Dinosaur Monument may get subdivision

Development may be built in national monument

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The Mantle family has proposed parceling up their Dinosaur National Monument inholdings to create two residential subdivisions within the park. The 164-acre Mantle Ranch and the 360-acre Red Rocks Ranch, both controlled by the Mantle Ranch Real Estate Limited Partnership, would be divided up into lots to be sold as residential property.

"Inholdings" are tracts of private property that exist within federally controlled parks and monuments. The inholdings are completely surrounded by federally protected land.

The sketched plan of the proposed subdivisions was submitted Jan. 15 to the Moffat County Planning Commission. The plan proposes that the Mantle Ranch would be divided into 31 lots, the smallest of which would be two acres, while the Red Rock Ranch would be divided into 55 lots, all of which would be more than 5 acres. The Mantles have also applied to change the zoning of the land from agricultural to residential.

According to Moffat County Planning Director Sue Graler, the sketch plan was tabled by the Planning Commission until Feb. 5 because of two issues the Mantles must prove that legal access for potential residents exists, and the Planning Commission will be examining the terrain of the proposed developments to see if a classification of mountain subdivisions is warranted. Mountain subdivisions require both an entrance and egress, as opposed to just one access for regular subdivisions. The rezoning requests will also be deliberated over at the Feb. 5 meeting. The zone requests and sketch plan, if approved by the Planning Commission, will go before the Moffat County Board of Commissioners on Feb. 11.

The Parks Service, which oversees the Dinosaur National Monument, is aware of the plans, and is concerned about the proposal, according to Chas Cartwright, the new superintendent of the Monument.

"I have a general idea of the plan [for the development]," he said. "I am very concerned about these proposals. They go against what we say in our protection plan for the Monument."

The working relationship between the Mantle family and the Park Service "has not been good," according to Cartwright, and he plans to work to correct that.

"We've got to improve communications, and work toward a decent working relationship," he said. "I accept my responsibility to work toward that.

"I've only been here a week, and I haven't talked to the Mantles since I became superintendent. I had one conversation with a family member a few weeks ago, but that's the only communication. My preference would be to have direct contact with the Mantle family, but I've had my hands full this first week. As superintendent, my responsibility is to be back to a professional relationship with the Mantles."

The Black Canyon/Gunnison National Park and Curecanti National Recreation Area also has inholdings that are for sale. The Attorney General's Office is negotiating with the owner to purchase the land for the federal government.

"A developer came in and purchased that land knowing full well that the Park Service did not favor subdivision development," Park Service Management Assistant Dave Roberts said. "The developers plan was to make money off the land. The land is essentially unused, and it was purchased for speculation. We have a willing seller, and a willing buyer, and we're working to negotiate the price.

"We're hoping to avoid development by buying the land. We just haven't agreed on a price."

According to Roberts, the Park Service has a good working relationship with inholdings owners, and has purchased conservation easements from two landowners.

The Mantle family could not be reached for comment.

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