City acquires riverfront land

Parcel will include trails, fishing areas, conservation plots

— The city of Steamboat Springs has acquired land that officials said is ideal for public fishing, wildlife watching and environmental education.

The land, formerly owned by Jim and Ann Fournier, is about 13 acres on the west side of Steamboat Springs, south of U.S. Highway 40. City officials wouldn't specify the location of the property because public amenities are not ready.

The parcel includes a half-mile bank along the Yampa River. Officials said the land is environmentally sensitive and will be protected. It will also provide access for fishing and other uses. It provides views of Mount Werner and Emerald Mountain, and it will include soft-surface paths and an extension of the Yampa River Core Trail.

The Yampa River is recognized as one of the most hydrologically and biologically intact river systems in the Western United States, according to a news release from the city.

Acquisition of the Fournier property was identified in the original plan for the Yampa River Legacy Project, which is a land conservation and recreation management plan.

Jim Fournier said the sale was based on the couple's desire to see the land remain preserved.

"The last thing we wanted was this piece of river being built to the edge with houses," he said.

Linda Kakela, the city's director of intergovernmental services, said city officials are excited about the acquisition.

"We're so pleased that Jim and Ann Fournier have shared the vision to have that jewel of a river and riparian area to become part of city parks," said Kakela, who was the manager for the project.

Fournier said he hopes the land will be dedicated to the memory of his son, Morgan, who died in March 2005.

The purchase was made possible with a $190,000 Great Outdoors Colorado grant, a $135,000 Routt County Purchase of Development Rights program grant, a $100,000 grant from the Colorado Conservation Trust in partnership with The Kettering Family Foundation, and $144,000 in funding from the city.

Great Outdoors Colorado awards funds for projects that preserve, protect and enhance parks, wildlife, trails, rivers and open space. The Purchase of Development Rights program uses a 1.5-mill property tax to preserve ranchlands and other areas. The Colorado Conservation Trust is a nonprofit organization that brings together public and private partners to protect Colorado's threatened landscapes.

The Yampa Valley Land Trust will hold the conservation easement, which means that the city will own the property under certain rules. The Land Trust is a nonprofit land conservation organization.

Steamboat Springs City Council President Ken Brenner said the parcel is advantageous because of its size and ability to provide wildlife habitat.

"There's just not many pieces of land on the river corridor in the city left," he said. "It's important for the city, over time, to meet the goal of acquiring these key parcels."

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