Oak Creek gets money to purchase popular trail system; deal to close in November
Oak Creek has accumulated enough funds to purchase a popular trail system on private land just outside of town limits.
A $15,000 grant from the Yampa Valley Community Foundation, awarded last week during its annual grants cycle, was the last piece of funding to bring the project to fruition, according to Mary Alice Paige-Allen, Oak Creek’s former clerk and administrator.
This comes after more than a year of negotiations, grant writing and logistical hurdles, and it follows the Town Board’s authorization in March to buy the land, known as Oak Creek Mountain Park, west of downtown.
“We’re finally there,” said Russ Garrity, who owns the property but allows people to use it for hiking, biking and horse riding.
The 165-acre expanse of scrub oak, pine tress and aspen glades includes 4.5 miles of trails that have become increasingly popular among locals and visitors.
Garrity can see the main trailhead from his living room window. A register at the entrance also tracks visitation. In the last four months, he estimates that about 3,000 people have used the park.
For about the past 15 years, he and his family have developed a system of 20 trails on their property and invited the public to use them. His wife, Clay, a horse lover, added a riding ring for fellow equestrians.
Paige-Allen considers the place a “crown jewel” for the town.
Getting the money to acquire it has required her to write multiple grants. Among the largest the town received was a $100,000 grant from Colorado’s Rural Economic Development Initiative program. Paige-Allen said the award was based on the potential for the Oak Creek Mountain Park to diversify the local economy and boost tourism and recreation.
In total, the town received about $522,000 in grant funding for the purchase, according to Paige-Allen.
A $225,000 grant from Routt County, obtained by the Yampa Valley Land Trust, will go toward purchasing a conservation easement to protect about 140 acres of the Oak Creek Mountain Park from future development.
Though she recently left her job in Oak Creek to become Hayden’s planning and economic development director, Paige-Allen reached an agreement with the Oak Creek Town Board to allow her to complete the acquisition of the property.
“I just want to get to the finish line on this project,” she said.
She and Garrity expect the deal to close in November. The house and about a 35-acre portion of surrounding land, which Oak Creek is not purchasing, will be sold to an Oak Creek family, according to Garrity.
Paige-Allen said a grand opening for the soon-to-be public park will take place in the spring.