Summit County Government

Posted on: December 23, 2015

Summit County Tallies 90 Acres of New Open Space in 2015

New open space purchases protect wetlands and redirect development into urban areas

Katherine King, Open Space & Trails

SUMMIT COUNTY - The Summit County Open Space and Trails Program protected about 90 acres of open space at a cost of $412,000 in 2015. This year's 20 land transactions furthered the County’s work to conserve wetlands, secure public recreational access and protect Summit County’s scenic backcountry character.

Two of the most notable land acquisitions in 2015 will help ensure permanent public winter trail access to Quandary Peak. Summit County purchased the Monte Cristo Mine, and a separate private parcel on Monte Cristo Mine Road, south of Breckenridge, where a private landowner was blocking recreational travel to Quandary Mountain.

“Recreation in Summit County’s incredible mountain environment is the backbone of our local economy,” County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier said. “We’re so grateful to Summit County voters, who enable us to make these key purchases that maintain access to trails and open space.”

Protecting recreational access is a primary goal of the Summit County Open Space Program. U.S. Forest Service lands comprise almost 80 percent of the county’s land area, but access to these public lands can be hindered or blocked by parcels of private land, which are concentrated in the valleys. In addition to the Monte-Cristo-area acquisitions, backcountry mining claims purchased in 2015 near Santa Fe Peak, Northstar Mountain and Humbug Hill will also help protect the backcountry character of Summit County and its recreational opportunities.

The County conducted 14 wetland density transfers in the Quandary Village and Alpine Breckenridge area under the Summit County Transferable Development Rights (TDR) Program in 2015. This program aims to concentrate density in more developed areas of the county, while protecting backcountry and rural areas. Private property owners may transfer their development rights from designated rural “sending areas” to urban “receiving areas,” per Summit County Master Plan TDR maps.

Platted lots that are covered by more than 50 percent high-quality wetlands also qualify as TDR sending sites. After density is transferred from the lots, title is conveyed jointly to Summit County and the Town of Breckenridge. Preservation of these lots protects wetlands and water quality, and they will be managed as open space in perpetuity.

Through a similar process called “parcel assemblage,” one landowner consolidated density on one property and protected eight other backcountry claims totaling 20 acres via dedication to the Town and County in 2015. The claims were inholdings in the White River National Forest, and their dedication as open space will provide for contiguous wildlife habitat preservation and scenic viewshed protection.

Summit County acquired seven new trail easements in 2015 to expand its natural surface trails and paved Summit County Recpath system. The County maintains more than 60 miles of paved recreational pathways and natural surface trails, in addition to its open space properties.

Jointly with the Town of Breckenridge, the County Open Space Program constructed several new trails, including the Wirepatch, Galena Extension, ZL and Weber Gulch trails. The two entities completed a significant reroute of the Aspen Alley Trail to improve sustainability and make it bidirectional.

Two large volunteer project days yielded a reroute of the Oro Grande trail near the Summit County Resource Allocation Park just outside Keystone. In total, more than 500 volunteers assisted the Town of Breckenridge and Summit County open space programs in constructing and maintaining trails during 2015. Other open space maintenance projects in 2015 included a noxious-weed pull, tree plantings, barbed wire fence removal, Recpath improvements, bridge improvements and new trail construction.

The Summit County Open Space Program is funded by a mill levy approved by voters in four elections, most recently in 2008. This 12-year funding mechanism provides about $1.2 million per year for open space property acquisition.

Established in 1996, the Summit County Open Space Program has preserved the rural mountain character of more than 15,000 acres of land in Summit County via purchases, donations and conservation easements. For more information, visit the Open Space and Trails section of the Summit County website at, or call Katherine King at 970-668-4061.


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