Garfield County supporting AVLT ranch project

Land trust is partnering with the town of Carbondale to purchase property

January 20, 2021

Garfield County is backing the Aspen Valley Land Trust’s (AVLT) purchase of a ranch property near Carbondale for use as an educational resource for local schools that also provides public access to a remote stretch of the Roaring Fork River. The Board of County Commissioners approved $200,000 from the Conservation Trust Fund to be granted to the town of Carbondale toward the project.

AVLT is raising $6.5 million to purchase and protect the 141-acre Coffman Ranch, and plans to keep the ranch activities in operation. The property is located south of Highway 82 just east of Carbondale, between the Rio Grande Trail and Roaring Fork River.

The nonprofit noted that the purchase will help sustain and support local agriculture; increase outdoor access for the entire community, with a focus on schools and youth groups; improve wildlife habitat; and help protect an important scenic buffer zone and 35 acres of wetland.

The commissioners stressed that the three-quarters of a mile stretch of public river access is a great benefit to the community. That public access easement was a requirement of the county funding.

“This project fits well with the Carbondale community and the ranching culture of the Roaring Fork Valley,” said Commissioner Tom Jankovsky. “The access to the river for the public is very important.”

AVLT has already secured more than $5 million toward the purchase: $2.5 million from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Protect Initiative, $2 million from Pitkin County, and $530,000 from its River Valley Ranch Open Space Fund. The Coffman family is retiring and contributing an estimated $1.25 million in donated land value to make sure they’re “leaving the ranch in good hands,” according to AVLT.

The nonprofit added that the ranch has provided important winter and spring pasture and hay production for many community ranchers over the past 30 years. Carbondale Town Manager Jay Harrington thanked the board for its support of the project.

“I very much appreciate the county commissioners’ consideration on the conservation trust funding for this valuable project,” he said.

“This is not a conservation easement. This is an actual purchase of the land,” added Suzanne Stevens, AVLT executive director. “We feel that by AVLT buying it, we can protect several important values, not the least of which is a working agricultural operation that has existed in conjunction with the wildlife and riparian areas on this property for many, many years. The Coffmans have done a beautiful job with it.”

The commissioners approved the Town of Carbondale’s funding request unanimously, 3-0.

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