Central Colorado Conservancy Announces Public Purchase of Reservations in Southern Lake County – by Ark Valley Voice Staff

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Today, the Central Colorado Conservancy (CCC) announced the purchase of 110 acres along the upper Arkansas River as the third phase of establishing the Arkansas River Community Preserve (ARC Preserve). The ARC Preserve includes the Shawn Andrick Memorial Preserve, previously acquired by the Central Colorado Conservancy. The new acquisitions increase the ARC Preserve to a total of 271 acres; more than two miles of the preserve are now Arkansas River Front.

“Central Colorado Conservancy is thrilled to complete Phase 3 of the reservation. The Conservancy, along with our partners in Colorado Open Lands and Lake County, and our donors, have protected important wetlands and habitats for local wildlife, including bighorn sheep, elk, beaver and many species of birds,” said Wendy McDermott, executive director of the Central Colorado Conservancy. “The reservation will be a wonderful resource for Lake County residents and visitors to the region. Growing up in Colorado, I have ridden between Buena Vista and Leadville countless times and have always been amazed by the beauty of the Arkansas River and the hills and forests where the Arkansas River Community Preserve is now.”

A protection easement has been established on the reservation, owned by Colorado Open Lands, and a public access easement is held and administered by Lake County. Public access to the property for activities such as hiking and fishing will open in about a year, once a management plan that balances recreational uses with protection of wildlife habitats is approved. Public traffic is not permitted until the management plan is available.

“Colorado Open Lands is proud to be working with the Central Colorado Conservancy, Lake County, and our donors to expand protection of this special canyon along the Arkansas River,” said Ben Lenth, Colorado Open Lands senior project manager. “It is a real feat to reassemble 18 separate parcels to create this reserve, starting with Andrick family land and now spanning almost the entire stretch of the canyon from Hayden Meadows to nearly Granite. Anyone who has driven between Leadville and Buena Vista drives more than two miles straight through, and we can celebrate that this country will always be available to wildlife and to people. Congratulations to everyone involved.”

“Lake County is excited about the establishment of the ARC Preserve and thanks the Central Colorado Conservancy, the Colorado Open Lands, our funders and other partners and stakeholders for making this possible,” said Lake County Commissioner Sarah Mudge. “The reserve is a striking example of long-term land use planning at work. For decades, the Lake County Open Space Initiative (LCOSI) and its key partners, including CCC and the Upper Arkansas River Restoration Project, have championed the invaluable stewardship and restoration of the Arkansas River, transforming this river corridor into Gold Medal Water status. This landscape of so much natural and historic value will be protected forever for the benefit of our community.”

The Arkansas River Community Preserve, which includes the Shawn Andrick Memorial Preserve, was made possible by grants from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), the California Gulch Superfund Site Natural Resource Damages (NRD) Recovery Fund, and private donations.

“The Arkansas River Community Preserve is the impressive result of over a decade of collaboration and perseverance,” said Jackie Miller, Executive Director of GOCO. “We congratulate the Central Colorado Conservancy, Colorado Open Lands, Lake County and their partners on the continued protection of their critical land, water and wildlife resources and the expanded opportunities Coloradans will now have to experience nature. The reserve is truly a gift to future generations.”

“The Colorado Central Conservancy has been a valuable partner in preserving Colorado’s natural heritage through several projects over the years. I appreciate that CCC is proactive in thinking and planning protected wildlife corridors through riparian areas and other critical habitats,” said Attorney General Phil Weiser, who serves as chair of the Natural Resources Trustees for the state of Colorado. “I thank them for working with landowners to ensure their transactions proceed as promised, and I look forward to working with CCC in the future as opportunities like this arise.”

The protected land is an important link to existing public lands, including three Colorado State Parks and Wildlife Refuges, Bureau of Land Management lands and the San Isabel National Forest. Both the Top of the Rockies and the Collegiate Peaks Scenic Byway run along the river alongside land. With Colorado facing significant population growth and pressures, it is considered critical to protect wildlife habitat corridors such as these from development while still possible to benefit the public now and in the future.

Featured Image: The 110-acre ARC Preserve. Photo courtesy of Central Colorado Conservancy.