Focus shifts for open space program |

Focus shifts for open space program

SUMMIT COUNTY – Local open space efforts will shift toward management in 2006, with a special focus on the Golden Horseshoe property, as well targeting pine beetle outbreaks, said Todd Robertson, outlining the goals of the county’s open space and trails department for the coming year.The top three items on Robertson’s 2006 list are all related to the B&B property, the open space acreage that was jointly acquired with the town of Breckenridge. Development of a long-term management plan between the county, town and the U.S. Forest Service is already in progress, but Robertson said the department’s resource experts will also consider immediate management needs to protect natural resources in the area.County open space experts will also work with Breckenridge to design and construct a water treatment plant at the abandoned Wellington-Oro mine site, as well as remediation efforts at the Jessie and Royal Tiger mine sites, Robertson said.But the shift toward emphasis on existing open space properties doesn’t mean the department will let acquisitions fall by the wayside. Funding for the open space program is holding steady, with the mill levy bringing in about $2 million per year, and Robertson said the citizen Open Space Advisory Council (OSAC) will continue to look for opportunities to buy land.The property tax dollars enabled Summit County to maintain a steady funding source for the open space program. By contrast, some open space programs in the state that are funded by sales taxes took a hit during the most recent recession.Since its inception in 1995, the open space program spent about $15 million to protect 13,200 acres through purchase or conservation easements. But if you figure in the estimated value of donations outside the purchase amount, open space funds were leveraged to protect more than $65 million worth of land.RestorationThe county’s open space efforts can be viewed as part of a long-term historic restoration effort, said Nancy Redner, a former Forest Service biologist who serves on the open space advisory council.Redner said that, in piecing together the open space story, it’s important to consider the ecological damage done during the mining era more than a 100 years ago. Those wounds are still healing, and ongoing work in places like the Golden Horseshoe will help with the process of restoring a more intact and functioning ecosystem, she said.Another example is the Blue River restoration at Four Mile Bridge between Frisco and Breckenridge, Redner said. On that parcel, the department’s resource experts, led by Brian Lorch, executed a project that undoes some of the devastation wrought by dredge boats, which tore through the riverbed in search of gold and literally turned the river inside-out.Redner said open space efforts also are helping to recreate biological corridors that are important for plants and animals. Those landscape connections are key to preserving the area’s biodiversity, she said.”We have plenty of people corridors,” Redner said, referring to local roads and trails. “The sad thing is, with all the roads, we end up with biological islands. We could destroy the biology of our county.”But key open space parcels, like the Blue Danube property in the vicinity of Farmer’s Korner, help restore some of the land’s connective tissue, enable wildlife to move from Forest Service land to the riparian corridor along the Blue River. Even though that parcel is between two subdivisions and wild critters literally move between backyards, it still plays a key role in letting wildlife move to important habitat areas, she said.Part of that overall restoration theme is addressing forest health, Robertson added, explaining that the intent is to make sure that Summit County residents aren’t facing the same problem 100 years from now, when the next generation of lodgepole pines matures.To avoid that, the open space department is promoting forest diversity on some of the parcels it manages, using logging and thinning to spur the growth of species other than lodgepole. In the Iron Springs parcel, for example, cuts were planned next to existing aspen clones, allowing those trees to spread as sunlight hits the previously shaded forest floor.Bob Berwyn can be reached (970) 331-5996, or at

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