Ranch owners try to add land to state park
EAGLE While local and state officials say they are interested in the idea, none have stepped forward to make any monetary commitments toward purchasing the Sleepy Hollow Ranch, which is nine miles south of Eagle. County Commissioners told the owners Tuesday to pursue funding from other groups and work with the county’s Open Space Advisory Committee before returning to the county commission with a funding request.”I can see the benefit,” said Commissioner Tom Stone. “I’d like the county’s money to be the last in, rather than the first.”Owners Tawlys Tonso, Trynis Tonso, Mike Bradley and the J.H. Jackson Land Company have had the Sleepy Hollow Ranch up for sale for about nine months. For years the ranch has been used a small agricultural site to raise horses, alpacas and other farm animals. About 20 acres of the ranch lie on the valley floor, with the remaining running along the hillsides on either side of Brush Creek. The ranch sits at the entrance to the state park in a largely undeveloped part of the Brush Creek Valley. That will soon change. The land to the north is owned by developer Fred Kummer, who plans to begin construction soon on a golfing community known as Frost Creek. Bradley told the commissioners there have been interested buyers, including a developer from Las Vegas. But the owners would like the land to remain largely undeveloped and are looking for an agency or individual with funds to purchase the ranch and preserve it as open space. Colorado State Parks also is interested in the purchase, but does not have any funding available to contribute, said Doug Secrist, Sylvan Lake State Park general manager. Tawlys Tonso said she also has spoken to Colorado Open Lands, a conservation advocacy group, and with officials with the Conservation Fund. Those groups want to know first how interested Eagle County is in contributing to the effort, she said. The owners would like county open space funds – which total about $3 million a year – to be included in the financing, though their request for funds from the county contained no specific dollar amount. On the flip side, County Commissioner Arn Menconi said he wants to know how interested other groups are in the Sleepy Hollow land. Attracting a variety of funding partners would demonstrate that preserving the parcel is important. That also would signal to the county there is enough support for using open space funds to purchase the property and that would justify contributing county funds, Menconi said. Menconi used the Eaton Ranch parcel in Edwards as example. Part of that parcel, where B&B Excavating operates, is the focus of a Vail Valley Foundation $12 million fund-raising effort.Several citizens have been vocal about their desire to have part, if not all, of that land preserved as open space. The nonprofit Foundation has yet to make a formal open space funding request of the county for Eaton Ranch, but Menconi indicated that a request is anticipated. In 1999, the county contributed $1.5 million, or 15 percent, toward the purchase of 1,276 acres of property just south of the Sleepy Hollow Ranch to add to the state park. The town of Eagle, Vail Resorts, the State Land Board, Colorado State Parks and the Conservation Fund were involved in the purchase, which cost $10 million, or $7,800 per acre. Stone pointed out the difference in per-acre price at Sleepy Hollow Ranch. “It seems like this is being offered at a developed price, instead of an undeveloped price,” Stone said.While the price may be fair in the real estate market, the price seems high for an open space purchase, he said. Commissioner Michael Gallagher said he was interested in pursing such the Sleepy Hollow purchase. But the county should ante up no more than 15 percent, as it did in the 1999 purchase, he said.That would be $1.1 million.”And that’s not a promise, that’s a cap,” Gallagher said. Staff Writer Tamara Miller can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 607, or email@example.com.Vail Colorado
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