Estes Valley Open Space Plan
The Estes Valley Land Trust and our partners are proud to present the Estes Valley Open Space Plan, a community-focused land conservation plan for the next ten years.
Through public meetings, surveys, and feedback, we have compiled our community’s priorities for land conservation and mapped out where our work will be most valuable. We focus on wildlife habitat, scenic views, recreation access, and historic landscapes.
Get an overview of the plan with this video, or read the full plan below:
Frequently Asked Questions
What is this plan?
The Estes Valley Land Trust led a community planning effort to identify the highest remaining conservation and recreation priorities located near Estes Park, Colorado. The plan will be used by the Estes Valley Land Trust to pursue conservation easements with willing landowners.
The Estes Valley is composed of small mountain towns with development pressure and high demand for additional recreation access. The Estes Valley Open Space Plan identifies the most important areas of the valley that should be preserved with a permanent conservation easement or acquired for outdoor recreation access.
What are the goals outlined in the Plan?
The Estes Valley Land Trust has conserved nearly 10,000 acres in over 30 years. The primary goal of this Plan is to increase the pace of conservation and conserve another 5,000 acres in the next decade.
The land trust has always partnered with private landowners, public agencies, donors, volunteers, developers and the business community to conserve land. The Plan recognizes that partnering with other organizations is still the best way to achieve this ambitious goal.
Does the plan restrict land uses?
No, the plan is not a zoning ordinance, update to the development code or comprehensive land use plan. The Estes Valley Open Space Plan will not limit a landowner’s use of their land. It simply helps the Estes Valley Land Trust identify the properties that have the highest conservation values and educates landowners about the opportunity to donate a conservation easement, to preserve sensitive natural resources and wildlife habitat.
Does the plan cover public or private land?
The plan will cover both public and private land in the Estes Valley and helps identify and prioritize land conservation that links public and private land.
For private land, the plan will identify large areas of land that comprise many parcels with high conservation value, such as important wetlands or wildlife corridors. The land trust will use the identification of these areas to focus our conservation efforts and educate those landowners about voluntarily conserving land through a conservation easement.
Since public land, like Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest, is already conserved, the plan also recommends enhancing Forest Service access, such as developing new trailheads.
Why is this plan also identifying new outdoor recreation areas?
People protect what they cherish and providing access to the outdoors helps instill a strong conservation ethic. With more than 4.5 million visitors recreating in the Estes Valley each year, the demand for additional outdoor recreation is increasing.
The Estes Valley Land Trust already holds a few conservation easements that allow public access. These types of projects are of interest to our partners and create new conservation opportunities.
Is the land trust pushing public access on private land?
No, the vision for additional outdoor recreation involves partnering with a public agency, like Larimer County or the Town of Estes Park. This would be similar to Hermit Park Open Space (Larimer County) or Centennial Open Space at Knoll-Willows (Town of Estes Park), both of which are protected with a land trust conservation easement.
If a private landowner wishes to provide public access via a donated conservation easement, the land trust would work with them to locate the trail in a manner that does not harm other conservation values.
What is the geographic scope of the project?
The project area includes the Estes Valley between Rocky Mountain National Park and Drake and Glen Haven into the Tahosa Valley and beyond Allenspark. The land trust currently holds conservation easements in Larimer and Boulder counties.
Is the Town of Estes Park involved?
The Town was the fiscal agent for the Great Outdoors Colorado grant the Estes Valley Land Trust received. Travis Machalek, Estes Park Town Administrator, served on the project’s Steering Committee.
What other partners are involved?
What other partners are involved?
Financial partners include the Town of Estes Park, Estes Valley Land Trust, Larimer County Natural Resources Department, Estes Valley Board of Realtors and Estes Park Economic Development Corporation.
The Steering Committee was composed of representatives of these organizations, as well as individuals selected by the Estes Valley Land Trust, that represent open space, wildlife and outdoor recreation expertise.
Why are EDC, Board of Realtors and Housing Authority representatives on the Steering Committee?
Habitat loss and fragmentation from new housing, utility and commercial development is the biggest threat to land conservation. Colorado’s Front Range continues to grow and the land trust would like to work with these interests to minimize the impacts to wildlife and natural scenery.
Specifically, this plan encourages directing growth away from land with high conservation values.
What data was used to define conservation and recreation priorities?
Wildlife data were provided by the Colorado Natural Heritage Program and Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Outdoor recreation data were provided by Larimer County, the Town of Estes Park and Estes Valley Recreation and Park District. Additional data were provided by the Estes Valley Land Trust’s consultant and partners.
How was public input collected?
Landcover data, such as stream corridors and forests, wildlife data, such as wintering range and recreation data, such as trail locations, were presented at public events and through a website, to solicit public input.
A survey was developed to capture specific open space and outdoor recreation interests, such as what types of land are most important for conservation (meadows, forests or riparian areas, for example) and what kind of recreation uses are most desirable (hiking trails, mountain biking trails, picnic areas, for example).
Where are the lands with the highest conservation value?
There are unconserved and undeveloped lands with wildlife, scenic, outdoor recreation and historic values throughout the valley. Maps in the plan highlight their general location and the land trust will encourage these landowners to donate perpetual conservation easements to protect these values.
What is the project schedule?
The planning process kicked off in the summer of 2019. Public engagement and collection of public input took place throughout 2020. The plan was published in March, 2021.
How will the plan be implemented?
The Plan is designed to find common ground with conservation partners and foster a commitment to work together to preserve another 5,000 acres in 10 years.
The land trust will encourage our partners to adopt or endorse the plan and help provide resources to fulfill it. Implementation could look like the donation of numerous conservation easements to protect wildlife habitat in a priority area, identification and construction of a new trailhead to improve Forest Service access, or the leveraging of public funds to purchase land for a new park or open space.