Granby works to preserve more than 780 acres for recreation, wildlife habitat

Editor’s note: This article has been edited to correct details about the 66 easements Colorado Headwaters Land Trust holds in Grand County. Clarifications were added to emphasize the easement is an ongoing project, and that a winter closure will occur on the entire easement when completed.

For this year’s Public Lands Day, which takes place Sept. 23, there is even more for the community to celebrate – a new conservation easement project in Granby that will provide recreation opportunities, and critical migration corridors and habitats. Granby Highlands Trails is a conservation easement that will preserve over 780 acres of land which also includes around 1.7 miles of the Colorado River.

The easement surrounds Sun Outdoors, formerly known as River Run RV Resort.

A conservation easement is defined as a voluntary, legal agreement that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values, according to the National Conservation Easement Database.

Something special about this conservation easement project is that around 480 acres of this land will be available for recreation purposes. The Town of Granby is hoping to create around 10 miles of trails in this easement for recreational enjoyment.

A map of the Granby Highlands Trails conservation easement that is in the works.
Town of Granby/Courtesy image

The remaining 300 acres of the project are slated to be reserved for wildlife and will not be available for public recreation. Certain areas are also under consideration for closures during elk rutting season, which takes place through the middle of September through the middle of October. The entire property will have a winter closure once the project is completed.

The Granby Highlands Trails easement project will be managed by Colorado Headwaters Land Trust, while the Town of Granby maintains ownership of the land.

Jeremy Krones, the executive director of the Colorado Headwaters Land Trust says that this easement will be unique because it is owned by a municipality, there are multiple uses and it is guaranteed public access.

Colorado Headwaters Land Trust holds 66 easements in Grand County and only two currently have open public access, according to Krones.

Once completed, this easement project will conserve an important pronghorn, elk and mule deer migration corridor, and will provide winter habitat along the U.S. Highway 34. Fishing will also be available on the easement and reservations to fish along the Colorado River can be made through Granby Recreation’s website.

This land is also home to the last known sage grouse population in Granby, according to Rachael Gonzales, a Colorado Parks and Wildlife public information officer.

Jeromy Huntington, a Parks and Wildlife district wildlife manager, wrote a letter of support for the easement citing the importance of the small sage grouse population located there. Every spring male sage grouse perform elaborate displays on communal breeding grounds known as “leks.” 

Leks are wide open spaces with sagebrush where the males can be seen and heard by female sage grouse as they perform their dances and calls. These dramatic displays by male sage grouse attract birders who wish to watch the intricate performances.

This area located near Sun Outdoors in Granby will be a new conservation easement that will provide recreation opportunities and wildlife habitat.
Tara Alatorre/Sky-Hi News

This land was almost a golf course. The developers who tried turning the land into a golf course began work on the project but it was never finished. Walkways and holes from the project can still be seen on the land.

Ted Cherry, Granby’s town manager, says that he hopes that crews can begin recreational trail construction next fall. By the time next year’s Public Lands Day rolls around, the town should be breaking ground on the easement’s trail system.

While next year will bring the community even more open space to enjoy, this year residents and visitors can celebrate Public Lands Day by registering to volunteer on projects around the county this weekend. Then celebrate your hard work at the Party in the Park at 4 p.m. Sept. 23 at Polhamus Park, which is free and will include live music. All are welcome to attend.

The Granby Highlands Trails conservation easement will have about 2 river miles available for public access.
Tara Alatorre/Sky-Hi News

This easement project was made possible through donations and partnerships with Grand County’s Open Lands, Rivers, and Trails Committee, Mountain Parks Electric, Country ACE Hardware, Grand County Wilderness Group, in addition to other agencies, foundations, private donors and members of the community.

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