Peak & Prairie
June / July 1999
Beaver Brook Watershed
Submitted by the Rachel Carson Executive Committee
Many concerned citizens who reside in Clear Creek County are currently working hard to prevent a land grab and the resulting urban sprawl that is being cultivated by the City of Golden. What is at stake? The Beaver Brook Watershed, which is in the heart of a seventeen-mile open space, wildlife and scenic corridor stretching from the Mount Evans Wilderness to the Elk Meadows Park in Jefferson County. The Watershed, one of the largest remaining open spaces near Denver, provides essential habitat for mountain lion, deer, elk, wild turkey, bear, and the lake chub (a Colorado endangered species). Approximately 1,300 acres of the Watershed, formerly administered to by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), was granted to the City of Golden in the 1920s for watershed purposes. A reverter clause in that grant specifically provided that the land would revert back to the BLM if those parcels were not used for watershed purposes.
A grassroots organization in Clear Creek county called SOLVE (Save Open Lands, Vistas and the Environment) has intervened in a lawsuit filed by Golden against Clear Creek County. The group supports the County's zoning decision in 1998, which provided protection for the majority of the scenic watershed. The watershed has been engulfed in controversy since last summer, when Clear Creek County held extensive public hearings on zoning of the Watershed and surrounding U.S. forest land, State Land Board and other public lands. At those hearings, Golden tried to pressure the county to zone the 6,000 acres it owns for residential development, while county residents turned out in force to demand protection for this fragile area. The county did zone most of the parcel as "Natural Resource," while zoning 632 acres for large lot residential development.
Golden was incensed by this action, which thwarted their intention to sell the land for residential development in order to fund the city's water system improvements. Golden is alleging that the county zoning action is a "taking" of its private property rights. Clear Creek County maintains the zoning was an initial zoning of the land and therefore cannot be a taking of a zoned property right. Indeed, the County points out that the land has always been public as evidenced by the fact that Golden has never paid property taxes on the land.
A private land trust, MALT (Mountain Area Land Trust), has been negotiating to purchase the land from Golden for public open space for several years. In fact, their first offer for $6,000,000—the asking price at the time—was rejected by Golden. The City decided it could get a great deal more money in a thriving residential market. A marketing offer was initiated to market the land for a much higher price.
SOLVE advocates for the protection of the natural environment and open space of Clear Creek County. The group has a special focus on the Beaver Brook Watershed and believes the area would be unsuited for massive, low-density residential development. The area, which is visible from Highway 103, contains steep slopes and is subject to wildfire hazards. SOLVE believes extensive residential development would severely impact wildlife corridors and habitat and degrade water quality. Additionally, visible scenic vistas would be scarred as a result of the necessary grading to accommodate roadways and new housing development.
SOLVE believes that the actions by the City of Golden is irresponsible and intends to continue to defend the County's right to zone this land for preservation and limited residential development. However, they need help.
What You Can DoPlease contact Marilyn Hogan at 303-670-2983 or Etta Debenham at 303-674-0633. Also, contributions would be gladly accepted. A membership donation of $20.00 is suggested. Please mail these to P. O. Box 30, Silverplume, CO, 80476. Finally, letters to the Golden City Council and letters of support to the Clear Creek County Board of Commissioners would be helpful.
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