Group purchases Emma land to preserve open space

By Pat Bingham
Real AspenJanuary 29, 2013
A partnership between Eagle County, Pitkin County, the town of Basalt, Great Outdoors Colorado and the Mid-Valley Trails Committee today closed on the 145-acre Saltonstall property, now named Red Ridge Ranch Open Space.

The property will remain closed to public access until a management plan has been completed. It will eventually provide critical recreational access for mountain bikers, hikers and equestrians seeking to reach the 9,300-acre Crown Area on BLM land. The project also protects 15.7 acres of land along the Roaring Fork River with a conservation easement. It contains a highly visible ridge, excellent wildlife habitat, and agriculturally significant hay meadows. Significant water rights were included with the purchase, according to Open Space officials.

The Saltonstall property
Courtesy photo

Ninety acres of the property contains critical winter range on the Crown that could have been developed with large homes. It also includes nearly 50 acres of Emma farmland watered by the historic Home Supply Ditch. During the fifties, this land yielded as much as 50,000 pounds per acre of potatoes and more recently has been used for hay and livestock production. The acquisition eliminates forever the possibility of residential development on the habitat and agricultural resources.

“This open space acquisition is another great example of collaboration and partnerships making it possible for the continuation of agriculture in the mid valley and providing opportunities for local food production over development. It will also protect and enhance wildlife habitat, while exploring possible recreational amenities,” said Pitkin County Commissioner George Newman.

The property is visible from many locations in the mid-valley, and its acquisition will protect scenery along a growing corridor of protected lands bracketed by the Grange Ranch and Emma Town site upstream, and Rock Bottom Ranch below. Other protected lands in this area include Crown Mountain Ranch, Happy Day Ranch, and the Emma Open Space.

The contract price was $5 million. Eagle County contributed $2 million, Pitkin $1,866,250, GOCO $600,000, Basalt $500,000, and the Mid Valley Trails Committee $50,000.

“The partnership that has formed to accomplish this project is in some ways as stellar as the property we're preserving,” said Eagle County Commissioner Sara Fisher.

The property was once part of a larger Glassier Ranch that has been under the care of its current owner since 2004. A riverfront corridor on another nearby parcel will also be protected with a conservation easement but remain in private ownership.

“The Saltsonstall Ranch purchase represents a key step in preserving Roaring Fork valley floor agricultural lands regardless of county boundaries," said Howie Mallory, chair of Pitkin County Open Space and Trails. "We are delighted that our partners in this purchase share this long term ag lands vision.”

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