GOCO grant boosts Gunnison Valley open space, trails

Benefits 100-mile trail

A trail between Crested Butte and Carbondale got a boost recently from a Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Legacy grant awarded to Pitkin County, as did conservation efforts in the Gunnison River’s upper watershed.




The $5 million Crystal Watershed Project grant includes construction funding for the first five miles of a trail between Carbondale and the BRB Crystal River Resort. The trail will eventually connect the Roaring Fork Valley with Crested Butte.
The grant will also fund Pitkin County open space purchases—including a parcel near Redstone that is home to “The Drool,” a popular ice climb—and conservation easements for the Cold Mountain and Ute Meadows Ranches, both large open space tracts.
The $5 million for the Crystal Watershed Project was part of $57 million in Legacy grants allocated to 15 projects. Besides preserving 138,000 acres of Colorado open space, the grants will expand recreation opportunities, help maintain green buffers, protect viewsheds and create 40 miles of new trails, according to a December 3 press release from Governor Bill Ritter and the GOCO Trust Fund Board. GOCO grants are funded by the Colorado Lottery.
In addition to six new state Legacy allocations including funds for the Crystal Watershed Project, the GOCO Legacy grants continue to support existing projects, including the Gunnison Headwaters Project, which received another $3 million.
The Gunnison Headwaters Partnership will use GOCO funds to help protect 1,360 acres of productive ranchlands, stream corridors, scenic vistas and habitat for the Gunnison sage grouse and other wildlife.
The project’s components are located in the three major valleys that form the Gunnison River’s upper watershed: Slate River/Gunnison River, Ohio Creek and the Tomichi Creek regions. Individually, the parcels to be conserved are not large; however, they are significant in tying together GOCO’s previous investments as well as the vision of the project partners to protect the three river corridors.
Prior to this award, GOCO invested substantial funds in the project area through Legacy grants to the Gunnison Ranchlands Conservation Legacy, and through open space grants to the Crested Butte Land Trust.
Kay Peterson, chairperson of Gunnison County Trails Commission, says the addition of the five-mile section of trail in Pitkin County will have a positive effect on efforts to complete the 100-mile trail.
“Anything that moves the trail toward Crested Butte is a good thing,” she says.
Peterson says next summer her group will work on the section of trail from the Crested Butte side that begins on the west end of the Old Kebler Wagon Road, just west of town. From there, the proposed route will pick up the Irwin trail toward Horse Ranch Park and then continue to Erickson Springs. After Erickson Springs, it will traverse the Ragged Mountain Range, climb McClure Pass and ultimately descend along the Crystal River to the new section of trail linking Carbondale.
Peterson says the chances of receiving grant money for the Crested Butte side are bolstered by the GOCO Legacy allocation.
“It validates the project,” she says.

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