City to buy more Horse Gulch land: Durango Herald

Good news for open space reported in todays Herald!

City to buy more Horse Gulch land
Great Outdoors Colorado grant to fund $1.2M open-space purchase
by Garrett Andrews
Herald Staff Writer

The city of Durango recently was awarded a $1.2 million grant to purchase land in Horse Gulch now owned by Fort Lewis College.
Gov. Bill Ritter held a news conference Thursday in Denver to announce that $24 million in lottery money was going out in a fresh round of funding. Twenty-three projects in 16 counties will be funded through Great Outdoors Colorado grants, including a 366-acre open-space purchase in Horse Gulch.

“This is huge news for Durango,” said Paul Wilbert, chairman of the city’s Natural Lands Preservation Advisory Board. “Aside from being a spectacular recreational area, this acreage drapes over both sides of Raider Ridge, so preserving this property guarantees there will never be trophy homes on this section of this very visible ridgeline above Durango.”

GOCO approved 16 projects containing more than 73,000 acres. GOCO receives about half of the Colorado Lottery proceeds.

In examining grant applications, the state looks to connect existing open-space parcels as often as possible, GOCO spokeswoman Chris Leding said.

“We chose the Horse Gulch property because Durango has identified it as a priority,” she said. “Clearly, Durango is interested in preserving as much of this land as possible.”

It’s the third GOCO grant to preserve open space in Horse Gulch. Including the new parcel, the city now owns or is in the process of purchasing more than 1,100 acres in Horse Gulch.

Durango started with 160 acres there in the 1990s. The land was designated for use either for recreation or a reservoir, said Kevin Hall, development manager for Parks, Open Space and Trails. But with the impending completion of the Animas-La Plata Project, it doesn’t look like a reservoir ever will be constructed in Horse Gulch, he said.

Hall said voters who supported the 2005 open-space sales-tax initiative are getting their wish.

“It’s given us the ability to leverage our applications with matching funds,” he said.

City Manager Ron LeBlanc credited the city’s “distributive” style of grant writing. Cities such as Montrose hire grant writers or assign existing staff members to write grants. LeBlanc said he prefers allowing staff members to work with the state and federal agencies with which they are most familiar.

FLC Finance Director Steve Schwartz said with school budget cuts totaling $4 million in “recurring dollars” every year, a one-time $1.2 million payment won’t help in preventing big budget moves, such as layoffs and raising tuition. The money might go to a new capital project, Schwartz said, but the FLC Board of Trustees hasn’t yet determined how to spend the proceeds.

“It’s a little extra money,” Schwartz said. “But it’s really not about the money; it’s about preserving the land.”

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