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Eagle Valley Land Exchange Approved!

by Bergen Tjossem

Five Eagle County entities, one state agency, an arm of the federal government and a local private landowner have brought to fruition a complex land exchange that will permanently protect 1,549 acres of open space in Avon and Edwards. On Nov. 6, the U.S. Forest Service was the final of four signatories to the Eagle Valley Land Exchange Agreement, following approval by Eagle County, the Colorado State Land Board and the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority (UERWA). Additional partners in the deal include the Town of Avon, the Nottingham family, Eagle River Water & Sanitation District (ERWSD) and the Eagle Valley Land Trust.

The Eagle Valley Land Trust will hold conservation easements to ensure permanent protection of the open space parcels obtained through the exchange. “Every single parcel included in this land exchange provides significant and immediate public benefit for today and forever. This important agreement secures the expansion of local water storage and creates valley floor gateways to over 200,000 acres of public land,” said Kara Heide, Executive Director of the Eagle Valley Land Trust. “This land exchange is a huge win for both local residents and guests.”

The conservation project has been years in the making and will result in the permanent protection of five properties, including:

  • The 478-acre West Avon Parcel will be owned and managed as open space by the Town of Avon;
  • Approximately 80 acres of the Avon Village parcel, north of I-70 near Post Boulevard, will be owned and managed as open space by the Town of Avon;
  • The 640-acre Colorado State Land Board property north of Berry Creek will be added to the White River National Forest;
  • 184 acres of private land on the Eagle’s Nest Wilderness boundary will be added to the White River National Forest; and
  • The 160-acre Cordillera L will become Eagle County Open Space.

Also, several smaller water tank properties will be conveyed to UERWA and ERWSD, an additional public benefit from the Eagle Valley Land Exchange.

To equalize the value of land changing hands, cash is required to complete the deal. The Town of Avon will contribute $1 million and an additional $350,000 will be provided by UERWA and ERWSD. The majority of the funding, or $5.3 million, will come from Eagle County’s Open Space Fund. Approval of the Eagle Valley Land Exchange comes almost 10 years to the day that Eagle County voters approved the dedicated Open Space Tax, without which officials say the exchange would not have been possible.

“When considering that the deal will protect more than 1,500 acres in the heart of the valley for less than $3,500 per acre, this partnership represents a huge conservation accomplishment,” said Eagle County Commissioner Peter Runyon. “This project protects land that is proximate to where people live, contains excellent wildlife habitat, and will provide a range of public recreational benefits that will be improved in the months and years ahead,” he said.

Avon Mayor Rich Carroll says it’s exciting to see the Eagle Valley Land Exchange finally come to pass after five years of planning and collaboration. “I appreciate the hard work that has gone into this process,” said Carroll. “Many of the parcels, including the two that Avon will receive, provide community separators and public recreation options as well as preserving wildlife habitat and important views. This is land that has easy and readily available public access; all of Eagle County benefits from the exchange.”

The two properties that will be transferred to the White River National Forest had long been identified as parcels the Forest Service wished to acquire. “We are thrilled to complete the land exchange,” said Eagle/Holy Cross District Ranger Dave Neely. “It represents one of the most significant conservation legacy acts in Eagle Valley – it is good for the land and good for our communities,” he said.

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