Carbondale-area land conservation project gains Garfield County grant support |

Carbondale-area land conservation project gains Garfield County grant support

Other Carbondale organizations also awarded grants Monday

Garfield County gave another financial boost to the Aspen Valley Land Trust’s efforts to secure a 141-acre Carbondale-area ranch that would maintain its agricultural use and preserve natural riverfront habitat.

County commissioners on Monday released $200,000 from the county’s Conservation Trust Fund to go toward the $8.5 million campaign to purchase and protect the Coffman Ranch, located 3 miles east of Carbondale.

“This is not a conservation easement, but is an actual purchase of the land,” AVLT Executive Director Suzanne Stephens said of the unique arrangement.

While AVLT has secured numerous conservation easements on large ranch properties that continue as family-owned working ranches, this will be one of the largest outright land purchases for the Carbondale-based organization, she explained.

“Ownership really matters here,” she said in making the funding request of the county commissioners. “This is a working agriculture operation, and has been operating nicely for 65 years by Rex and Joe Coffman and their ranch managers.”

Once the deal is closed, the plan is to maintain the property as a working ranch, but with public access to about three-quarters of a mile of Roaring Fork River frontage and opportunities for outdoor education uses, Stephens said.

AVLT secured a $2.5 million Great Outdoors Colorado grant last June to go toward the land conservation effort, and is moving closer to the final goal of $8.5 million.

Of that, $6.5 million is for the land purchase itself, which includes a $1 million land donation value from the Coffman family. The remaining $2 million is intended for other costs associated with the project, Stephens explained at the time of the GOCO grant award.

“This property contains some very important habitat, and it’s a special resource to protect,” she said during the Monday presentation.

The town of Carbondale has also contributed to and supports the project.

County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said he agreed that it’s a valuable resource to protect and maintain as a working ranch.

“This is an important purchase for the community of Carbondale and fits with their culture,” he said. “If the Land Trust doesn’t buy it, then a developer likely does and slices it up into residential property.”

Jankovsky made his motion to approve the Conservation Trust grant contingent on the provision of public river access. Commissioners unanimously approved the grant.

Conservation Trust Fund dollars are derived from Colorado Lottery funds, which are then distributed to counties and municipalities in the state for various land conservation, parks and outdoor recreation projects.

Economic-related grants awarded

Garfield County commissioners on Monday also awarded two Carbondale-based nonprofit organizations general funding grants — $20,000 to Coventure and $15,000 to remain a sponsor of the 5Point Film Festival.

Coventure operates a co-working space in Carbondale, and has been working to expand its business incubator and venture capital funding efforts throughout Garfield County.

“We have been pushing more into the New Castle to Parachute corridor,” Executive Director Mike Lowe said during the Monday commissioners’ meeting.

Coventure is planning a Rifle-area specific business pitch event in conjunction with the Colorado Mountain College Rifle Campus, he said. Coventure is also assisting with efforts to line up a local developer to build a tiny home project near Rifle.

5Point Film Executive Director Regna Jones reported that the film festival this year is being rescheduled from late April until October, due to ongoing uncertainty around COVID-19 restrictions on large indoor events.

Last year, the April outdoors adventure film festival was canceled and replaced with a subscription-based live-streamed film festival online in the fall.

“We were able to try some new things that were very effective, by going online and reaching a whole new demographic of people,” Jones said.

As a result, this year’s festival is being planned as a combination in-person event with an online broadcast to viewers around the world, she said.

“A lot of our focus this coming year will also be on educational initiatives and outreach,” Jones said.

Likewise, the county commissioners unanimously approved the Coventure and 5Point grant requests.

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