have a specific number mind, but Kara Heide is sure by the time the commissioners meet Monday they’ll be starring at a figure smaller than $5.7 million originally requested from the county for a conservation easement for the Colorado River Ranch.

“Out objective is to lower the cost to the county,” said Heide, executive director of the Eagle Valley Land Trust. “I’m confident we will have made movement in the direction the commissioners have requested us to go in.”

The commissioners held a public hearing last week on a proposal to use $5.7 million of open space money on a conservation easement for the Colorado River Ranch.

The board heard hours of input on the proposed deal from county staff, officials from the Eagle Valley Land Trust, the owners of the ranch and members of the public, but decided to delay the decision because Commissioner Jon Stavney wasn’t there.

The hearing will continue at 1:30 p.m. Monday.

The Eagle Valley Land Trust wants to preserve the 1,000-acre working ranch 12 miles north of Dotsero using a conservation easement. The land is valued at $13.2 million. Without development rights the land is worth $5.3 million, according to the most recent appraisal of the property. The difference of $7.9 million is the cost of the easement.

Commissioners Fisher and Runyon were concerned about the price. Heide has worked to get the price down since the hearing. She thinks the opportunity to preserve the land could quickly disappear.

“I think immediately a few of those parcels would be of interest to our out of state customers,” she said. “It’s at the headwaters of the Colorado River.”

Putting even four or five homes on the land could compromise the conservation value, Heide said.

Some people have written personal checks to help support the deal, Heide said.

“Others have called unsolicited and said it’s so important we strike now,” she said.

Some have argued the appraised value on the ranch is too high and that getting a deal done isn’t urgent because it would be tough to sell the ranch with the country in a recession.

Heide said the recommendation from the county was a little higher than is typical for open space proposals because the Colorado River Ranch meets the open space criteria so well.

“It meets every single point and is unique and almost rare to have this much public access,” she said. “That’s why I do believe the land trust was justified in requesting a higher percentage.”

Staff Writer Chris Outcalt can be reached at 970-748-2931 or

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