Pair seeks to preserve area near Ouray, Colorado

Monday, September 18th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OURAY, Colo. – Two politicians are supporting an effort to buy and preserve land with historic value near Red Mountain Pass.

At least one land owner wants to develop a portion of the Red Mountain Pass Historic District, which is peppered with abandoned mines, ghost towns and spectacular mountain scenery.

A task force led by Ouray and San Juan County commissioners is seeking $7.5 million to buy 10,500 privately owned acres in the district.

Last week, Gov. Bill Owens and Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Colo., sent letters to Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., and Ralph Regula, chairman of the Subcommittee on Interior Appropriations.

They urged Congress to set aside money for the project from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which was established in 1965 with revenue from offshore oil drilling.

"The Red Mountain area is nationally significant in both its natural and historic resources,'' McInnis said. "It's a window to Colorado's past, and Congress should move immediately to protect it for future generations.''

The district is in the Uncompahgre and San Juan National Forests between Ouray and Silverton. It faces development pressure and increased recreational use.

The first phase would allow the Forest Service to buy 6,000 acres in 2001.

Frank Baumgartner, who owns 1,600 acres in the district, has threatened to demolish historic structures on his land if he is not allowed to develop it. He wants to subdivide the land into lots as small as 10 acres and sell off 1,500 acres.

"There are several property owners on Red Mountain and virtually all of them have been cooperating except for Baumgartner,'' said Ken Francis, who serves the task force.

Ouray County commissioners say 35-acre splits are the minimum. Baumgartner and commissioners also disagree over zoning regulations on development.

Francis said none of the money requested by the task force would be earmarked for Baumgartner's property.

"This money is for all other property owners who want to see the property preserved for its natural and historic values,'' Francis said.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation named Red Mountain one of America's most endangered historic places earlier this year.