City to buy open space

Purchase includes 101 acres at north Lafarge gravel pit

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The city of Steamboat Springs plans to purchase the north Lafarge gravel pit site, which would set aside 101.55 acres for open space.

The land sits south of Steamboat between River Road and Colorado Highway 131 and is next to the Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area. The Colorado Division of Wildlife would maintain the site in the same manner as the existing wildlife area, which has a parking area, soft-surface trails and educational signage. Access to the site will be from Routt County Road 14.

The property runs along the Yampa River for half a mile and includes a 35-acre lake, 45 acres of wetlands and 20 acres of uplands. Lafarge is finishing operations on a small portion of the site and the reclamation of the land is well under way, said city Director of Intergovernmental Services Linda Kakela.

"It is going to be one of the great open space river protection sites in the entire valley," said Kakela, who has worked on obtaining the funding.

At Tuesday's City Council meeting, council members will vote on the first reading of an ordinance to purchase the land.

Obtaining the property, which will cost $896,000, has been in the works for years, Kakela said. In 1998, the city purchased an option to buy the property.

Money from the Yampa River Legacy Project, which is funded partly through Great Outdoors Colorado, has been reserved for this project for a number of years, Kakela said.

Under the Yampa River Legacy Project, GOCo will contribute $363,000 and another $200,000 through an open space grant.

The DOW will contribute $298,000 and received a conservation easement from Lafarge. The project also got a break when Lafarge agreed to sell the property for $204,000 less than the appraised value.

Lafarge representative Bruce Daniel said the company thinks that selling the land at less than its market value was a way to give back to the community.

"It's also going to be a great example of what gravel pits look like afterward," Daniel said. "People enjoy these properties for a long, long time."

That city's option to purchase the property doesn't take effect until all mining and batching operations and reclamation are finished. But, Lafarge agreed to sell the property earlier so a Yampa River Legacy Project grant can be used before it expires.

The project prevents future development of the land, preserves riparian habitat, expands the Chuck Lewis Wildlife Area and provides public access to a half-mile of the Yampa River and a 35-acre lake for public fishing and waterfowl hunting.

The city hopes to close on the property by Nov. 1. The city needs Union Pacific Railroad and a private property owner to approve access to the property, and it must take other steps required by state statute before DOW funding can occur.

"It is at the starting gate," Kakela said.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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