Singletree, Avon pursuing green space between neighborhoods
EDWARDS ” A group of Singletree and Avon residents want to make sure the U.S. Forest Service will be their neighbor ” and in their back yard for a long time.
They’re interested in keeping a 480-acre parcel of Forest Service land that separates Singletree and Avon from being considered part of a future land exchange that could lead to the parcel being acquired by a private developer. Residents met with town and Forest Service officials Thursday to discuss the land.Residents suggested forming a volunteer group to help protect the land under forest service supervision. That’s already happened northwest of Singletree at the site of an unofficial shooting range that had become littered with trash left behind by shooters. Two springs ago the Forest Service decided to close the shooting range and volunteers from Singletree cleaned up and helped to revegetate the area.
Unauthorized motorized vehicle use on the steep hills is one of the largest problems, said the Forest Service’s Cal Wettstein, district ranger for the Holy Cross and Eagle ranger districts of the White River National Forest.
It’s not exactly an idle worry. That parcel was part of a large and unsuccessful land exchange involving nearly 1,000 acres across the county. In this case, however, 440 of the 480 acres would have been preserved as green space.
Residents say they want to explore the possibility of creating a partnership with the cash-strapped government agency that will help preserve the land. But Forest Service and land trade experts say it’s unlikely the land would be part of a land trade if local communities do not support it. They provided a primer about how the land exchange process works to the 20 participants at the meeting.
“There’s a very low possibility that land will be traded,” said Andy Wiessner, a member of the Eagle County Open Space Advisory committee. “If local communities want this land to stay green, it’s very difficult for the forest service to get rid of it.”
Nevertheless, Singletree residents like Chuck Powers want some certainty that parcel will remain undeveloped.
“We want to make sure that parcel remains open space,” he said. “On an interim basis we will be talking with the Forest Service and see if we can come up with a program that would work for them and the communities in the area.”
Another possibility being explored would have the Singletree Metro District or the town of Avon manage the land under a special use permit. Vail Resorts operates its ski resorts on Forest Service land under a special use permit.
“We’re open to exploring that and other options,” Wettstein said.
But a third option, Wiessner said, could prove more practical.
“Keep the pressure on the Forest Service to keep the land green,” he said. “It’s the cheap option.”
The Forest Service trades parcels of public land to acquire private land that fits its criteria for conservation. The parcels it gives in trades are typically surrounded or landlocked by private and developed land.
“We want to make this a cooperative effort,” Powers said.
Staff Writer Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 450, or firstname.lastname@example.org