Slate River Valley parcel to be preserved
Written by Mark Reaman   
Wednesday, 19 June 2013
Trails, wildlife, ranching—what’s not to love?

Another piece of the Slate River Valley open-space land puzzle is fitting into place. The Crested Butte Land Trust is in the process of purshasing a 100-acre parcel just above the Gunsight Bridge Road. The transaction should be complete by the middle of October. That land will help tie in hiking and biking trails already in the area, protect wildlife in the valley and maintain grazing opportunities for local ranchers.

 

 

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The piece has been owned by John and Karen Stock for 15 years and sits just west of the Lupine Trail parcels. Hikers, bikers and equestrians will be able to access the property via a new trail connecting the Lupine and Lower Loop trails. The trail will be designed and managed so that the multiple interests of wildlife habitat, grazing, and recreation are respected. According to the Crested Butte Land Trust (CBLT), the Slate River Valley property presents a long-awaited opportunity to purchase and preserve 100 acres of land in the Slate River Valley, stretching from the top of Smith Hill to nearly the valley floor below.
“This maintains a mountain-to-river corridor for wildlife, something that has been lost in other communities, but is still here in Gunnison County,” said Ann Johnston, executive director of the Land Trust. “Through this transaction, the Stocks are very generously giving a gift to the entire community. I really appreciate their confidence in the Land Trust.”
“This parcel serves as an ecological bridge to two other town-funded projects, the 322-acre Kochevar Open Space and the 120-acre Gunsight Bridge projects,” a Land Trust memo to the Crested Butte Town Council outlined last month. “This landscape connectivity enhances the conservation values of all of this community’s preservation efforts in the upper Slate River valley.”
“We know that if this land isn’t conserved, it is at risk,” said John Stock. “That’s a risk that doesn’t make sense because they aren’t making land like this anymore. It is surrounded by a great trail system and provides really good deer and elk habitat. We want to conserve it.”
The property is in a natural, undeveloped state, except for a tiny, dilapidated cabin, which used to house a miner who worked in the nearby and long-since abandoned Smith Hill mine. Seeps and springs on the land add tremendous value to the wildlife that live on and frequent the property, including Rocky Mountain elk, mule deer, black bear and mountain lion.
The Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) board awarded the CBLT $406,000 in GOCO/lottery funds to help purchase the conservation easement protecting the 100 acres. The GOCO board awarded a total of $7.4 million in GOCO/Lottery funds to 42 projects throughout the state at its meeting on June 11.
Locally, the Gunnison Valley Land Preservation Fund has committed $125,000.
The town of Crested Butte is also excited to partner on the project and has stretched its open space fund to commit $200,000. “This presents an incredible opportunity to enhance the open space that has already been protected, including the Gunsight Bridge and Kochevar parcels,” said Jake Jones, director of Parks and Recreation. “It really leverages the time and efforts spent by our community and makes what we have even more valuable.”
The parcel is scheduled to close October 15 of this year. People can start visiting the property and trail during the spring of 2014.