Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park
 

LARIMER COUNTY OPEN LANDS ADVISORY BOARD MEETING

MINUTES

Thursday, May 26, 2005 – 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Loveland Library Multipurpose Room

 

The mission of the Larimer County Open Lands Program is to preserve and protect significant open space, natural areas, wildlife habitat, develop parks and trails for present and future generations.  These open lands provide opportunities for leisure, human renewal and protection of our natural and cultural resources.

 

 
 

 

 

 

 


Present:

Open Lands Board Members:

Brian Hayes

Duane Pond

Peter Kast

Bob Streeter

Jim White

Ted Swanson

Lori Jeffrey-Clark

Jean Carpenter

Sue Sparling

 

 

Staff

Meegan Flenniken

Jerry White

K-Lynn Cameron

Charlie Johnson

Gary Buffington

Kerri Rollins

Marc Engemoen

Travis Rollins

Amanda Cook

Glenn Gibson

Ernst Strenge

 

 

Absent: 

Bill Newman

Mark DeGregorio

Ben Manvel

 

 

Chair, Peter Kast called the meeting to order at 5:15 p.m.

 

Bob Streeter motioned to approve the minutes of April 2005; seconded by Sue Sparling. The motion passed unanimously.

 

PUBLIC COMMENT

No public comment

 

INFORMATION ITEMS

·  Larimer County and The Nature Conservancy toured the Laramie Foothills with board members and funders of the Colorado Conservation Trust to seek additional support for this project.

·  The Colorado Conservation Trust has awarded the Open Lands Program of the Parks and Open Lands Department a fellowship.  This fellowship will provide $25,000 to fund a Fellow to work in the Open Lands Program for one year.  We will be interviewing for this position on May 31, 2005.

·  The Blue Sky Trail (Rimrock Phase II) grant application for $200,000 was fully funded by the Colorado State Parks State Trails Program.

·  On June 9, 2005, Larimer County and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District will be previewing the public tour for the Blue Mountain Conservation Area, including the Chimney Hollow Open Space.  It may be useful for 1-2 Open Lands Board members to attend.  Check with Kerri if you are interested.

·  The Colorado Open Space Alliance (COSA) is sponsoring a Conservation Excellence and Tax Credit Program Workshop on Friday, June 10, 2005 from 9:00 am to 12 noon at Jefferson County Open Space, 700 Jefferson County Pkwy.  Facilitated by Mike Strugar of the Conservation Resource Center, this free workshop will feature new state and federal developments currently happening with tax credits, and the recent reviews being conducted by the state and federal authorities in this area.  Hear directly from state tax representatives, local open space programs and land trusts on these and other issues.  See Kerri for agenda details and/or to RSVP.

·  Eagle’s Nest Open Space will be dedicated on Saturday, June 11 from 10am to 11am.  Guided hikes will be offered before (starting at 8am) and immediately after the dedication.

·  Driving tours to Soapstone Natural Area and Red Mountain Open Space will be offered to the public by the City of Fort Collins.  For information, contact Pat Hayward at 219-0609.  In addition, Larimer County will offer a combination of driving, hiking & horse tours (to existing horse organizations only).

·  Tours to Red Mountain Open Space.  For those who have not been able to tour the Laramie Foothills: Mountains to Plains project, you are lucky!  We have scheduled 2 special tours you may join if you have missed out previously.  On Friday, June 17 and Friday, July 15, we are offering tours to Open Lands Board members as well as Planning, Engineering and Finance folks.  Kerri is your contact.

·  The Open Lands Board Picnic at Red Mountain Ranch on July 31st.   Reserve the date.  For those  interested, we will offer hikes &/or drives both before & after the picnic lunch. Please RSVP to Kerri.

·  Updated Open Lands Advisory Board membership roster was handout.

·  Parks and Open Lands Activities for June were handout.

 

BOARD COMMENT

No comments from the Board regarding items not on the agenda.

 

PRESENTATION

·  Visitor Enjoyment and Resource Protection on the Blue Mountain District Open Spaces: A Ranger’s Perspective – Travis Rollins and Amanda Cook

 

Amanda discussed how the rangers use volunteers in many projects such as trail hosting (8 volunteers active now), monitor raptor nests, trailhead hosting groups such as Diamond Peaks Mountain Bike Patrol who talk to people about trail etiquette and respecting other trail users, trail maintenance groups, raptor monitors, etc. 

 

Travis discussed the Northern Colorado Training courses designed for and by Larimer County Open Lands rangers and City of Fort Collins Natural Areas rangers.  This was a 40 hour/1 week training that will eventually be opened up statewide through the Colorado Open Space Alliance (COSA).  This training in turn initiated some new protocols such as improved first aid kits, map booklets for every vehicle and new duty belts that contain safety and communication equipment that they will have with them all the time.  Bob asked if we had a protocol in place that if there was a fire we would let it burn.  Meegan said we are looking at issues such as that but have no protocol at this time.

 

Visitor Use surveys are also being conducted at Fossil Creek and Devil’s Backbone.  These include vehicle counters that account for 1.5 people per vehicle.  They are unable to capture walk-in or bike-in visitors.  In January Fossil Creek had more visitors than the Devil’s Backbone, and overall has almost matched the total number of visitors at the Backbone.  Another part of this survey is a written survey for our passive recreation areas mailed to 200 people from the database.  The survey will also be completed orally at the Devil’s Backbone, Ramsay Shockey and Fossil Creek open spaces. 

 

Enforcement on open lands is primarily through Authority of the Resource (ART).  Coverage changes are also changing with the increase in daylight hours.  Rangers are also always promoting the Open Lands Program with every contact they make.  Bob asked where funds collected from penalty assessments goes.  Gary said it comes back to the Department.  Sue asked how many tickets they write. Travis said 15-20 per year with over 60,000 visitors.  In this regard ART is very effective. 

 

Travis then reviewed some key projects they have worked on as well as some interesting wildlife sightings on our open lands.  Peter asked if we are experiencing Fossil Creek being “loved to death”.  Travis said the way the trails are set up (concrete and soft surface) it has been going well.  Seasonal trail closure and routing of trail away from the reservoir also helps with preserving the resource.  Bob asked about Master Naturalist Programs as compared to our Volunteer naturalist Program.  Glenn asked who will be working on the odor problem at Duck Lake.  Travis said its on the work plan for this year.  K-Lynn explained we will be creating a pumping system that will help eliminate the odors.  Ernst and Charlie will be working on that project.

 

ACTION

§  Sifke Conservation Easement Donation Final Review – Charlie reviewed the details of this 35-acre easement donation valued at $95,000 and located adjacent to Indian Creek.  We will pay $3000 for the appraisal work.  The easement will fully restrict development but will allow for grazing and hence allow a stock tank and an animal shelter facility.  Bob asked about management costs.  K-Lynn said it falls under the costs of Meegan’s salary, who will also have some volunteers helping with easement monitoring. 

Duane moved to recommend the Board of County Commissioners accept the donation of the 35-acre Sifke property.  Sue seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

 

·  Wenninger Rural Land Use Project-  Jim Reidhead of the Rural Land Use Program (RLUP) is requesting emergency access through Hidden Valley at Devil’s Backbone Open Space for the Wenninger Rural Land Use Project.  Access would be on the paved road that passes the Devil’s Backbone Open Space and services the Hidden Valley home sites.  The road will be gated at the Wenninger property so regular use will not be permitted.  The main access will be to the east of the project.  Bob clarified that it won’t allow any new development, maintenance.

Jim moved to approve the emergency access across Hidden Valley for the Wenninger Rural Land Use Project.  Bob seconded and the motion passed unanimously. 

 

Discussion Items

·  James A.Wild (JAW) Trust land at east side of Devil’s Backbone Open Space - Access issues to this property were discussed with Kitty Wild at the 2/04 OLAB meeting but no action was taken at that time.  Jim Reidhead reviewed the complex issue.  Hidden Valley has 5-6 property owners who have decided to go through the RLUP for development. The BOCC has already given preliminary approval to their development proposal.  Backbone Meadows, a proposal to develop 36 homes, is being developed adjacent to an existing RLUP project owned by Kitty Wild located on the west side of the Backbone.  The Wild's want to transfer 2 units from the west side (Kitty WIld’s property) to the east side (JAW Trust).  Two conditions of approval for this to happen needed to be obtained from City of Loveland:  1) modify the access agreement to allow 2 more houses to have access from Hwy 34 through Hidden Valley; 2) Two more water taps need to be re-allocated to the valley for these houses by Loveland City Council.  Brian said the Loveland Natural Areas Program Board recommended to Council not to allow these 2 things because they were adding two more houses than what could be supported by the RLUP for the valley.  Loveland's Board felt that the 35-acre alternative to the RLUP proposal would be better as the RLUP is proposing to allow two units per 35-acre lot instead of one.  Bob asked how permanent the deed restriction is on the RLUP lots on the east side.  Jim said it would hopefully be a permanent easement but could also be a restrictive covenant that is part of the development agreement reviewed by the county attorney.  Jim added that there will also be a private horse facility with private access to the Devil’s Backbone Open Space on the condition that the six homes on JAW are not allowed to have large animals. 

·  Conservation Easements: IRS audits and other critical conservation updates.  K-Lynn reviewed a letter in the packet from the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts (CCLT).  The senate finance committee has been looking at easement donations at the federal level.  There are concerns about deductions from donations.  At the state level the tax credit program has resulted in an increase in easement donations.  Now the system has been taken advantage of and the IRS is auditing landowners who have donated easements.  The IRS has targeted 150 transactions throughout Colorado.  Organizations located primarily in southeast Colorado have been caught abusing the tax credit program by allowing easements that don’t have conservation value and/or having an unqualified organization hold the easement and/or they have unqualified appraisals.  The Tax Credit Program was given by the state legislature and can be taken away by the legislature at any time if abuses are not addressed.  CCLT has hired a contractor to review these issues.  Jerry and Charlie reviewed the Sifke easement donation as an example of how we review and accept these easements.  Jerry and Charlie reviewed the necessary components as developed by the Conservation Resource Center for an appraisal that is needed to meet IRS regulations and demonstrated how they were properly used in the Sifke appraisal and all transaction of the Open Lands Program. 

·  Citizen Board for Review of Parks Issues:

·  Marc started by reviewing the organization philosophy of why we’re having this discussion.  Good news is the more we talk about this, the more we talk about other things and pieces that are falling in to place.  Behind the scenes in the organization, Larimer County and in particular the Public Works Department have a burning desire to take a good organization and turn it in to something extraordinary.  This means we do things differently than we’ve done in the past by challenging assumptions and norms while reinventing the way we do things.  Marc used the new Fairgrounds as an example. There is one vision for the Fairgrounds, even though various buildings cater to different citizen groups and may view their visions as being different.  How the buildings are managed, how books are kept, what kinds of activities take place in the various buildings, etc. are all issues that were faced when the Fairgrounds were developed, but there was a vision that all employees would work together as one. Contract companies and employees now work side by side with county employees seamlessly, and those that didn’t buy in to this vision were terminated.  We now have one of the best Fairgrounds and Events centers in the nation and the world as measured by financial performance.  Setting and obtaining a vision can be done and we’ve done it.

 

There are a lot of questions that need answered in relation to the Parks & Open Lands Department.  The current Department Master Plan is dated 1993 and much has changed since then, including population, demographics and economics of the county.    Now is the time to re-look at what we want from our Parks Program and how it can work with the Open Lands Program.  We need to revisit and re-do a comprehensive parks master plan, which will take the time of a new citizen advisory board for at least a year. Looking at long term financing options will be a big part of this effort.  It should be a separate effort because OLAB does not have the time to give to this important task. Over the next 18 months or so the Boards will continue to be separate.  What we will need to be discussed further is how joint meetings of these boards will or can happen.  How successful the integration works can influence how and if the Boards meld together in the future.  The next step is to get a feel from this Board of how they feel about this direction and if it's ok, then go to BOCC to make a recommendation that this is the direction we go for the next 18 months or so. 

 

Sue asked if the Comprehensive Parks Master Plan addressed advisory boards.  K-Lynn reminded her there was a Parks Board as well as a citizen task force of about 20 people that worked on the 1993 plan.  Bob complimented Marc for listening to OLAB comments last month, and let him know he also has a burning desire to make Larimer County a great place – genuine partnerships are important.  Bob also added that we can’t have an administration that if you don’t agree with them we kick them out the door. 

 

Marc got consensus that the Board agrees to move in this direction and he will present this scenario to the BOCC.   

 

·  Financial strategy for Open Lands – Subcommittee will continue developing alternative strategies for Open Lands financing.  Next meeting is June 13th.

 

DIRECTORS REPORT

No report was given.

 

EXECUTIVE SESSION:  Duane moved to go into Executive Session.  The motion was seconded by Sue.  Motion passed unanimously.

 

The meeting was adjourned by a motion from Bob and seconded by Sue and carried unanimously.  The meeting concluded at 8:00 pm.

 

 

Background Image: Rocky Mountain National Park by Sue Burke. All rights reserved.