Town of Eagle pledges to keep river park off Barnes Ranch land
EAGLE — Plans for the Eagle River Park will proceed without including property from the Barnes Ranch.
After an executive session Tuesday night, members of the Eagle Town Board directed staff to pursue a workable alternative that keeps development off the Barnes parcel.
Phyllis Johnson, of Eagle, and Harlan House, of Goodland, Kansas, own a 7.5-acre parcel that was once part of the larger Barnes Ranch. The ranch was owned by Guy Truman Barnes, Johnson’s father. When contacted about selling part of the property for the river park project, 92-year-old Johnson emphatically told town officials that her land was not for sale.
It took a few months for that message to be received, but Tuesday night Eagle Town Board members were equally emphatic that they would respect Johnson’s wishes. Town board member Andy Jessen delivered the statement and noted the town is now moving forward with a “workable alternative” that does not include development on the Barnes Ranch.
The Barnes Ranch extends from the southern side of the Eagle River, across the riverbed and through the eastern edge of the current parking area where the river park is proposed. The ranch encompasses the ground where the existing fairgrounds parking area entrance is located and extends next to the Chambers Park entry. In early artist renderings and conceptual plans for the river park, the land was earmarked for construction of a bike path and future pedestrian bridge connection.
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Moving forward, the Barnes land will not be included in the river park plan.
“I, along with Harlan House, am more than beyond happy that a different solution has been reached in relation to the design effort for the Eagle River Park,” Johnson said Wednesday.
Avoiding a fight
In a meeting with the town board earlier this month, Johnson and her family made it clear they would aggressively fight any adverse possession actions aimed at obtaining the land for the river park, as well as any subdivision of the property.
An April 21 letter from the town to Johnson noted that the town was interested in acquiring 1.49 acres of the Barnes Ranch located on the north side of the river to construct a key part of the planned park. The town stated the belief that the acquisition would not impact the property on the south side of the river and offered a purchase price of $166,980.
In response, Johnson and her family said they were not interested in subdivision, not interested in selling their land and angered by the suggestion of adverse possession. Tuesday night, the Eagle Town Board stated they understand and will respect the family’s wishes.
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