Loveland residents get new close-to-home nature

Getting out into nature just got easier for residents of Loveland with the protection of 78 acres of prime wildlife habitat, agricultural lands, and wetlands adjacent to the Morey Wildlife Reserve on the west side of the city.

The property, known as the Ward Trust Property, will provide new opportunities for trails, wildlife viewing and other outdoor activities in a rapidly growing area of Loveland. The land is located along Cedar Valley Drive southwest of Morey Wildlife Reserve, near the Big Thompson River next to dense residential developments. It is visible from the Keyhole of the Devil’s Backbone, giving visitors clear views of the rock formation and the mountains to the west.

The acquisition was made possible through the efforts of The Trust for Public Land, which negotiated the deal, the City of Loveland, Larimer County Department of Natural Resources, and Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO).

“Access to parks, trails and open space is a key component of Colorado’s high quality of life,” said Jim Petterson, The Trust for Public Land’s Colorado state director. "We are thrilled to have played a critical role in protecting one of Loveland’s highest open space priorities. By helping ensure that everyone, particularly kids, have close-to-home places to get outside and experience nature, projects like this do much to improve health, strengthen communities and enhance local economies.” 

In partnership with the City of Loveland, The Trust for Public Land negotiated and managed the purchase from the Ward Family and subsequent sale to Loveland as public open space. Loveland granted a conservation easement protecting the property to Larimer County Department of Natural Resources, ensuring that the land and its water rights will be protected and accessible to the public forever.

"It's a beautiful property, and we could not be happier to see it become a public resource," said Marilyn Hilgenberg, the city's Open Lands Manager. "The Ward Trust acquisition is an integral part of completing Loveland's open lands vision for the west Big Thompson River corridor, and accomplishes two major goals outlined in the city’s Parks & Recreation Master Plan – providing additional open lands that are accessible to the public by an interconnected network of trails, for nature-based recreation opportunities."    

Most of the $2.6 million purchase price came from Loveland’s share of the citizen-initiated, 1/4-cent Help Preserve Open Spaces sales and use tax in Larimer County, supplemented by $500,000 from GOCO and $250,000 from Larimer County Department of Natural Resources.

Gary Buffington, director of Larimer County Department of Natural Resources, said his open lands staff and Loveland's often partner on projects to protect land for everyone's benefit. "Loveland is really doing a lot with its open lands dollars, and we want to support them," said Buffington.

Currently used for farming, future plans may include a new parking area and increased trail access to open space throughout the area, which will buffer the dense neighboring residential development. Farming will continue to be a part of the management plan at least for the foreseeable future. 

"GOCO applauds the tremendous effort on behalf of the project partners to create a new, publicly-accessible open space,” said Great Outdoors Colorado Executive Director Jim Spaanstra. "This project extends a corridor of protection that spans the hogback from north of Horsetooth Reservoir south for nearly 20 miles, culminating at the Ward Trust property. This is a significant acquisition for the City of Loveland involving important flood-irrigated wetlands and an intimate connection to the Big Thompson River. Thank you to the Trust for Public Land, Larimer County, the Ward Trust Family, and, of course, the City of Loveland for making this vision a reality."