For Summit County and Breckenridge, 2013 was a year for open space buys |

For Summit County and Breckenridge, 2013 was a year for open space buys

Joe Moylan

In October of last year, the Summit County Open Space and Trails department bagged the 20-acre John J. Placer property in the Upper Blue River Basin near Breckenridge.

The $450,000 deal, split evenly between the county and the town of Breckenridge, may have been the department’s most significant land acquisition of 2013, said Open Space and Trails director Brian Lorch. With the exception of the Country Boy Mine, the town of Breckenridge and Summit County now own the entire valley floor from the Wellington Neighborhood to Wire Patch Mine.

“The John J. Placer purchase was a real important missing puzzle piece in an area the town and the county have protected for a number of years,” Lorch said. “It was the last piece in the whole valley and now all of the land along Sallie Barber Road is protected from future development.”

In total, the Open Space and Trails department coordinated 13 land acquisitions last year and acquired 62 acres of open space for $626,128, plus partial interests in an additional 214 acres of mining claims, predominantly in the Ten Mile and Snake River basins. The county’s share of those partial interests works out to be about 88 acres at a cost of $100,288. The department had an acquisition budget of $1,250,000 in 2013 and will have the same amount of funds in 2014.

Many of the purchases were done in conjunction with local towns, such as with the John J. Placer property with the town of Breckenridge, as well as 10 acres of wetlands in the South Forty Subdivision near Silverthorne Elementary School. The town of Silverthorne and the county split the $190,000 cost evenly.

Although this year was typical in regards to the number of deals — Open Space and Trails averages about one acquisition per month — it was down in terms of acreage compared to previous years, Lorch said.

“We didn’t have that huge purchase like we usually do, but were able to acquire some prime acreage around the county,” Lorch said. “The spirit of Open Space and Trails is to acquire backcountry acreage for recreation and to maintain the character of Summit County.”

In addition to its purchasing budget, the Open Space and Trails department also has $105,000 and $119,950 in funds for 2014 special projects and capital outlay, respectively. With the acquisition of the John J. Placer property, the department is hoping to live up to one half of its mission as funds have been dedicated to extend the Turks trail to Sallie Barber Road.

Summit County also received a record of decision from the U.S. Forest Service, which will allow the department to conduct improvements and build new trails in the Golden Horseshoe area. Most of the work in the Golden Horseshoe will revolve around connecting already existing trails, Lorch said.

As is typical for the department, volunteers are going to be vital in completing several projects slated for this year. Last year, 330 volunteers worked 1,579 hours planting trees, removing weeds, pulling fences and working on trails, Lorch said.

“We have a lot of projects planned for 2014 and, like always, we’re going to have a lot of volunteer opportunities,” Lorch said. “Each year they put in a lot of work and we always want them to know how much they’re appreciated.”

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