Persons interested in accompanying Larson on a moderate two-hour hike as he locates the survey pins that mark the corners of the purchased land meet at the upper bridge near the memorial kiosk and Kids’ Wall area of the Ouray Ice Park Wednesday at 10 a.m.
“The tour will show the city and the public and adjoining property owners where the property location is,” said Larson. “We have had a lot of changes over time, a lot of alterations on the exact property that we finally ended up with.”
While playing a crucial role in the success of the Ouray Ice Park over the years, the U.S. Forest Service made it clear from the beginning that it was not interested in being the long-term manager of its 24-acre inholding within the Ice Park. Concern mounted in Ouray that the USFS might eventually sour on the whole Ice Park concept, and the city started pursuing various options of how to acquire the Forest Service land.
However, for two parties in agreement regarding a seemingly simple, mutually beneficial concept, it took the City of Ouray and the USFS a surprisingly long time to agree on the scope of the proposed purchase, as well as its value.
One early iteration of the deal had the city purchasing not 24 but a full 40 acres of Forest Service land. It included the Ice Park and Ouray Police Department’s shooting range as well as Forest Service land encompassing the city’s water tank.
The Forest Service appraisal of the area came in far higher than the city felt it was worth. In response, the city scaled back the size of its target acquisition by about half. A new set of boundaries for the land transfer, agreed upon in October 2008, included only that Forest Service land which was within the Ice Park’s boundary, as well as the shooting range.
After several years’ worth of delays, it’s finally a done deal. City and Forest Service officials met earlier this month to sign the paperwork, making the $277,000 sale official.
Now, the city controls the destiny of popular climbing areas including Five Fingers, New Funtier 2 and a big chunk of South Park, as well as much of the staging area for the annual Ouray Ice Festival.
“South Park probably has the most new route development possibilities in the park,” said grant writer and ice climbing guide Danika Gilbert, who crafted the successful Local Parks and Outdoor Recreation grant from the Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund that funded the bulk of the city’s purchase.
Ouray Mayor Bob Risch, meanwhile, is excited because the city now will be able to reroute portions of the Ouray Perimeter Trail through the scenic ice park.
The land acquisition greatly simplifies what was before a complex land use arrangement. Stakeholders in the Ice Park now include the City of Ouray, Ouray County, and Eric Jacobson, who owns the Ouray Hydroelectric Plant along with much of the land and infrastructure within the Ice Park.