Land offer prompts discussions of park system
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. A developer’s offer to give away almost 1,000 acres for public recreational use is spurring consideration of whether Garfield County should have a parks and recreation district.The company proposing the Reserve at Elk Meadows housing development up Four Mile Road wants to give away an upper parcel under the conditions that it remain undeveloped and be opened to nonmotorized public use. Westminster Swanson Land Partners has yet to find a taker for the parcel. The city of Glenwood Springs turned down the offer out of concerns about the cost of managing the land. Developers now are hoping the county will take the land.County planning director Fred Jarman has recommended that county commissioners “accept this parcel of land as the landmark step in creating a county parks and recreation district that would own and manage this parcel for the benefit of county residents.”In comments to the county Planning Commission, Jarman called the developers’ proposal “an excellent and generous offer that has significant public and wildlife/habitat value.”But he said in an interview that the county faces the same question the city faced – how to manage and maintain the land.That question concerned Phil Vaughan, chairman of the county Planning Commission, when the subject came up in the commission’s review of the development Wednesday night. He said accepting the park would require formation of a parks and recreation department, “which would add another level of government.”In its recommendations to the county commissioners, the Planning Commission specifically deleted the county from a list of suggested entities that might become recipient of the parkland.Jarman said he understands why some people think the county shouldn’t have a parks and recreation department. Two-thirds of the county already consists of public lands, including national forests and Bureau of Land Management property.”The county’s not short of any space to go play on,” he said.However, he noted that the county will be responsible for maintenance of a trail being planned to go through South Canyon. Between that project and the Elk Meadows offer, he thinks the county might benefit from creation of a parks district.The decision ultimately will be up to county commissioners. But Jarman said the county also may ask the public for thoughts about a county parks department as part of a survey that will be mailed to residents in preparation for revising the county’s comprehensive plan.If the county doesn’t accept the Elk Meadows park, Jarman said, the BLM might be a logical recipient of it because it is surrounded by BLM land. Earlier this week, a BLM official said the agency hadn’t been approached about the idea but also would have concerns about whether it has the resources to manage it for public access. In looking to acquire properties, it also must consider factors such as underlying mineral rights and the possible existence of hazardous materials.Post Independent reporter Donna Gray contributed to this report.Contact Dennis Webb: email@example.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO
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