Land swap would expand popular Red Hill area
CARBONDALE, Colorado ” The Red Hill Recreation Area would gain 513 acres through a proposed land exchange between the Bureau of Land Management and the owners of the adjacent Sutey Ranch.
Red Hill is a popular destination for mountain biking, hiking and trail running enthusiasts, located immediately north of Carbondale. The 3,000-acre network of single-track trails logs around 55,000 user days per year, according to Davis Farrar, president of the Red Hill Council which works with the BLM to manage the area.
“The proposed land exchange offers a very real opportunity to turn a long-term vision into reality,” Farrar wrote in a letter of support for the exchange.
Without it, the Sutey Ranch would likely be developed into as many as 200 high-end housing sites adjacent to the most remote parts of Red Hill, he said.
The exchange would not only add a substantial acreage for recreation use, the area also provides critical wildlife habitat, Farrar said.
Through the so-called Two Shoes-Sutey exchange, the BLM would acquire the Sutey Ranch property located to the northeast the Red Hill Area and accessed via Garfield County Road 112.
In return, the Two Shoes Ranch located in the Prince Creek area south of Carbondale would acquire approximately 1,268 acres of remote and mostly inaccessible BLM land on the north flanks of Mt. Sopris.
The owners of the Two Shoes Ranch purchased the Sutey Ranch in recent years after the Aspen Valley Land Trust (AVLT) was unable to acquire it as planned for purposes of putting it under a conservation easement.
Making the deal even more attractive to open space proponents is that Two Shoes has also agreed to place the land it would receive under a permanent conservation easement, limiting future development to a single 3,000 square-foot dwelling and ancillary buildings.
“Most of the land the BLM would be giving up is only about a half mile wide, and surrounded by private land except for a very remote area flanking national forest on the south,” Andy Wiessner of the Western Land Group, one of the groups facilitating the exchange, said at a Carbondale town council meeting Tuesday.
“It’s pretty lightly used, compared to Red Hill,” he said.
Without the conservation easement, the Two Shoes property could be developed with more than 300 houses under current zoning, he said.
The town of Carbondale became the third area government to sign a draft letter that will be sent to Colorado’s congressional delegation later this spring, asking them to introduce the land exchange before Congress.
The Eagle County commissioners and the town of Marble have also endorsed the exchange, as have the AVLT, the Eagle Valley Land Trust, the Red Hill Council and the Prince Creek Homeowners Association. Two Shoes would also allow adjoining Prince Creek landowners continued foot access to portions of the parcel under the deal.
Proponents will be looking for additional endorsements from the Pitkin and Garfield County commissioners in April, Wiessner said.
Second exchange proposed
In addition, the same letter to the congressional delegation proposes a second land exchange near Marble.
Under that proposal, the Darien family would convey about one-third of an acre to the U.S. Forest Service to establish a trailhead to the popular Lily Lake area. In return, the Dariens would acquire about 150 acres of steep, rugged Forest Service land adjoining their ranch.
The Dariens have also agreed to put a conservation easement on the acquired land. According to the proposal, they plan to build a small hydroelectric project on the site that could potentially generate enough electricity to power the entire upper Crystal Valley, including the small towns of Redstone and Marble.
Contact John Stroud: 384-9160
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