Trust Our Land: West Avon Preserve is a mountain biking crown jewel (column) | VailDaily.com

Trust Our Land: West Avon Preserve is a mountain biking crown jewel (column)

Bergen Tjossem
Trust Our Land

Hikers and cyclists can enjoy 12 miles of public trails through the West Avon Preserve Open Space, permanently protected in 2013 by Eagle County Open Space, Eagle Valley Land Trust, the town of Avon and other partners.

The physical boundary between the metro district of Edwards and the town of Avon is increasingly ambiguous, as lands along the Eagle River have developed into the communities that we see today.

The West Avon Preserve, protected in 2013, provides Edwards, Singletree, Wildridge and Avon with breathing room and helps distinguish their distinct identities. But it provides far more than that.

At 478 acres, the West Avon Preserve is one of the crown jewels of mountain biking in the Eagle River Valley. Cyclists of all abilities can ride trails ranging from beginner loops to expert, downhill-only flow trails packed with jumps and berms built for rhythm and speed.

Hundreds of mountain bikers ride from Avon crossing to Edwards on the Avon-Singletree Connector trail and continue up to the June Creek trail; hikers from Singletree to the west and Wildridge to the east use the trails for daily exercise.

Outstanding views

An estimated 6,636 people live within 1 mile of the West Avon Preserve. The land is highly visible from the interstate corridor and serves a primary vista and northern view-shed for many valley residents and second-home owners.

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It also provides hikers and cyclists with outstanding views of Beaver Creek and Arrowhead.

Additionally, the West Avon Preserve is critical habitat and an important migration corridor for local wildlife, including deer, elk and black bears. It is also home to the rare Harrington's penstemon, which we'll see blooming again in the spring.

There is a difference between "public land" and "protected land." Because of its proximity to town and high value, the U.S. Forest Service sought to sell off what is now the West Avon Preserve to just about any buyer with cash or land of the same value to trade.

Five years of collaborative efforts by local, state and federal partners, including Eagle County Open Space, the town of Avon and the Eagle Valley Land Trust, produced the Eagle County Land Exchange in 2013.

Ultimately, the U.S. Forest Service traded West Avon Preserve and five other parcels in exchange for a mix of land and cash, provided in large part by the Eagle County Open Space Fund.

Conservation easement

To make the massive and complex project permanent, the partners entered into a legally binding agreement to limit development, called a conservation easement, with the Eagle Valley Land Trust.

The Land Trust currently holds 35 of these agreements across 11,200 acres throughout the county with landowners including residents, ranchers, Eagle County, the town of Avon and others.

Our community's prized open spaces didn't just appear. Each one — Miller Ranch Open Space, Abrams Creek Open Space, Creamery Ranch Open Space, etc. — took years to acquire and protect by organizations such as Eagle County Open Space and the Eagle Valley Land Trust.

These open spaces provide our community with miles of trails, scenic vistas, wildlife habitat and a diversity of recreational opportunities, the foundation of our recreation-based economy. Perhaps more importantly, they provide a permanent legacy that future generations can continue to enjoy in perpetuity.

The West Avon Preserve is owned and managed by the town of Avon and will continue to serve the needs of our community forever.

Bergen Tjossem is the communications and fundraising coordinator for the Eagle Valley Land Trust. He can be reached at bergen@evlt.org. For more about the Eagle Valley Land Trust and how it is conserving land and benefiting the community, visit http://www.evlt.org.