Hot Sulphur “sets example” with land conservation purchase

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The Heimbaugh Valley stretches north, toward Hot Sulphur Springs.
The Heimbaugh Valley stretches north, toward Hot Sulphur Springs.

by Marissa Lorenz
The Town of Hot Sulphur Springs has acquired a significant piece of land, in both size and natural and recreational value, with the recent purchase of 270 acres of open ranchland, tentatively to be called Heimbaugh Valley, a name that would pay tribute to
the creek that runs through it.

The property, formerly part of the Jones Creek Ranch, stretches from the south edge of town to border the Arapaho National Forest along Cottonwood Pass.

It is known as a wildlife migration corridor for deer and elk and was described in a recent grant application as primarily sagebrush with “pockets of other flora, which are home to a wide variety of species,” “home to Himbaugh Creek [sic], which includes wetlands and both continually-flowing and ephemeral springs,” and “under threat of development.”

“The property provides opportunities for non-motorized recreation, such as hiking, biking, horseback riding, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, bird watching and just enjoying nature,” according to a public statement released by the Town.

“I walked some of it today,” Mayor Bob McVay said of the Heimbaugh Valley property. “It is a wonderful piece of land. It is easily accessible from town and offers great views and wildlife watching opportunities. It’s going to be a great thing for residents and visitors.”

“This property will be a tremendous asset to the town for its outdoor recreation opportunities,” added Hot Sulphur Springs Trustee Dan Nolan. “And we are very grateful to the previous landowners, Max and Kathryn Webel, for making it available to the town and to the donors for making it possible.”

In December 2020, the Webels placed the property under a conservation easement held by the Colorado Headwaters Land Trust in Granby. The conservation easement will help “ensure the long-term protection of the property’s natural and scenic values,” explains the statement. “[The Webers] wanted the town to own this property in order to protect its natural and scenic values and to make it available for outdoor recreation.”

That vision has now been realized with the support of grants from the Grand County Open Lands, Rivers and Trails Fund; Great Outdoors Colorado; the Gates Family Foundation; and the Town’s Conservation Trust funds.
“With the conservation easement and the town’s careful stewardship, the open space, scenic views and natural values will be protected in perpetuity.”

“I’m thrilled to have finished this part of the [property acquisition] process,” explained McVay. “Hot Sulphur has really set the example for the county when it comes to open space. This is something to be proud of. It will be both preserved and accessible to those who come after us. There won’t be any condos ever. We really did something for the earth and citizens here.”

The next step, says McVay, will be for the town to annex the site. The annexation will increase the area of Hot Sulphur by more than 50 percent, taking it from 493 to over 760 acres in size. The town will then decide on allowable usage.