Curecanti National Recreation Area (CO) Gains 557 Acres
Gunnison, Colorado– The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit land conservation organization, has purchased and transferred to the National Park Service’s Curecanti National Recreation Area approximately 557 acres adjacent to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Gunnison County, Colorado. The highly scenic property, which may have otherwise been developed, will be managed to permanently protect its scenic and wildlife values.
The successful effort to safeguard the property is the latest milestone in the implementation of a larger conservation vision for the area that Gunnison and Montrose counties, local communities, and federal agencies have been working arduously to realize for 15 years. With support from the Colorado congressional delegation, this effort led to the passage of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area Act of 1999.
The property purchased by the National Park Service is located approximately 40 miles west of Gunnison, just south of Highway 92 where it skirts the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Thousands of visitors drive past the property each year, enjoying breathtaking views down into the Black Canyon as well as distant views to the San Juan Mountains. The property boasts significant wildlife values, containing shrubland, heavy stands of aspen and evergreen, and riparian habitat along Meyers and Johnson creeks.
“The preservation of this important parcel shows the strength of TPL working with public and private entities to help assure that the Curecanti will remain the gem that it is for all of its visitors in the future,” said Gunnison County Commissioner Jim Starr.
Responding to a request for assistance from the National Park Service, TPL negotiated a purchase of the property from Mrs. Hazel Fitti of Hatfield, Pennsylvania. According to Fitti’s broker, Shari Davis of ReMax Realty in Paonia, the former landowner is very pleased that the National Park Service was able to bring her property into public ownership so that it can be conserved and enjoyed by future generations.
“I am pleased to have had TPL as a partner in the purchase of these 557 acres,” said Sheridan Steele, superintendent of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and Curecanti National Recreation Area. “This stretch of Highway 92, a part of the West Elk Loop Scenic and Historic Byway, is extremely scenic. Overlooks from the Fitti parcel offer great views into the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, with Morrow Point Reservoir directly below. Its rolling terrain, rock outcrops, forests, and overlooks have excellent potential for visitor use including hiking, picnicking and camping. The purchase of this land is a tremendous addition to Curecanti National Recreation Area for the benefit of all Americans.”
“We are grateful to Mrs. Fitti for giving us the opportunity to buy her land and the time to complete a public purchase,” said TPL’s Colorado state director Doug Robotham, “and to the Gunnison County Board of Commissioners, as well, for their support.”
“Special thanks and acknowledgment are due our Colorado congressional delegation for sharing our vision for this area,” Robotham added. He noted that Senators Ben Nighthorse Campbell-R and Wayne Allard-R and Representative Scott McInnis (R-3rd) helped secure funding for the project from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund and helped pass the authorizing legislation necessary to make the purchase. In particular, Robotham noted Senator Campbell’s help as a member of the Interior Appropriations subcommittee in shepherding through the funding this year.
“The Curecanti National Recreation Area is an important component of the Gunnison River drainage,” stated Senator Campbell. “It is a resource I was glad to have helped preserve.”
Representative McInnis commented, “It cannot be stressed enough how important this purchase was for recreation and conservation in the Curecanti area. Future generations will be grateful for the foresight that Congress and many others showed in preserving this special place.”
“I am happy to have played a role in securing this prime piece of property for addition to the Curecanti National Recreation Area,” said Senator Allard.
Founded in 1972, the Trust for Public Land specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law to protect land for public use and enjoyment. In Colorado, TPL has helped to protect more than 55,000 acres of land. Working with private landowners, community groups and public agencies, TPL has successfully completed 79 transactions in the state. The Wall Street Journal’s Smart Money magazine recently named TPL the nation’s most efficient large conservation charity, based on the percentage of funds dedicated to programs. For more information go to www.tpl.org.