Pitkin County officials plan to buy nearly 15 acres parallel to Prince Creek Road from the Tybar Ranch for $1.25 million and designate it for recreational use.
The county’s open space and trails board on Thursday unanimously approved the acquisition, which will go in front of the commissioners next week for their review.
Open space officials have secured a contract with the owners of Tybar Ranch to purchase 14.6 acres parallel to the road for $750,000 to create a new 1-mile trail along Prince Creek, and the 4.6-acre “Bull Pen” parcel near the bottom of the reach for $500,000 that would be used as a trailhead.
Prince Creek Road runs about 6 miles from the Crystal Trail/Highway 133 to the Dinkel Lake turnoff to Mount Sopris, where recreational use by mountain bikers and hikers has dramatically increased, according to Dale Will, open space director.
“This road has become a popular cycling route,” he said. “The trail will get people off the road. ... This purchase is making a lot of sense for public value.”
Mark Nieslanik, manager of Tybar Ranch, said on weekend days, there are between 30 and 40 cars parked in the area of the Prince Creek subdivision, and often times they overflow onto private property.
The primary users are mountain bikers looking to access trails currently on the private “Haynes” parcel, the Crown and Hay Park. That traffic is coupled with nearby residents walking along the road, as well as ranching machinery being used in the area.
“Someone is going to be killed on that road,” Nieslanik said, in reference to the impetus of Tybar Ranch selling the land to the county open space program. “It will be safer for everyone all the way around.”
The Tybar Ranch reach of the road has been described as a “choke point” where many curves and poor sight-lines create unsafe conditions, Will wrote in a memo to the open space board.
The acquisition would create a grade separation on the narrowest and busiest portion of the road.
“The property wasn’t being used at all,” Nieslanik said. “It’s just a benefit for everyone.”
Just above the trail corridor lies the Haynes parcel, now owned by Leslie Wexner, owner of Limited Brands Inc. The area experiences a lot of mountain biking by the public, which so far has been tolerated by a succession of private owners, according to Will.
Above the property the open space program plans to purchase, bikers and other users can either continue up Prince Creek Road to the Bureau of Land Management boundary, or can access existing trails on the Haynes property so long as it’s allowed by the owners — or until the land is acquired by the BLM as proposed by the Wexners in what’s known as the Sutey Ranch land exchange.
Will said open space staff will include area neighbors and other interested parties in the design of the recreational improvements, which likely will be in the form of a soft surface trail along the creek and possibly a bathroom at the trailhead.