The Hayden Town Board heard arguments for and against the Emerald Mountain land exchange Thursday night.
The Emerald Mountain Partnership came before the board asking for its support, while the Citizens to Save Public Lands group urged the board to look at the effect the land swap would have on Hayden residents.
Ben Beall, chairman of the partnership, asked the board to support a land exchange that would trade smaller parcels of Bureau of Land Management land scattered throughout Routt County for the 6,345-acre Emerald Mountain.
The BLM already has decided to dispose of the smaller parcels that are being traded and bought by private landowners, Beall said, and the parcels are not easily accessible by the general public.
Of the 19,000 acres up for the trade, 13,000 are land-locked and not accessible to the public, he said.
Beall asked the board to look beyond the citizens group's self-interest as adjacent landowners and toward the bigger picture of good public policy.
"Make sure to look at the global picture to see how it works for all of us," Beall said. "The BLM has said it will dispose of these parcels (aside) from this process. If we work together, we can gain some parcel that will come to some use for Routt County."
Beall had asked to come before the Town Board to make a presentation on the proposed land swap. Hayden Mayor Chuck Grobe said the board was not ready to make a recommendation at Thursday's meeting, but the issue likely would come before the board again.
Rebecca Rolando, who heads the Citizens to Save Public Lands, told the board the group had more than 500 signatures from people who oppose the land swap. Rolando questioned giving up 19,000 acres of public land in exchange for Emerald Mountain.
Under the proposal, land that is used for hunting would become private and that would detract visiting hunters and the money they bring to town, Rolando said.
"We are not the land grabbers," Rolando said. "Let's preserve Emerald Mountain, but not at the expense of all the small communities."
South Routt Resident Maynard Short asked if the preserved Emerald Mountain would allow all the uses the existing BLM land allows, such as ATVs, snowmobiles and camping.
"Is there going to be a sign 'Welcome to Emerald Mountain, Feel Free to Fly Over,'" Short asked.
The organized opposition is going to attend the Oak Creek Town Board meeting next Thursday.
On Aug. 15, Oak Creek Town Mayor Cargo Rodeman wrote a letter to the group in support of the group's efforts to stop the land swap.
In her letter, Rodeman states that South Routt is one of the prime hunting areas in Colorado and that losing acreage would hurt the economy.
"Oak Creek would be losing over 2,500 acres in a ten-mile radius of our town. This is open space that our citizens use and it is a high probability that this acreage would go into private development and be lost for use by our citizens," she wrote.
"I assure you that Oak Creek and the surrounding area want to keep what little open space that we have left."
Beall said the public process has not officially begun. The exchange has to go through federal review, which will allow for plenty of public input, he said.
"The process is just beginning. It really hasn't begun yet," Beall said.
In other business:
n The Hayden Town Board gave a consensus to move forward with its Web site development program, which would cost $940 for the first year and $540 for the following years. The town would use a company called GovOffice WebCreator, which has created government Web sites for Pagosa Springs and Bayfield. The company could create a search function for its PDF files. Town Manager Rob Straebel said it could take three months to get the Web site up and running.
n The board tabled a resolution that would allow county residents to tap into the town's water mains if the property is within 200 feet of the water main. The board wanted to wait until all the trustees were present. Trustees Tim Frentress and Ken Gibbon were absent.
n The board appointed Mayor Chuck Grobe as the Hayden representative to the Yampa Valley Airport Commission.
n The board appointed Dal Leck to the Hayden Board of Adjustments.