“I would say we are scheduled to close on the property at the end of October,” said Jason Corzine, senior project manager for the Trust for Public Land, in an interview Wednesday. “The current status of the property is it is still owned by Mr. Nichols and we are still very much in the process of moving forward toward the acquisition of the property. We are in the due diligence phase right now. As of today, everything looks positive.”
For the past three years, the Trust for Public Land has been in negotiations with Nichols, who owns 220 acres of mining claims in the Silver Pick Basin area. The historically popular trail that leads to the summit of Mt. Wilson, Wilson Peak and El Diente runs directly through Nichols’s property. Access through the property has been very limited – to the point that at one time Nichols charged hikers a fee to pass through his land.
The planned land acquisition will restore hiking access and put a stop to any future mining in the area. According to a Telluride Foundation press release, Nichols at one point sought permits from the U.S. Forest Service to mine the land. He also was interested in exchanging the property for $75 million worth of public land.
“We are acquiring all surface and subsurface rights,” Corzine said. “It’s a two-fold endeavor. One is to open access to Wilson Peak. The other is to prevent mining. This transaction will take care of both of those and is an effective way to achieve conservation.”
For hikers, the land acquisition is welcome news. After the deal goes through, the Trust for Public Land will turn the land over to the U.S. Forest Service to manage.
“It will be really nice to be able to dance between the basins,” said Steve Johnson, a member and past president of Telluride Mountain Club. “This is all very encouraging. Apparently this [agreement] will acquire the claims that will not only break up the bottleneck of Silver Pick Basin but will also stop any future mining as well.”
“Legal access through Silver Pick has been denied,” Corzine said. “People have been accessing the area through Bilk Creek, which is lengthy and technically complicated. The route through Silver Pick is historically the most popular and really the safest route. It allows for a fairly approachable climb in one day, which is especially good for search and rescue missions.”
The Trust for Public Land was awarded a $150,000 grant from the Telluride Foundation to help with the purchase of the Silver Pick Basin land. The trust, a nonprofit land conservation organization, has been acquiring and conserving land in the San Juans for several years now and land purchases like the pending Silver Pick Basin one rely on support from the public.
“TPL has been acquiring mining properties in the San Juans for seven years now,” said Corzine. “We have sort of created a niche in mining claim acquisition. Financially, [besides the Telluride Foundation] we haven’t turned over too many rocks in capital. We are very much trying to raise the necessary funds to acquire the property. The Telluride Foundation grant helped us considerably in our public and private fundraising endeavor.”
For more information on ways to donate to the Trust for Public Land or information on other projects across Colorado and the nation, visit www.tpl.org.