County Open Space working to buy 832 acres in Lower Blue
SUMMIT COUNTY – Summit County hopes to close on four parcels of open space totalling 832 acres this year. If the deal goes through, it will be the largest open space purchase since voters approved the open space program in 1993.The purchase price is $2.66 million, or $3,200 per acre, for the Sudan Trust parcel.The parcels include a 573-acre parcel known as Cow Camp northeast of Heeney on the east side of Highway 9 and three parcels totalling 259 acres on the west side of Highway 9 and northwest of Green Mountain Reservoir at the northernmost end of the county.The properties were owned by A. C. “Chet” Sudan, who died in December 2000. He inherited the property from his father and used it as spring pasture prior to moving cattle onto Forest Service grazing allotments on the Williams Fork Range.In May 2001, Sudan’s heirs filed a subdivision plat to split the largest parcel into 14 lots, each larger than 40 acres. They then listed the property for sale for $7 million. That summer, county officials tried to acquire the property but were unsuccessful.According to Open Space and Trails Director Todd Robertson, the county wants the Sudan parcels for their open space character but is willing to allow the Knorr Ranch owners to continue grazing cattle there, as they have done for decades.The county ultimately would like to trade the parcels with the U.S. Forest Service or sell them with a conservation easement specifying that development cannot take place anywhere on the parcels.The Colorado Natural Heritage Program says the area’s biodiversity rank is of “very high significance” because of its clustered sedge wetland and montane willow carr ecosystems – both of which are rare globally – and its xeric sagebrush shrubland, which is rare in Colorado.County open space officials also consider the parcel valuable. It’s visible from the highway and serves as a buffer between residential development in neighboring Grand County and the undeveloped land along the east side of Green Mountain Reservoir. Furthermore, if preserved as open space, the parcel would retain its historic pasture uses as it has for several decades as part of the Knorr family ranch.Two-thirds of Green Mountain is privately owned but undeveloped, Robertson said. Two other private landowners there are pursuing land exchanges with the Forest Service.Ranchers still graze cattle and grow hay on other large properties in the northern end of the county, Robertson said. The largest ranch is Shadow Creek, which is held under a county conservation easement. There are also a few other vacant parcels around Green Mountain Reservoir.Other transactionsOther properties the county has under contract include the B&B Mines property east of Breckenridge. The county and town hope to close on that $9 million deal in June 2004 after environmental liability and cleanup issues have been addressed on the 1,840-acre parcel.The county also is under contract to buy 119 acres in Peru Creek in the Snake River Basin, Robertson said, hoping to close on that property in August 2003. The county and town are under contract to close on the last piece of the Parkville subdivision east of Breckenridge in January and two parcels of land at Farmer’s Korner by the end of the year.Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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