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Big step in Long Lake land exchange project completed

Closing in on the fundraising goal

By Mark Reaman

A major milestone in the Long Lake land exchange project was reached last week when the Crested Butte Land Trust (CBLT) and the U.S. Forest Service executed the official “exchange agreement” for the transaction.

It is a complex deal but this most recent move basically puts the land trust under contract with the USFS to transfer 120 acres on the east side of Long Lake from the USFS to the CBLT. The forest service will then get 15 acres of land near Copley Lake and 613 acres in the Fossil Ridge area, both of which are surrounded by national forest. The closing is expected to take place in October.

The CBLT is purchasing the 613 acres from the Trust for Public Lands (TPL). Given stipulations of the initial 2010 TPL deal with the original property owners, Butch and Judy Clark, the money from that purchase will then go toward helping affordable housing projects in the valley through the Gunnison Valley Housing Foundation. The CBLT is raising $3.3 million to facilitate the land exchange and help finance a long-term management plan for the Long Lake property that includes features such as parking.

CBLT executive director Noel Durant said the board received word about the USFS approval for the exchange agreement in late June and the CBLT gave its blessing to the agreement last week.

“This is a significant milestone in the project. It was a big day when we got word the agreement was approved by the forest service,” Durant explained. “To get the exchange agreement sets up the major pieces of the project and we feel excited that we are getting close to completion.”

Gunnison Forest District Ranger Matt McCombs echoed that excitement. “It is a win-win-win situation for the whole community,” he said. “The forest service is glad to be part of it.”

Durant said the CBLT still has about $500,000 to raise to complete the deal. He said there has been some “major headway” made with significant donors. For example, he said the Gates Family Foundation gave a second grant of $120,000 on top of an original grant of $70,000 for the project. He noted that former CBLT board president and long-time Crested Butte local and businessman Jeff Hermanson had “stepped up in a major way with a $150,000 contribution for the Long Lake project.”

Durant emphasized that because of the many facets of the deal that contribute to open space, recreation, wildlife, ranching and affordable housing, the community support has been great. “We will be setting up tours later this summer to Long Lake that will show people the impact of the exchange. It has so many positive impacts across the community. Any donation will help make this complex land exchange deal a reality.”

On the technical side of things, now that the exchange agreement is signed the CBLT will complete its due diligence and work to clean up a couple of issues with the property titles. “We will also continue to work with our neighbors on a management plan for the property,” Durant promised. “That will include things like how the public can utilize that end of the lake and how best to facilitate parking, improved signage and future trail improvements. We want to work with the entire community to deal with the challenges that come with a project like this.”

To learn more about the project or to make a donation, go to the Crested Butte Land Trust website at cblandtrust.org.

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