The Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Board has awarded a $3.5 million grant to Douglas County to help the county recoup costs for acquiring the Sandstone Ranch Open Space.
Sandstone Ranch is a 2,038-acre property that has long been on the county’s wish list for a new public open space area. This recently acquired Douglas County Open Space property borders the Pike National Forest, has water rights dating back to the 1860s, and provides sweeping views of red rock formations, sloping meadows, and pine forests.
The county competed with developers and affluent private buyers eyeing the ranch for homesites, jumping at the chance to buy Sandstone to protect it for the public. The county had to act quickly at the beginning of 2018 to do this, using its entire open space acquisition budget and borrowing from the county’s general fund with the approval from the Board of Douglas County Commissioners. Now that Sandstone’s future is secure, the GOCO grant will allow Douglas County to replenish its funds for future conservation work.
“We recognize that the Sandstone Ranch acquisition is so much more than just the preservation of 2,038 acres,” said Roger Partridge, on behalf of the Board of Douglas County Commissioners. “It is the preservation of the County’s history, heritage, wildlife habitat, as well as other cultural and natural resources—a quality of life investment for present and future generations.”
A public engagement process to determine the best uses of the ranch will now get underway, with public access opening in 2019 anticipated to provide much needed relief for other open space properties in the area. Public usage of county open space trails has increased by 98% in the last five years, with more than 568,000 people hiking, biking, or riding horses on existing trails in 2017.
“Sandstone Ranch offers the perfect opportunity to thoughtfully create new ways for the people of Douglas County and the surrounding areas to access the great outdoors,” said Michele Frishman, manager of program operations at GOCO.
The public outreach process will consider how to balance recreation with wildlife habitat protection, as the ranch is home to a number of species that use the property as a migration route between Pike National Forest and protected land to the east.
The project will also honor the Sandstone Ranch’s rich agricultural history by continuing ranching operations on the property with a herd of red angus cattle.
The $3.5 million grant is part of GOCO’s Protect Initiative, a special initiative focused on once-in-a-lifetime projects to conserve large landscapes of land.
To date, GOCO has invested $41.5 million in projects in Douglas County and has conserved more than 36,000 acres of land there. GOCO funding has supported the East West Regional Trail, Phillip S. Miller Park, and the East Plum Creek Trail, among other projects.
Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) invests a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to help preserve and enhance the state’s parks, trails, wildlife, rivers, and open spaces. GOCO’s independent board awards competitive grants to local governments and land trusts and makes investments through Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Created when voters approved a Constitutional Amendment in 1992, GOCO has since funded more than 5,000 projects in urban and rural areas in all 64 counties without any tax dollar support. Visit GOCO.org for more information.
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