by Marissa Lorenz
The Grand County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) recently approved six grant recommendations from the Open Lands, Rivers, and Trails (OLRT) Advisory Committee, including a
$245,000 grant for the Town of Hot Sulphur Springs and their Himebaugh Creek Property Acquisition project.
According to the grant summary, the requested funds will provide 49% of necessary monies for the purchase of 270 acres of open ranchland that lies between the town of Hot Sulphur and the Arapaho National Forest at the base of Cottonwood Pass.
“The land consists of sagebrush hillsides and willows that grow along the wetlands of Himebaugh Creek. It has valuable wildlife habitat and serves as a movement corridor for elk and deer between their winter and summer ranges,” reads the recommendation.
“The current landowners are developing a conservation easement with the Colorado Headwaters Land Trust to protect the property’s natural and scenic values and prevent significant development. The town is interested in purchasing the property in order to allow its residents and visitors to physically enjoy the natural setting, develop trails, and to provide public access to the adjacent national forest, BLM, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife land. Any trail development and public use of the land as managed by the Town will be consistent with the terms of the conservation easement.”
The BOCC granted $550,000 of OLRT funds in 2019 to the Colorado Headwaters Land Trust toward the said conservation easement. At that time, the property was described as primarily sagebrush with “pockets of other flora, which are home to a wide variety of species,” “home to Himebaugh
Creek, which includes wetlands and both continually-flowing and ephemeral springs,” and “under threat of development.”
The Headwaters Trust application argued the importance of conservation easements “to help preserve watershed quality, vistas, wildlife populations, and other natural resources” and this particular easement to “protect the property from future subdivision and housing development (…) in perpetuity.”
Hot Sulphur Springs Mayor Bob McVay states that the purchase will allow the property to remain an open space and be open to those who want to hike and access the outdoors right from town. He indicates that there has been discussion of building trails but that all usage will be guided by the conservation easement restrictions.
The Board approved five more recommended grants, all for trail work proposed by the Headwaters Trail Alliance and totalling an additional $169,975. Monies will go to programs supporting hazard tree and forest fuels mitigation, especially in the areas of the Williams Fork and East Troublesome fires; the Phases Trail System Redevelopment Project in the Strawberry Recreation Management Area north of Tabernash; Rendezvous trail improvements in Fraser; a countywide trail maintenance program; and winter trail grooming for over 35 miles of existing winter, non-motorized, multi-use trails.