A 161-acre parcel that connects Steamboat Lake State Park to the Routt National Forest, preventing the park from being landlocked by private property, has been purchased officially and is in the state park's trust.
The State Land Board purchased the land for $1.2 million from the Quealy family.
The purchase, Steamboat Lake State Park manager Ken Brink said, should be good news to the entire community.
Brink said buying the parcel was the state park's only chance to establish a common boundary with the national forest. That link now is secured permanently, Brink said.
"I don't think you can go wrong with that," he said.
The U.S. Forest Service also recently purchased an 8.5-acre strip of land adjacent to the Hahn's Peak Village that provided such access but that was not a contiguous boundary because it only came out to a forest access road, Brink said.
Beverly Rave, district manager for the Northwest District of the State Land Board, said the State Land Board was glad to help with the deal, which has been in the works for several years.
"I'm happy that we were able to make it work and to really provide protection for a piece of land as a part of a state park that has been a working ranch for many, many, many years," Rave said. The Quealy family, which has owned the land for decades, used it as a summer headquarters for a sheep operation, she said.
One of the state park's hopes for the parcel is that it will allow for a permanent winter linker trail on which snowmobiles can travel between the state park and the national forest. The winter motorized trail should discourage the trespassing and parking problems that have grown in North Routt with the explosion of winter recreation use.
The trail requires approval by the Forest Service where it connects to forest land, and only temporary approval has been granted to date.
Forest Service officials could not be reached for comment on Wednesday, but earlier they said the Forest Service would hold off on approving a permanent linking trail until it could work with the state park to analyze winter recreation in North Routt.
Use of the trail has been good sthis winter, Brink said. Snowmobilers have obeyed the state park's large signs directing them to stay on the 1.5-mile trail.
On a typical weekday, about 20 snowmobile trips are taken on the trail, which could represent between 10 and 20 individuals. The largest day for the trail had 70 snowmobile trips.
Brink said the state park is where it wants to be in the process and is happy to have preserved an important piece of land, which Brink said is important for views and wildlife. The land also will be used for two rental cabins that will be available year round.
The $1.2 million cost was a little lower than previous negotiations, as an official survey showed the parcel was only 161 acres, not the 169 acres it originally was thought to be.