“We’re really pleased that the Aspen Valley Land Trust, Pitkin County and the City of Aspen are willing to protect land in Gunnison County”
By Katherine Nettles
A historic Gunnison County property formerly used by Outward Bound and abutting both wilderness and the town of Marble has been conserved in perpetuity this fall, through a partnership between the Crested Butte Land Trust (CBLT), Aspen Valley Land Trust (AVLT) and Pitkin County.
The $1.8 million deal closed on the 42-acre property in early October. The AVLT now owns it and the other two parties, CBLT and Pitkin County, are co-holding the easement. Although it is close to the border between the two counties, roughly following the peak ridge line of the Elk Mountains, the property sits squarely in Gunnison County.
CBLT executive director Jake Jones says the appeal of conserving this property is keeping the land open in its current state to continue providing outdoor and nature-based education for youth. “In its location, it’s virtually an inholding surrounded by federal land. It really is in the backcountry. And these are the places we’ve worked to protect, at that critical interface of the built environment around the town of Marble and the National Forest and the wilderness beyond this parcel.”
The property went up for sale last winter, and Jones said in addition to the historic outdoor education component and the “unbelievable scenery in that area,” protecting wildlife was another primary conservation value that drew the three parties to the deal this spring.
Jones said AVLT took the lead on acquiring both this parcel and an adjacent parcel previously acquired which is held in a similar conservation easement with the same partners.
He explains that even when the “grantor,” or owner, is a land trust, another land trust is still required to hold a conservation easement for legal protection. “Our job is to ensure it is protected in perpetuity,” he said of the CBLT’s role in the parcel’s future alongside Pitkin County.
“AVLT absolutely deserves the credit for making this happen. We’re really pleased that the AVLT, Pitkin County and the City of Aspen are willing to protect land in Gunnison County. We think that’s a pretty big deal,” says Jones.
There is also sentimental value for many people of the Gunnison Valley who have been involved with Outward Bound at its Marble Base Camp in the past.
“For me personally it has significance because I worked for Outward Bound for a decade and I lived on that campus in the summer of 2000,” says Jones. The Outward Bound basecamp facility has been there since 1962, although it closed during the beginning of COVID and has not been actively used in a few years.
“It was a really pivotal point in my career when I became a course director as a step up from a course instructor, which led to a role in administration,” says Jones. “That basecamp was used to support wilderness activities for participants in the nearby National Forest wilderness areas for many years. This was the original Outward Bound course area for North America, right here in our backyard.
“There are a lot of Outward Bound alumni in the valley,” adds Jones. “It was one of those rites of passage, and certainly in the older days those who aspired to build a career in the outdoors got their start there. A lot of those people are still in our community.”
While the AVLT raised funds to purchase the property, they still have to address deferred maintenance to the facility and they have a large fundraising goal still ahead to reopen it for outdoor programming.
The CBLT also holds the easement on AVLT’s Chapin Wright Marble Basecamp campus located next door.
“This acquisition will double the AVLT’s outdoor education program and is a great example of collaboration over wilderness areas and across county line,” says Carly Bollinger, communication & engagement director for AVLT. “It’s a great feather in CBLT’s cap of historic projects as well as it was the first Outward Bound campus in the country.
“Aspen Valley Land Trust is honored to again be working with Crested Butte Land Trust and Pitkin County to protect this spectacular property,” continues Bollinger. “We often talk about how wildlife doesn’t know county or regional boundaries and the same is true for our partnerships and the public support we have received for this project. This is a great example of collaboration, and we look forward to forever stewarding Marble Basecamp with these dedicated partners.”
Jones echoed Bollinger’s remarks.
“I can’t overstate the importance of money being invested from them all… to protect property in Gunnison County. It is very honorable. I’d love to see Marble invested in more.”