Emerald Mtn. group changes its direction | SteamboatToday.com

Emerald Mtn. group changes its direction

Partnership soliciting buyers who would conserve 6,345-acre parcel

Gary E. Salazar

— The Emerald Mountain Partnership will not be seeking funds from the public to buy the mountain but will instead try to find potential buyers who would conserve the land.

On Monday, the group trying to save the mountain from development unveiled its plan to solicit buyers who are interested in conserving all or significant parts of the 6,345-acre property.

The group made its decision to go in this direction after it decided not to ask the public at the ballot box for the $17 million the land is valued at.

The group made its decision based on information from a random survey it conducted earlier this year.

“It wasn’t in the best interest of the community to go through a ballot initiative to provide funding for the purchasing of the property,” said Doug Monger, vice chairman of the partnership. “We are leaving ourself open for ideas, but we know the community doesn’t want to come forward with 100 percent of the funding.

“Our most important thing is to preserve the property.”

To do this, the group will try to broker a sale of the property owned by the State Land Board to a buyer or buyers interested in preserving the property.

Monger admits by taking this avenue it could open up the property for some type of development.

“We are going to have to pick proposals that fit with our intentions,” Monger said. “We know we are going to have to give allowances, but we hope to minimize allowances.”

Those interested in acquiring the property or a portion of it have to answer 11 questions for the group.

Questions potential buyers have to answer include how their plan would conserve the property and maintain wildlife, agricultural use and the health of the forest and vegetation.

The questionnaire also asks for potential buyers to give their view on a proposed public trail from Howelsen Hill to Agate Creek to Cow Creek.

“This is the next logical step to see what is out there,” said Ken Brenner, chairman of the group. “We are going to find out what people have in mind.

“We are hoping for the best.”

Emerald Mountain is important to the group and some local residents because it is connected to the city-owned Howelsen Hill recreational area.

The mountain also provides leases to local ranchers and is home to wildlife.

“I was up on the mountain yesterday,” said Sally Wither, a member of the partnership. “The elk were bugling. If we lose the mountain to development, it is lost to the elk, too.”

The partnership wants the land preserved for wildlife and agriculture. The group is also in favor of allowing recreational use on the property, especially on land connected to the Howelsen Hill complex.

The parcel is currently held in “stewardship trust” by the partnership until 2005. The State Land Board owns the land, but the trust allows the partnership to try to find a way to sell the land or save it by 2005.

The money from the sale would then be used by the State Land Board, which is constitutionally required to manage its lands for the funding of public schools.

Brenner admits the group has a tough task ahead of it.

“Open space preservation is a huge issue and very difficult to accomplish,” he said. “We hope that what we do will serve as a model.”

In May, the partnership sent out 1,500 surveys to residents living in Steamboat Springs and in Routt County.

The survey asked residents how much money they would be willing to spend each year to preserve the property.

About 50 percent of the close to 300 residents who responded to the survey were in favor of taxing themselves, Wither said.

“When it came down to it, there was not enough support to put it on the ballot,” Wither said.

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