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Knorr Ranch is Summit County's largest open space project in more than a decade
Contact:Brian Lorch, Open Space and Trails Director: 970-668-4067SUMMIT COUNTY – A unique partnership between Summit County, local landowners and Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT) has preserved the 1,123-acre Knorr Ranch north of Silverthorne with a land purchase and conservation easement. The conservation easement eliminates the potential for 64 home sites and protects the entire property as open space and agricultural land in perpetuity.The Knorr Ranch was one of the largest remaining private land holdings in Summit County. The Knorr family homesteaded in the area adjacent to the Blue River in the late 1800s. When Green Mountain Reservoir was built in the 1940s, the Knorrs moved the ranch uphill to its current location on Heeney Road. The family will retain its historic home and outbuildings, as well as some of the original ranch acreage.“This acquisition is such a critical piece of the Lower Blue landscape,” Summit County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier said. "We are thrilled that this project has become a reality, and we're so grateful for the tremendous amount of work all the partners put into it. We’d also like to thank the Knorr family for their ongoing willingness to collaborate with Summit County over the years to protect this very special place for future generations.”The Knorr family members partnered in the conservation of their ranching legacy by accepting a discounted price to ensure that the land would not be developed. Summit County Open Space and Trails has been in discussions with the Knorrs for more than a decade to help them preserve the landscape west of Green Mountain Reservoir and south of Heeney. When the family decided to list the property for sale, Summit County initiated discussions with several adjacent landowners to preserve the scenic splendor and agricultural viability of the ranch.Two adjacent landowners – Sean Flanigan and Doug Childs– provided funding, transaction facilitation, and local expertise to complete the deal. On Aug. 1, they purchased the 1,123-acre ranch for $7 million and dedicated a conservation easement on the entire property to Colorado Cattleman’s Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT), which removed all development potential from the land. Summit County subsequently acquired 505 acres of the ranch, subject to the easement, for $1.2 million from Flanigan and Childs."Building off of what American Farmland Trust started in the 90s, CCALT is proud to continue the work protecting one of the last ranching strongholds left in Summit County. The investment the ranching families of the Lower Blue River have made to protect their valley and way of life is immeasurable and will continue to reward generations to come,” said Megan Knott, director of stewardship for CCALT.Summit County made a $1.6 million financial contribution toward the easement. Local real estate agent and neighbor Tim Casey donated half his commission and facilitated the transaction.“We need to thank the entire team for the great effort getting this legacy project to the finish line. It took many dedicated individuals keeping their eye on the goal of preserving this whole landscape to make it a reality,” Casey said.The project partners were awarded a $10,000 Habitat Protection Program Grant from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, which helped cover costs associated with the baseline documentation, title work and mineral report.This complex landmark transaction took months to complete, requiring the drafting and negotiation of dozens of documents and agreements among myriad parties. The property also had to be surveyed and subdivided, and studies had to be completed on mineral resources and water rights."This public-private conservation partnership preserves the picturesque landscape from the western shores of Green Mountain Reservoir up to the mountains of the Gore Range, and it supports the County's mission of sustaining diverse wildlife habitats and the rich agricultural heritage of the Lower Blue River Basin," Open Space and Trails Director Brian Lorch said. "Thanks to the generous support of the Knorrs and these dedicated neighbors, we were able to leverage our limited open space funds so that generations of Summit County residents and visitors can continue to enjoy this spectacular scenery."Purchase of the Knorr Ranch also secured senior water rights that were tied to the land in the conservation easement, thereby ensuring the property could be irrigated and maintained in agricultural use. As part of the agreement, the County will lease its 505-acre portion to the adjacent landowner, Flanigan Land and Cattle, for grazing and hay production. Sean Flanigan will retain 513 acres of the ranch, and Doug Childs will retain 105 acres adjacent to his ranch.“I have been going by the Knorr Ranch for 57 years,” Flanigan said. “When the ‘for sale’ signs went up, I couldn’t imagine 64 homes on that land. With the help of the Knorr family, the County, Doug, Tim, CCALT and a team of dedicated people, we were able to keep the Knorr Ranch as it is into perpetuity. This could not have been done without the great team we had, and I thank them greatly.”“Thanks to the commitment and foresight of the county commissioners and all the staff at Summit County, we have been able to consummate this essential public-private partnership, preserving this important open space along Green Mountain Reservoir with no building sites," Childs said. "This will allow future generations to enjoy this view as it has been since the early 1900s.”The Summit County Open Space Program worked closely with the Knorr family in the past to conserve a separate 1,300-acre parcel of its land in the vicinity via purchase and conservation easement. These lands include parcels on either side of Green Mountain Reservoir that are now used for hiking, agriculture, hang gliding and fishing.Summit County’s landscape-level conservation efforts in the Lower Blue Valley, including the new Knorr Ranch conservation easement, have protected miles of scenic viewshed from Green Mountain Reservoir to the northern county line. The undeveloped nature of this part of Summit County is due to its agricultural history and the combined conservation efforts of numerous private landowners, the Summit County Open Space Program, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Taken together, their work protects lands stretching from the valley floor up to the peaks of the Williams Fork and Gore ranges.The mission of the Summit County Open Space Program is to identify, protect and manage open spaces, trails and trailheads to preserve and maintain Summit County's rural mountain character, unique natural areas and high quality of life for residents and visitors. Protection of the pastoral landscape of the Lower Blue has always been a priority for the Open Space Program, as it is a unique part of Summit County’s history, a vital part of the economy, and a scenic, open landscape that provides high quality habitat for deer, elk, moose, bear, bald eagles and other species.For additional information, contact Open Space and Trails Director Brian Lorch at 970-668-4067.