The Cow Camp has come home

Jane Stebbins

SILVERTHORNE – Third-generation Lower Blue resident Jean Knorr said she’s glad to see the 573-acre Cow Camp parcel that her husband, Karl, leased for grazing will be protected from development.

This week, Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) awarded the county’s Open Space Advisory Council (OSAC) a $463,431 grant to reimburse the county for its purchase of the Cow Camp parcel. The grant is part of $3.9 million awarded by the GOCO board to protect more than 24,000 acres of open space across the state and to fund 26 community park and outdoor recreation projects.

Cow Camp is located in the Lower Blue River Valley north of Green Mountain Reservoir and is in the center of the 3,000-acre Horse Creek Conservation Site, identified by the Colorado Natural Heritage Program as being of “very high” significance because of its unique plant communities.

Officials with the Colorado Division of Wildlife have also identified the property as critical winter range for mule deer and elk.

The acquisition also will preserve the Highway 9 view corridor between Summit and Grand counties and Ute Pass road; it will allow traditional ranching operations to continue there; and it will maintain a wildlife migration corridor between Green Mountain and the Williams Fork Range.

Getting to this point, however, has been anything but easy.

The owners of the Cow Camp property subdivided it into 14 ranchette lots in May 2001 and listed them all for sale at $5 million. Summit County officials were able to get the land off the market by negotiating a $1.83 million deal last October.

But the county had to close on the deal before it could apply for a GOCO grant.

GOCO, however, doesn’t like to give grant money to entities that have already purchased a property – but OSAC likely would have lost the property before the grants were doled out if it hadn’t spent its own funds to acquire the land.

Tensions flared between county commissioners and GOCO officials last year, primarily because county and OSAC officials thought GOCO was allocating less money to Summit County than to other counties.

GOCO communications director Chris Leding said ensuing meetings, while productive, did not influence GOCO in its decision to award money toward the Cow Camp parcel.

“That’s not the way the application was judged,” she said. “It was judged on the merit of the project. The county had to move ahead before they could apply to preserve the parcel. Fortunately, the county had open space funds of its own it could rely on before it got the grant.”

GOCO grades parcels on their scenic and wildlife values, the urgency in obtaining the property to protect it from development and how willing an entity or municipality is to leverage GOCO funds.

OSAC members worried that the sense of urgency factor would be reduced if they purchased the land, but Leding said the county’s purchase demonstrated to GOCO the importance of the acquisition.

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