Targeted purchases protect valuable habitat, recreational opportunities
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Local open space protection efforts in 2012 were partially focused on protecting access to the Continental Divide Trail, running down the backbone of the country from Canada to Mexico.
In 2012, the county purchased 33.5 acres of privately-owned mining claims along the trail, protecting trail access, as well as high alpine tundra habitat for mountain goats, big horn sheep, pika, marmots, and rare alpine vegetation. These parcels may eventually be conveyed to the U.S. Forest Service, as they are surrounded by National Forest.
The Open Space Program also used the county’s transfer of development rights program to protect 174 acres of land at the Silver Spoon and Pennsylvania Mines in the Snake River Basin. Buying the development rights helps achieve the master plan goal of minimizing dispersed backcountry development. The development rights could be purchased in the future to permit additional development in or near local towns.
The county open space program also partnered with Breckenridge to buy 31 acres of backcountry claims on Gibson Hill, complementing 50 acres of claims purchased in the same area in 2011. The Gibson Hill open space helps protect the scenic viewshed and recreational opportunities in the area.
Without the purchase of this land, access to several trails may have been blocked or precluded by the development of homes, roads and driveways. The area also borders National Forest and existing open space, supports habitat for deer and elk, and contains a number of historic sites from Breckenridge’s mining era.
South of Breckenridge, the County and Town also acquired a small piece of land in 2012 from the Upper Blue Sanitation District. This parcel, at the intersection of Highway 9 and Blue Lakes Road, allowed the Town and County to enhance parking for the Quandary Trailhead. An increasingly popular access point for recreation, expanded parking was needed for visitors, and to maintain safe access for emergency vehicles along McCullough Gulch Road.
The Summit County Open Space Program is funded by a property tax (or mill levy) approved by voters in four elections, most recently in 2008. This twelve year funding mechanism provides approximately $1.2 million per year for open space property acquisition. Established in 1996, the Open Space Program has protected over 14,500 acres of land in Summit County via purchases, donations, and conservation easements. For more information, please visit the Open Space and Trails section of the Summit County website at www.co.suumit.co.us, or call Katherine King at 970-668-4061.