Forty acres in the Lower Blue River Valley of Summit County are now protected with a permanent conservation easement donated to the Continental Divide Land Trust by the Hill family of Dillon. The easement closed in December 2013.
Conservation easements protect the natural qualities of private land by a voluntary agreement that limits development or other activities potentially harmful to conservation values. The grantor of the conservation easement continues to own the land and use it as he or she historically has. The Continental Divide Land Trust (CDLT) is qualified to hold conservation easements and is certified by the state of Colorado.
The conservation value of the Hills’ 40 acres includes Blue River frontage, the confluence of the Blue and Rock Creek, scenic views along Highway 9, wildlife habitat, a native spring and a wide variety of ecosystem types, including riparian, sage scrub and aspen and spruce forests.
“Even though we (the public) might not have public access, we still benefit from the scenic views, from the protection of the natural habitat and wildlife habitat, from watersheds and riparian areas,” said Leigh Girvin, executive director of the CDLT.
The property is bisected by Highway 9 and all development rights have been removed from the 10-acre section along the Blue River, helping to preserve scenic views. One homesite has been reserved away from the river and wildlife habitat areas.
The conservation easement was a longtime wish of Raymond Hill, who died in December 2012. The easement was donated by Raymond’s wife, Marjorie Lott Hill, and their daughter, Ann B. Hill, who own the land.
The Hill family has a long history in Summit County. In 1896, Marjorie’s great-uncle Joseph H. Gould received a homestead patent for 137 original acres near the confluence of the Blue River and Rock Creek at a stagecoach stop known as “Naomi.” On the other side of the family, Raymond Hill’s grandfather Frederick Horatio Hill was married in the Naomi Hotel in 1884. Generations later, Raymond Hill married Marjorie Lott at Father Dyer Church in Breckenridge. Neither was aware of their common history and their connections to Rock Creek.
Raymond was born on the Mumford ranch, which now lies beneath Green Mountain Reservoir. He graduated from Leadville High School in 1939. Raymond’s father, Horatio F. (Ray) Hill, was a Summit County commissioner and in his younger days worked in mines in Summit, supervised the Dillon Dam construction, owned the Dillon Garage and worked for the Public Roads Administration and Summit County Road and Bridge. Raymond’s mother, Mildred Mumford Hill, taught in a one-room school house in Lakeside, now also under Green Mountain Reservoir.
Gould’s land, reduced in acreage through time, was passed on to his niece, then to her children, including Marjorie Lott Hill. Through a complicated transaction and subdivision process among family members, Marjorie combined her acreage with adjacent land owned by her husband, Raymond, to achieve the 40 acres.
Marjorie and Ray were married for 65 years. Their son Richard died in 2008. Their daughter Ann has lived at Rock Creek Ranch since 1979. The family loved hiking, cross-country skiing and backpacking. Marjorie and Ray climbed 43 of the 53 Fourteeners in Colorado and had both of their kids climbing 14,000-foot peaks at an early age. Raymond and Marge retired to Dillon in 1986 and spent a lot of time at Rock Creek Ranch.
According to a family history shared with the CDLT: “All generations on both sides of the family have loved the property at Rock Creek Ranch. Raymond and Marjorie wanted this property in a conservation easement to always protect it. Raymond Hill was instrumental in his quest to get this conservation easement accomplished and to know that the property would always be protected. Although Raymond passed away before the completion of the conservation easement, he knew that it was in the final stages of completion and was very happy.”
The Continental Divide Land Trust holds conservation easements on 17 properties in Summit and Park counties, permanently protecting the natural qualities of over 2,600 acres.
In addition to open-space protection, the CDLT also offers educational opportunities and events to connect people to the land. The CDLT’s next events are the Phantom Ranch Ball on April 1 and the Wild About Colorado Art & Outdoor Festival at Breckenridge’s Carter Park Pavilion, July 16-19.
“All generations on both sides of the family have loved the property at Rock Creek Ranch. Raymond and Marjorie wanted this property in a conservation easement to always protect it.”