CoalBasin Steve Lee, of Carbondale, rides the berms at Coal Basin Ranch near Redstone, Colorado, on Tuesday, July 13, 2021. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

Gary Tennenbaum remembers the first time he first spoke with the new owners of a long-dormant coal mine up the Crystal River Valley, near Redstone. It was a few years ago and the owners, grandsons of Walmart founder Sam Walton, offered a plan unlike any other to the longtime director of Pitkin County Open Space and Trails had seen before.

They wanted to continue restoration work at the 221-acre mine site that they purchased in 2015. They had a plan to build mountain bike trails, and they wanted access to the trails to be free, and they wanted the county to have an easement assuring public access. That was it.

“We were like, huh? OK then,” Tennenbaum said. “Definitely a first for us. It’s a new twist, for sure.”

Most Pitkin County landowners — really, most landowners everywhere — who offer public access on their property want something in return. In Pitkin County that usually means “transferable development rights” that allow a larger home than county regulations allow or approval for other development plans. This was the first time a Pitkin County landowner presented open space officials with a free-for-all access plan that had no quid-pro-quo requests. 

 Read the full story at ColoradoSun.com