Group looking for new funds

Partnership's goal for Emerald: '100 percent preservation'

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— The Emerald Mountain Partnership is considering a mixture of public and private funding to purchase and reserve a large section of the mountain.

The land, known as the Emerald Mountain Parcel, is 6,345 acres and is owned by the Colorado State Land Board. It was last appraised in 1999 for $17.2 million.

Emerald Mountain Partnership Chairman Ben Beall said a survey of registered voters in Routt County showed the community felt the $17 million was too much to shoulder through a tax increase. But many respondents indicated they would consider supporting a proposal to purchase a portion of the property through a bond. The survey also revealed the community supports preserving the land.

Beall said the partnership considered putting a bond issue on November's ballot. "We just decided it wasn't the right time," Beall said.

He will give an update to the Steamboat Springs City Council tonight on the where the partnership is in the purchasing process of the land. So far, Beall said the group is looking at creative ways to purchase the property, including seeking private donors, working with national land preservation organizations and talking with adjacent landowners.

"Our goal is 100 percent conservation," Beall said.

Many consider the parcel of land a key component in preserving open space and the extension of public trails on and around Emerald Mountain. Right now, the Colorado State Land Board leases the property for agricultural use and restricts public access.

A few years ago, the board decided to sell the land with hopes to gain maximum revenue on the project to support public education. The Emerald Mountain Partnership has the first option to buy the land and has until March 15, 2005, to close the deal.

If the preservation of the Emerald Mountain Parcel is successful, about 10,000 acres made up of numerous properties around Emerald Mountain will be preserved, Beall said.

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