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CARIBOU RANCH UPDATE
by Suzanne Webel
Following is the text of a Press Release issued by BCHA on August 29, 2002. BATCO newsletter readers may be interested to note that while the agreement between BCHA and the Roundup Riders is groundbreaking as a public-private partnership for Boulder County trails, the local press's apparent reluctance to appreciate and publish the information -- still unpublished as of the November date of this BATCO newsletter -- is perhaps even more interesting!
The Board of Directors of the Boulder County Horse Association has voted unanimously to 'adopt' the Switzerland Trail where it crosses the Caribou Ranch, Boulder County Parks and Open Space's large new property north of Nederland," BCHA President Suzanne Webel announced today.
"We have made a proposal to Boulder County Parks and Open Space to help fund, reconstruct, and maintain this spectacular old railroad grade if the County agrees to designate it as an official public trail," Webel said. "We believe that improving this existing trail will minimize environmental impacts while maximizing the public's appreciation of this wonderful new Open Space park."
"Utilizing private funds and volunteers will stretch the County's budget and will develop a sense of stewardship among trail users toward our shared public lands," she added. "We are excited about being able to offer Boulder County the opportunity of a new public/private partnership for trails."
"Furthermore," Webel said, "BCHA has discussed this opportunity with the Roundup Riders of the Rockies' Heritage and Trails Foundation, which has had a long standing interest in ensuring that the Caribou Ranch in general, and the Switzerland Trail in particular, remain open to the public. Rollie Barnard, President of the Heritage and Trails Foundation, has indicated enthusiastic and strong support for the project. As soon as a commitment is made by Boulder County, their Foundation will consider annual proposals from BCHA to provide significant financial contributions for restoration and maintenance of the Switzerland Trail."
The Caribou Ranch purchase began in 1996, when the City of Boulder Department of Public Works and Boulder County Parks and Open Space agreed to a six-year phased acquisition of the property from James L. Guercio. After several renegotiations, the complex transaction was recently completed, for a total expenditure of almost $15million. Originally, almost all of the 3500-acre property was to be acquired in fee as Open Space, with the Guercios retaining approximately 375 acres as their family homestead with some development rights. However, the ultimate transaction resulted in the Guercios retaining 1489 acres in fee with a conservation easement and some development rights, and the City/County acquiring2180 acres in fee for open space. The City of Boulder was assigned the County's option and purchase agreement with Mr. Guercio; next, the County will purchase the parcels from the City in another series of transactions extending through 2006. The City will retain a conservation easement on the parcels and a fee interest in the Silver Lake pipeline right-of-way.
Boulder County will be responsible for managing the property. It has already conducted a Resource Evaluation and has recently released its Draft Management Plan, which [was] discussed at the September 26 meeting of the Parks and Open Space Advisory Committee(7pm, Boulder County Courthouse).
"The initial trail system being proposed is only about two miles long and does not currently include all of the Switzerland Trail at Caribou Ranch," Webel explained. "But we are encouraged that the County has pledged to find a suitable trail connection to the Sourdough Trail north of the property, and we are optimistic that the existing railroad grade will be the best choice."
When the Caribou Ranch acquisition was first presented to the public in 1996, the only proposed uses were to be "pedestrian" activities such as hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and picnicking. However, many members of the Boulder County Horse Association pointed out the long history of the Caribou Ranch as a working cattle ranch, the home of the first Arabian horse breeding operation in Colorado, the Van Vleet Arabian Stud, and the fact that the Guercio family themselves are equestrians. They emphasized the importance of the Switzerland Trail as the only possible off-road trail connection between Nederland and the existing Sourdough Trail to the north, as well as to other parts of the railroad grade that are currently functioning as trails within Roosevelt National Forest, and to other existing trails both north and south of the property. After much discussion, the Board of County Commissioners agreed to allow horses on the property, and Mr. Guercio expressed his appreciation to BCHA for "getting horses back on the Caribou Ranch."
The Boulder County Horse Association was founded as a Colorado non-profit corporation in 1971 and attained 501(c)3 status with the Internal Revenue Service in 1997. In the mid-1980's BCHA built and has maintained the Doudy Draw Trail on City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks land, and has provided funding and volunteers at several National Trails Day projects including Rabbit Mountain, Walker Ranch, the Hall and Heil Valley Ranches, and the Left Hand Trail.
The Roundup Riders of the Rockies was founded in 1948, and is recognized statewide as a significant group of horsemen from many backgrounds, businesses and professions. The Heritage and Trails Foundation was established as a 501(c)3 organization in 1988 to raise funds for trails and education. HTF grant recipients include the Colorado Trail Foundation, the Continental Divide Trail Alliance, the 10th Mountain Hut Association, the Highline Canal Preservation Association, Douglas County Division of Open Space and Natural Resources, and the USDA Forest Service.
Rollin D. Barnard, President of the RRR/HTF, points out that the first Treasurer of their organization was an early owner of the Caribou Ranch, Mr. L.W. Van Vleet, and that the current owner, Jim Guercio, is also a member of their group. "We consider the Caribou Ranch to be a very important historic and present-day venue for our group's activities, as well as for other equestrians and hikers, "he said. "We are impressed with BCHA's objectives and believe their plan for trails on the property is exactly the type of project our Foundation was created to assist. We hope that Boulder County agrees to take BCHA up on its generous offer, and we look forward to receiving a specific financial proposal from BCHA for this project in the near future."
Information on the Roundup Riders of the Rockies' Heritage and rails Foundation may be obtained from:
Rollin D. BarnardPresident, RRR/ HTF9902 No. Heather Dr., Castle Rock, CO 80104-9133303-858-0465
[Post Script: The Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved staff's Caribou Ranch Management Plan on October 15, 2002. This plan consists of a two mile loop trail starting from the Mud Lake property adjacent to the south end of Caribou Ranch. The trail would utilize a short portion of the Switzerland Trail as far as the Bluebird mine and town site, returning via an old ranch road past the Delonde Homestead. The County plans to take another six years to open this short trail, which will be open to pedestrians and equestrians only under the original terms of the acquisition. The northward extension of the Switzerland Trail, from Bluebird to the Rainbow Lakes Road, is still under negotiation with the Guercio family, BCHA, the RRR/HTF, BCPOS and the US Forest Service. BCHA and RRR/HTF have advised the County that their offer of trail assistance will be activated only upon successful completion of this negotiation.]