Summit County Looks to Improve Open Space Access with Land Exchange

Blue Valley Ranch agreement includes $600,000 for County open space 

SUMMIT COUNTY— The proposed Blue Valley Land Exchange nears completion in the coming months with support from Summit and Grand counties, the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, Trout Unlimited Colorado River Headwaters Chapter, and many other local stakeholders.  

The Blue Valley Land Exchange, a culmination of years of careful study, negotiation, and collaboration between Blue Valley Ranch (BVR) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), represents a significant step towards enhancing public access to recreational opportunities in Summit County.  

"Protecting and improving access to Summit County’s unique natural areas continues to be a community value,” said Summit County Commissioner Tamara Pogue. "This exchange, a result of extensive collaboration, promises to bring substantial benefits to Summit County. Not only as a commissioner, but as an angler, I am excited about the expanded public access to the Blue River and providing enhanced recreational opportunities for our residents and visitors.” 

The largest component of the land exchange trades nine parcels of Federal land managed by the BLM totaling 1,489 acres to Blue Valley Ranch (the ranch) in exchange for nine parcels of private land totaling 1,830 acres. While some protests were filed regarding the exchange, after a full review of the concerns, it was determined to be fair, mutually beneficial, and in the public interest, and the protests were dismissed by the Colorado State Director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  

"This land exchange agreement will enhance Summit County's open space preservation efforts,” said Summit County Open Space & Trails Director Katherine King. “It will benefit our county immensely by creating rest-stops and take-outs on the Blue River, establishing trails and river access in the Green Mountain Recreation Area, and providing an additional $600,000 in funding for acquiring new open space lands.” 

The Blue Valley Land Exchange includes: 

  • The Ranch agrees to purchase a Summit County Open Space parcel for twice its appraised value, then concurrently convey the parcel to the BLM. This will result in Summit County realizing a $600-thousand return to purchase additional open space.  
  • Creation of a permanent and improved seasonal take-out and rest stop for Blue River kayakers and other floaters at the Spring Creek Road Bridge. 
  • Creation of a new rest stop, the Pump Station Rest Stop, about 3 miles downstream from the Spring Creek Road Bridge Stop. 
  • Establishment of the Green Mountain Trailhead. 
  • Permanent protection for Green Mountain. 
  • Anglers will enjoy greater access to the Blue River under the exchange. The public will gain walk-in access to 1.65 miles of the Blue River in Green Mountain Canyon, in addition to the new river access at the Confluence Recreation Area.  
  • Creation of the Confluence Recreation Area adds one mile of public access in Grand County. The resulting consolidation of public ownership will create a total of two miles of new contiguous public access to the river. The Area will include a picnic area, 2.3 miles of walking trails, a take-out for river floaters, wheelchair-accessible fishing access, and significant fishery habitat enhancements to this stretch of the Blue River. 
  • The public will achieve a net gain in access to over 1,000 acres of uplands with a variety of dispersed recreational opportunities. 

An estimated $2-3 million dollars will be provided by BVR to create these recreation enhancements. 

Contact: Sarah Wilkinson, Interim Public Information Officer

Landscape photo of Blue River
Photo credit: Bureau of Land Management employee