Iron Springs open space management plan OK’d |

Iron Springs open space management plan OK’d

FARMER’S KORNER – The county Open Space Advisory Council has approved a draft management plan that addresses everything from beetle-killed trees to motorized travel in the county’s Iron Springs open space parcel north of Farmer’s Korner.The county purchased the Iron Springs parcel from Denver Water in January 2003 to protect the view corridors of Dillon Reservoir and the hillside buffer northwest of Summit High School.The county then placed the land in a conservation easement with the Continental Divide Land Trust. The easement prohibits construction, fences, timber harvesting, mining and motorized vehicles, among other things.The OSAC has since been working on a management plan for the area, which encompasses 30.5 acres of land.In general, the draft plan indicates that the property will be managed to maintain existing conditions, protect sensitive areas and avoid activities that require intensive management.Todd Robertson, open space and trails director, said the plan will dovetail into the Blue River Basin Master Plan. But he’s not sure how it will fit into the U.S. Forest Service’s travel management plan because that plan is still being developed.The most contentious part of the Iron Springs draft plan is the public uses and travel management portion.In trying to provide a link between Farmer’s Korner and Frisco for motorized traffic, OSAC has asked the school board for an easement across its property. The school district board has denied the request, citing safety, liability and classroom disruption. It also said snowmobiles in the area would result in even more use.Bicycles, too, shall be limited to using the recreation pathway and Iron Springs Road to protect the native vegetation in that area, and pack animals will be restricted to Iron Springs Road.The draft plan would also protect sensitive areas on the property, notably a “wet meadow” that straddles the north end of the high school property and south end of the Iron Springs parcel. It also would address the pine beetle-infested trees that have turned the hillside an odd copper hue.Field surveys last fall showed there was a substantial increase in pine beetle activity, with almost 1,100 trees affected. Because substantial changes will occur in the stand with or without human intervention, the plan recommends the county take no “direct control” on the land this year.Instead, the Colorado State Forest Service staff recommends conducting “regenerative cuts” on four acres of the infested land to vary the age diversity in the forest and promote healthy regrowth. The cuts would center on the areas of most intense infestation and encourage the return of aspen, which prefer open, sunlit areas as opposed to dense conifer forests.Another concern brought to the table by the Colorado Division of Wildlife is elk habitat in the area, which has become more concentrated in the Iron Springs area as development has occurred around it.”It’s critical elk wintering range,” said county open space resource specialist Brian Lorch. “The high school (land) and Highland Meadows, the elk no longer use. They don’t have anywhere else to go.”Other improvements the plan would consider include building additional fencing to block off sensitive areas, rerouting the recpath if Highway 9 is widened, creating sustainable trails and erecting interpretive signs.The draft plan now heads to the county commissioners for review and approval.Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or

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