Acquisitions of Open Space
Summit County Protects 100 Acres of Open Space in 2017
County also celebrates Recpath improvements, mining cleanup and digital trail map
The Summit County Open Space and Trails Program (OST) secured protections for almost 100 acres of open space in 2017, preserving wildlife habitat, scenic backcountry character, public recreational access and agricultural lands. Summit County also expanded recreational trails and trailheads, restored mining-impacted lands and waterways and launched a new interactive mapping tool to help the public explore local recreational resources.
The County completed 15 open-space land transactions at a cost of about $595,000. Highlights include several mining claims that protect trail access, wetlands and the undeveloped corridor along Montezuma Road. The purchase of additional mining claims in and around the historic Sts. John townsite enhanced the contiguity of existing County open space and U.S. Forest Service lands and preserved the ridgeline of Glacier Mountain.
Summit County partnered with the Town of Breckenridge’s open space program on eight transactions, ranging from the purchase of wetland properties at the south end of the County to mining claims near Mohawk Lakes and in the Golden Horseshoe. These acquisitions protect water quality, trails and trail access and the backcountry character of Summit County’s high peaks. Summit County also acquired several easements in 2017 to ensure permanent public trail access.
“Our Open Space and Trails Program is instrumental in maintaining Summit County’s rural mountain character, protecting its unique natural areas and supporting high-quality outdoor experiences for residents and visitors,” Summit County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier said. “Our community values these resources immensely, and over the last two decades, we’ve made tangible progress every year to ensure their protection.”
In 2017, OST launched a new interactive map that allows users to explore local recreational amenities and resources, including open space parcels, natural surface trails, paved pathways, campgrounds, trailheads and trail portals. The map was developed in-house, in partnership with the County GIS Department; it can be accessed at .
“We set out to create a centralized hub of information on recreational resources and amenities within Summit County,” Resource Specialist Michael Wurzel said. “We worked closely with our local and federal partners to ensure that it would be as comprehensive as possible.”
In addition to open space parcels, Summit County manages more than 60 miles of paved recreational pathways and natural surface trails. In early 2017, Summit County received more than $4.25 million in federal funding for the Fremont Pass Recreational Pathway from the Federal Lands Access Program administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration. Summit County, the U.S. Forest Service and the Colorado Department of Transportation entered into a multiparty agreement with FHWA, which is leading project planning, design and construction of a Recpath extension from Copper Mountain toward the Climax Mine.
“This critical three-mile section of the Fremont Recpath addresses immediate safety issues on Highway 91,” OST Senior Resource Specialist Jason Lederer said. “It also initiates the Governor’s Office’s vision of creating a grade-separated connection between Summit and Lake counties, as part of ‘Colorado’s 16’ initiative.”
FHWA anticipates construction occurring in 2019 or 2020. Additional information about the Fremont Pass Recpath project is available on FHWA’s website at .
Summit County also celebrated the opening of a new Recpath alignment included in CDOT’s Highway 9 Iron Springs project between Frisco and Farmer’s Korner. Summit County, the towns of Breckenridge and Frisco, Vail Resorts and Continental Divide Land Trust all served as key partners in the project. The new paved pathway provides spectacular views of Dillon Reservoir and improved separation from the highway. Newly constructed tunnels eliminate the need for Recpath users to cross the highway when traveling between Frisco and Swan Mountain Road.
Following several years of planning and coordination with Denver Water, Summit County completed improvements on 600 feet of the Dillion Dam Recpath near Denver Water’s control buildings. The new design reduces sand accumulation on the pathway, improves sight lines and enhances safety along this heavily used section of the Recpath.
“We see use increasing each year on the Recpath, and we’re always seeking ways to improve user experiences on this world-class amenity,” OST Director Brian Lorch said.
OST also produced a user safety and etiquette video, which is available at . The video covers guidelines, rules and tips to keep the Summit County Recreational Pathway system safe and enjoyable for all users.
With help from Rocky Mountain Youth Corps and numerous volunteer groups, OST completed construction of nearly eight miles of new single track trails on Summit County Resource Allocation Park property. The new trail network creates loops and connections to Summit Cove, the Oro Grande Trail, Tenderfoot Meadows Open Space and the Disc Golf Park. With a predominantly southern exposure, these trails will likely be some of the first to melt and dry out in the spring.
The ongoing Swan River Restoration Project logged another successful year of undoing the damage of dredge mining, which took place a century ago. Revegetation work wrapped up in November on more than 30 acres of riparian and upland areas adjacent to the recently restored river. This work was supported by $100,000 in grant funding from Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Colorado Water Conservation Board. OST staff and Rocky Mountain Youth Corps assisted in planting thousands of willows, upland shrubs and mature trees across the site. Gravel removal commenced upstream of the recently restored section of the Swan River, with over 70,000 tons of material leaving the site.
“We estimate that this is roughly one-quarter of the total material that needs to be removed before the next phase of stream channel restoration work can begin,” Lederer said. “The contractor also imported about 8,500 cubic yards of soil, which will be critical for completing riparian and upland restoration.”
Gravel removal operations have ceased for the winter and will resume in 2018. The Swan River Restoration Project is occurring in collaboration with numerous partners, including the Town of Breckenridge and the U.S. Forest Service. Additional information is available at and .
Summit County’s abandoned-mine cleanup efforts in the Peru Creek drainage took another step forward in 2017. On the heels of a successful multi-year effort at the Pennsylvania Mine, Summit County coordinated with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to address contaminated water draining from the Jumbo Mine into Peru Creek, a major tributary to the Snake River above Keystone. Summit County purchased the land surrounding the abandoned Jumbo Mine in early 2016 for public open space, setting the stage for EPA’s cleanup work. OST also facilitated efforts to reclaim two settling ponds near the Wellington Neighborhood in Breckenridge, to improve safety and aesthetics and create a transit bus turnaround.
“We’re so grateful for the support the Summit County community continues to show the Open Space and Trails Program,” Brian Lorch said. “And we really appreciate the significant commitment from volunteers, who contributed more than 1,090 hours of work on our Recpath and trails. Without this support, many of our program’s accomplishments would not be possible.”
The Summit County Open Space Program is funded by a mill levy approved by voters in four elections, most recently in 2008. This 12-year funding mechanism provides about $1.2 million per year for open space property acquisition. Established in 1996, the Summit County Open Space Program has preserved the rural mountain character of approximately 16,000 acres of land in Summit County via purchases, donations and conservation easements.