Oak Creek Town Board votes to explore purchase of 200-acre property with trail system | SteamboatToday.com

Oak Creek Town Board votes to explore purchase of 200-acre property with trail system

Oak Creek resident Russ Garrity walks along one of the trails he built on his property. The Board of Routt County Commissioners approved funding to help purchase a conservation easement on the property to protect it from future development.
File photo/Scott Franz

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A trail system on private property near Oak Creek that is described by some locals as a mini Emerald Mountain is one step closer to being preserved for public use.

The Oak Creek Town Board voted unanimously last week to pursue the potential purchase of the nearly 200-acre property that hosts the trails that are already used by some members of the public.

But there’s a caveat in the discussions.

Town officials said while Oak Creek is facilitating the possible purchase of the property, the town can’t end up being the primary funding source for the transaction.

“The funding for this is going to have to come from somewhere other than the town,” Oak Creek Town Manager Mary Alice Page Allen said Tuesday. “This doesn’t happen without outside money.”

Page Allen said the Town Board’s vote to move the land deal forward will allow interested parties and the town to apply for grant funding to help pay for the purchase.

She predicted the process of finalizing terms and identifying funding sources could occur by the end of this year.

The town could provide some preliminary surveying of the property, Page Allen added.

The asking price for the land owned by Russ and Clay Garrity is $1.25 million.

“The resolution (approved by the Town Board) is just basically that very first step to allow us to take the subsequent steps of leveraging funding, working together with numerous partners in this process and giving it a little bit of more formality beyond a formal conversation,” Page Allen said.

The South Routt Recreation Association is also involved in the discussions about the property.

The town has floated some ideas to bring the overall price of the land deal down.

Some pieces of the property might be sold to adjacent property owners who want to extend their backyards.

Page Allen said Routt County is also interested in potentially acquiring a piece of the property.

Mayor Nikki Knoebel said she supported the resolution to explore the land purchase because of the recreation benefits the property would add to the town.

“We’re so lucky to live in such a great place where we like to enjoy the outdoors,” Knoebel said. “But one thing we thought was missing was bike trails. When this opportunity came up between the rec association and the Garritys, we thought it would be a win-win situation.”

Town Board Member Kelly McElfish described the acquisition of the Garrity property as an exciting opportunity.

“Since I moved here, it’s always been a dream of mine to have trail access next to town,” she said. “The next best thing would be a swimming hole for my dogs.”

McElfish said the Town Board still needs to do its due diligence before committing to the purchase.

“We have so many questions as a board,” she said. “How can we fund it? How can we sustain it for years to come?”

Russ Garrity started building a 4.5-mile trail system on his property about 15 years ago.

He allows the public to use the trails, but trail users must sign in before using them.

The property is accessed off of Routt County Road 27.

“Trail users are on (the Garritys) private property,” Page Allen said. “While our goal is to get to the point where we have a set of fully open public trails, that is not the case right now.”

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10.

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