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The Koziel property boat ramp on the Roaring Fork River was quiet on a dreary Friday afternoon. Carbondale intends to purchase the property for $2.5 million.
Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times

CARBONDALE, Colorado — A final threat to Carbondale's purchase of property with a popular boat ramp on the Roaring Fork River was eliminated last week by the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority.

RFTA's board of directors granted a license agreement that allows access to the Koziel property. It can only be terminated by unanimous vote of the RFTA board. And, if that ever happens, Carbondale will receive at least two years prior notice.

Carbondale sought a permanent easement for an existing access road to the Koziel property that parallels the Rio Grande Trail through a short stretch of the trail right of way. Without the easement, town representatives said, the Colorado Division of Wildlife would yank $950,000 committed to the purchase and Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) would block use of $1 million.

Carbondale has a contract to purchase the 7.8-acre property for $2.5 million. It includes the boat ramp, a parking area and turnaround, and an upper bench used for trailers and campers. The property is slightly upstream from Satank.

RFTA has never granted an easement through its right of way because it wants to retain the power to revoke any access. Board president Bruce Christensen said RFTA has an obligation to residents of the Roaring Fork Valley to preserve the corridor for possible light rail implementation. The standing policy to avoid granting easement raised the prospect that the deal would get killed at the 11th hour.

Kevin Edwards, Colorado assistant attorney general in the natural resources and environment section, said the two state agencies cannot risk investing nearly $2 million in public money in a property without a guarantee of long-term access.

“If there's not something tantamount to an easement, it's a deal breaker,” he said.

Christensen said the wildlife division was being “heavy-handed” with its requirements. Edwards countered that it was being prudent.

RFTA board member Dwayne Romero said sabers didn't need to be rattled over the issue. He said it could be solved by “wordsmithing” by attorneys for both sides. The state could receive an access guarantee virtually as solid as an easement, he said.

Edwards indicated the iron-clad license agreement will satisfy the requirements of the state agencies.

Any paddler and floater who needs access to the river is the winner from the deal, said Dale Will, director of Pitkin County Open Space and Trails. “This is the most heavily used [DOW] boat ramp in western Colorado,” he said.

In addition to the funding from the wildlife division and GOCO, Carbondale will throw $450,000 into the deal and Garfield County will contribute $100,000.

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