Summit County spent more than $400,000 for open space in 2015 | SummitDaily.com

Summit County spent more than $400,000 for open space in 2015

Through its open-space and trails program, Summit County secured 90 acres of land for protection in 2015.

The 20 open space transactions came at a price of $412,000 and help to preserve important wetlands, safeguard scenic backcountry and provide public access to local recreational areas for residents and out-of-towners.

"Recreation in Summit County's incredible mountain environment is the backbone of our local economy," county commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier said in a news release. "We're so grateful to Summit County voters, who enable us to make these key purchases that maintain access to trails and open space."

U.S. Forest Service lands make up about 80 percent of the county's land area, but parcels of private land, which are concentrated in the valleys, can impede access to these public spaces. To help offset this barrier, the county made two notable acquisitions this year to maintain permanent winter trail access to the high-demand 14,265-foot Quandary Peak.

In March, the county procured a 1.7-acre parcel on Monte Cristo Mine Road, south of Breckenridge, from resident Greg McCallum to settle a heated dispute over a road to the popular 14er hiking destination. McCallum had set up a gate and no trespassing signs to keep visitors off land he argued was private but that the county and Forest Service declared public and leads to the tallest summit within the Tenmile Range.

The other land deal to cement that access happened a couple months prior, with the purchase of the Monte Cristo Mine, approximately 28 acres.

Recommended Stories For You

"That's a mining claim we had been looking to get for a long time," Thad Noll, assistant county manager, said at the time of the McCallum road purchase.

The county said through the news release that other mining claims purchased in 2015, near Santa Fe Peak, Northstar Mountain and Humbug Hill, will also help protect the backcountry character and recreational opportunities of the region.

The primary function of the county's open-space program, established in 1996, is to protect recreational access. According to its webpage, in efforts "to preserve and maintain Summit County's rural mountain character," the department has helped designate more than 15,000 acres of land as open space with its more than 250 purchases and dedications.

The program is funded by a mill levy approved by voters in four elections, most recently in 2008. The 12-year funding mechanism provides around $1.2 million per year in open space purchasing power.

"Each tax dollar spent to date to purchase open space has protected over $3 worth of property in Summit County," the website states, "because our funds leverage contributions from property owners, the Colorado Lottery and other organizations."

Summit County also acquired seven new trail easements — a limited property right to use another's land — to expand its natural surface trails and paved county recpath system. The county maintains more than 60 miles of paved recreational pathways and natural surface trails, in addition to its open space properties.

In partnership with the Town of Breckenridge and more than 500 volunteers, the open space program built several new trails in 2015, including the Wirepatch, Galena Extension, ZL and Weber Gulch routes. Other maintenance projects this year included a noxious-weed pull, tree plantings, barbed wire fence removal and recpath and bridge improvements.