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Open space panel studies hard

Josh Lautenberg

On Sunday, Oct. 15, the article “Open-space money could go to keeping Basalt Ranch” appeared in the Vail Daily. Although the article did refer to some of the specifics of the now pending cooperative purchase of the Grange Ranch by Eagle County via the open space tax, there are some additional facts that should be highlighted to provide an understanding of what occurs when a property is considered for purchase by the Open Space Advisory Committee. I sit on that committee, whose job it is to recommend, after a great deal of research, the purchase or rejection of the purchase of specific parcels of land throughout the county.There are two currently proposed open space acquisitions in the Roaring Fork Valley. One is the Grange Ranch, and the other is the McNulty Ranch. I will refer specifically to the Grange property with the understanding that everything written here applies to all properties the open space panel is asked to consider.First, it is most important to recognize that although a majority of the Grange property is in Pitkin County, 32 acres of the parcel are within Eagle County, and we are asked to contribute to about a third of the overall funds. The rest are allocated by Pitkin County, the town of Basalt and potentially Greater Outdoors Colorado. If Greater Outdoors Colorado agrees to contribute funds toward the purchase, the amount requested from Eagle County will be reduced.A few weeks ago, seven of the 13 open space committee members personally went to El Jebel to walk this property in order to provide the most accurate analysis to the county commissioners.In addition, there are many specific criteria we use to evaluate a property for recommendation. There are six main criteria, plus 11 additional criteria to substantiate the first six to ensure our analysis of a given property is incredibly detailed and thorough. The main criteria focus on: the scenic nature of the property; the regional heritage of the property in regards to agriculture and ranching; how wildlife makes use of the property; the sensitivity and fragility of the lands and surrounding environments on the parcel; the physical and visual buffers that keeping the land undeveloped would create and access to streams, rivers, public lands; and dispersed recreation opportunities for the general public. We then rate the level at which the land meets the above criteria and then make a recommendation to the county commissioners to make or reject a purchase. When the open space committee made its analysis of the Grange Ranch, we determined that the property met our stringent standards because there is beautiful river frontage on the Roaring Fork River, the parcel is bordered by Bureau of Land Management and Colorado Division of Wildlife lands and creates a wonderful natural buffer between two very dense developments in that area. There is also great historical heritage associated with the property as a result of the Grange family’s multi-generational ownership and the property is currently used as a working ranch. And the likelihood of future development on the parcel is almost imminent. In addition, there are multiple access points via a new rails-to-trails bike and pedestrian trail that is being constructed on the property and other points off of Two Rivers road to access the Roaring Fork River.Overall, it is important for the citizens of Eagle County to be aware that our collective job on the Open Space Advisory Committee is to use the open space tax wisely and carefully. Many projects have been presented to us, but only a few have been recommended for consideration of purchase to the board of county commissioners. Josh Lautenberg is a member of the Open Space Advisory Committee.Vail, Colorado


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