Mosquito Range Heritage Initiative Unveiled (CO)
Alma, CO, 7/1/2005: – The Alma Foundation and The Trust for Public Land (TPL) unveiled today the Mosquito Range Heritage Initiative (MRHI) Strategic Plan. The plan is aimed at guiding the protection of significant cultural and historic, recreational, and natural resources.
“We believe there is still time to coordinate and balance preservation and conservation with recreation and economic development so the natural integrity and heritage of the Mosquito Range is not lost,” said Cara Doyle, President of the Alma Foundation.
“The Mosquito Range Heritage Initiative is the next logical step in fulfilling the Park County Heritage Program mission – to conserve our most valuable resources and utilize them to generate new, sustainable economies. It also moves us a step closer to establishing the South Park National Heritage Area,” said Gary Nichols, Director of Park Community Development and Tourism for Park County.
Over two-dozen stakeholders have been collaborating for the past 12 months to develop a framework for the 112-square mile planning area in the Mosquito Range – a stunning array of high-mountain peaks and passes, alpine cirques, rich fens, and lower elevation sageland. The Alma Foundation, in partnership with Park County and The Trust for Public Land, facilitated the MRHI to address increasing land use conflicts and resource management issues, and to create a plan that allows compatible development to proceed in an orderly manner. In this spirit, MRHI engaged a cross-section of the community and other stakeholders to develop non-regulatory strategies that will protect and enhance the most significant attributes and opportunities of the Mosquito Range. The U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Colorado Association of 4-Wheel Drive Clubs, Colorado Spring Utilities, Colorado Division of Wildlife, Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, South Park Recreation Inc., Placer Valley Homeowners Association, local citizens, and members of the local mining community also made key contributions.
Recognizing that financial resources are limited, the strategic plan identifies those resources that maximize public benefits. Working to leverage public-private partnerships between local government, private foundations, and organizations, the stakeholders will raise funds and expedite projects for the MRHI. Over the next 18 months, stakeholders hope to implement a range of historic preservation, land conservation, trail creation, and education projects. Some examples of future projects include developing interpretive signs for historic buildings to educate people about the rich mining history and to reduce vandalism, collaborate with OHV and other 4×4 groups to reduce conflicts with private property owners and to enhance trail options, and work with private property owners to create legal public access to the surrounding “14ers” (14,000-foot peaks).
“TPL is pleased to be playing a part in the Mosquito Range Heritage Initiative.” says Justin Spring, Senior Project Associate for the Trust for Public Land. “The Initiative presents an outstanding opportunity to preserve cultural and historic resources, create a network of recreation opportunities, and keep large parts of vibrant natural systems intact. This strategic plan is a tool for protecting the very things that make the Mosquito Range and Park County a great place to live and visit.”
“There are 33 rare plant species in the Mosquito Range, representing one of the highest concentrations of rare plants found in Colorado,” says Susan Spackman Panjabi, a botanist with the Colorado Natural Heritage Program. “In fact, three of the plant species are found only in the Mosquito Range and nowhere else in the world.”
The planning area, which spans north to south from Hoosier Pass to Weston Pass and west of the Middle Fork of the South Platte River in Park County, is steeped in Colorado’s mining history. From 1860 to 1861, almost a quarter of Colorado’s population resided in the mountains surrounding South Park. The area was extensively explored for minerals by miners, hoping to strike it rich on gold, silver, or even salt. The historic and cultural legacy of this era still remains as evidenced by the Paris Mill, high altitude mines, and the Snowstorm Dredge Mining may be more difficult today, but numerous prospectors and gem collectors still frequent the region.
The historic Mosquito Pass Road, used by thousands of miners, passes through the planning area. A trip to the highest automobile pass in North America (13,186 feet) provides impressive views of abandoned mines and flora and fauna. Most of the land within the corridor is private, but there are remnants of the mining heritage still visible from the road and today’s travelers can enjoy one of Park County’s self-guided auto tours that explain various points of interest.
This Mosquito Range Heritage Initiative was made possible by a Lottery grant from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) and matching funds from the Alma Foundation, Colorado Open Lands, Park County, Park County Historic Preservation Advisory Commission, private donors, South Park Recreation Inc., The Trust for Public Land, and the Town of Alma.
“The best land conservation and outdoor recreation projects brought to GOCO are those that have first used our dollars to create a plan that prioritizes what is most important to achieve first,” said GOCO Executive Director John Swartout. “The approach being taken by the partners in this initiative will result in the character of one of the most spectacular parts of the state being preserved.” GOCO has already invested significant lottery funding in the South Park Basin Legacy Project to protect some of Park County’s prime agricultural lands.
The Alma Foundation is a non-profit corporation organized to foster, encourage and promote charitable, educational, scientific and cultural activities. In cooperation with the Town of Alma, it supports projects, which further the quality of life in the greater Alma community that could not be provided for by tax dollars. Recent activities include developing parks and trails, preserving key historic community buildings, hosting an art & music festival, and purchasing land for open space and recreation.
The Trust for Public Land (www.tpl.org), a national nonprofit organization, conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 1.9 million acres nationwide with a value of more than $3 billion. TPL depends on the support of individuals, foundations and businesses to achieve its “land for people” conservation mission. In Colorado, TPL has worked with private landowners, community groups and public agencies to protect over 74,000 acres of the state’s commonwealth of parks and open space.