By Dyana Z. Furmansky
The Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District (CMPRD) board of directors agreed at an Oct. 13 meeting to show Eagle County the conceptual master plan for recreational expansion on a portion of an expected land transfer from the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to the county. The 71-acre parcel lies within the Forest Service’s El Jebel Administrative Site adjacent to Crown Mountain Park.
CMPRD Director Rebecca Wagner told the board that Eagle County had “budgeted tearing down the old 16,000-foot building” on the site, but CMPRD may want to renovate it for indoor sports. “They want to clear that building out and flatten it as soon as possible,” said Wagner. The building, once part of the long-closed Mount Sopris Tree Farm, is considered “a hazard,” she said. The board discussed whether the structure might be eligible for historic protection. Wagner said that the deadline for the building’s removal meant that Eagle County needed to see CMRPD’s master plan, “like now.”
The CMPRD board’s discussion came just days before the Forest Service posted a Federal Register Notice that it would conduct an Environmental Assessment (EA) for the administrative site. An EA is narrower in scope than an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). “The developed 31-acre Upper Parcel included several buildings, and the undeveloped 40-acre Lower Parcel included riparian habitat along the Roaring Fork River,” said White River National Forest Public Affairs Officer David Boyd.
“Based on public and internal comments about conveying the important riparian habitat of the Lower Parcel, we’ve revised the proposal to include only the Upper Parcel,” Boyd said. This means that the Roaring Fork River’s riparian area must be managed to preserve the natural values, possibly by a local conservation organization. “With only the Upper Parcel being considered for conveyance, an Environmental Assessment will provide the appropriate level of analysis,” he said. The Forest Service expects the EA and public comment period to begin soon. The EA must be completed before any transfer becomes final, and before Eagle County or CMPRD can do anything with the land.
Other options reported to be under consideration for development at the El Jebel site are senior and affordable housing, as well as a housing provision for USFS personnel. Boyd explained to The Sopris Sun that administrative site transfers from the White River National Forest to adjacent jurisdictions are also possible in Summit County and in the Holy Cross District, where resort real estate prices are too high for government employee housing.
“We’ll need a lot of time to plan what we want to do,” said CMPRD board member Leroy Deroux. “We would need to get the property under our control, and be at the table because we really do have a purpose for this land.” The conceptual master plan prepared by DHM Design includes two multi-use pavilions for year-round indoor and outdoor sports, and mini-fields for simultaneous games. An ice rink, trampoline center, Frisbee golf course and climbing area are some of the CMPRD amenities considered. Bike Park Director Nate Grinzinger showed the board photos of intensive-use recreational facilities in Crested Butte and Bend, Oregon.
Board President Tim Power Smith asked about the scale of these developments, and whether they were suitable for CMPRD. “Crested Butte is a very touristy place, and doesn’t have a lot of locals there anymore,” he said. While CMPRD events like the recent lacrosse tournament had to find space for 800 cars, Wagner and Grinzinger expressed concern about how much paved parking would be needed for new sports facilities. “We don’t want a Walmart feeling, or anything too concrete or black-toppish,” said Wagner. Smith agreed. “You don’t build church for Easter Sunday,” he said.
The only member of the public who attended the CMPRD meeting was Mark Godomsky, executive director of the 85-year old Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club. Godomsky said he regularly attends CMPRD board meetings and has met with park staff and board members about Aspen Valley Club’s desire to provide youth athletic programs on the USFS parcel, once transfer to Eagle County has been approved.
“We’re going to fund a facility whether it’s here or somewhere else,” Godomsky told the board. “We’ve progressed enough to look downvalley for a place as far as Glenwood,” he said. “Whether we have to spend $5 million or much more, we need a place in the valley for kids to congregate.” Godomsky asserted the club’s interest in partnering with CMPRD to provide its brand of youth athletics, and to retain the tree farm structure slated to be torn down. “We need to engage with you soon before we shuffle off to somewhere else to make this happen.”