Cy­clist pre­serves trails on his land for pub­lic

The Denver Post - - DENVER & THE WEST - By Jim Mimi­aga

cortez» A Cortez res­i­dent’s gen­eros­ity to al­low hik­ing and bik­ing on his land will con­tinue long into the fu­ture thanks to a con­ser­va­tion ease­ment that pre­serves recre­ation ac­cess.

Bi­cy­cle en­thu­si­ast Keith Evans teamed up with the Mon­tezuma Land Con­ser­vancy and Great Out­doors Colorado to per­ma­nently pro­tect pub­lic ac­cess to his 40-acre moun­tain bike park.

Evans’ “Back 40” has sev­eral miles of trails he built that link to a bik­ing and hik­ing trail net­work on the ad­ja­cent Geer Me­mo­rial Park and Car­pen­ter Natural Area.

The new ease­ment also in­cludes 10 acres for a new ac­cess trail and trail­head from Mil­dred Road, ex­pected to open next sum­mer.

In 2014, Evans tore down his bound­ary fences and ne­go­ti­ated with the city to al­low pub­lic ac­cess. Now he has added a con­ser­va­tion ease­ment.

“Pro­tect­ing these open spa­ces not only pro­vides peo­ple with ac­cess to the out­doors, it also pro­vides habi­tat and helps en­sure the con­tin­ued pres­ence of wildlife,” Evans said.

Great Out­doors Colorado chipped in a $100,000 grant to­ward the ease­ment, a por­tion of which is paid to the landowner and to­ward trans­ac­tion costs.

Jon Lei­bowitz, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Mon­tezuma Land Con­ser­vancy, said there is a lot of fund­ing avail­able for other landown­ers who are in­ter­ested in pro­vid­ing pub­lic ac­cess to their prop­er­ties.

“You can never have enough open spa­ces for peo­ple to en­joy and we part­ner with will­ing landown­ers to pro­vide pub­lic ac­cess for recre­ation,” he said. “Per­ma­nently pro­tected open space and trails close to town is all about qual­ity of life.”

Con­ser­va­tion ease­ments do not re­quire pub­lic ac­cess, but landown­ers can choose to al­low such ac­cess vol­un­tar­ily.

For Evans, there is sat­is­fac­tion in know­ing that his con­tri­bu­tion will ben­e­fit gen­er­a­tions of fu­ture moun­tain bik­ers, walk­ers, run­ners and dog walk­ers.

“I wel­come the pub­lic to en­joy my hum­ble con­tri­bu­tion to the lo­cal am­biance,” he said. “Having that open space out the back door was, and still is, a large part of what liv­ing in ru­ral Colorado is all about.”

The Cortez-based Mon­tezuma land trust now holds 85 con­ser­va­tion ease­ments pro­tect­ing 43,908 acres of agri­cul­tural land, open space and wildlife habi­tat across south­west Colorado.

Keith Evans is shown on the net­work of sin­gle­track trails that he has built on his land near Cortez. The trails are open to the pub­lic. Jim Mimi­aga, The Cortez Jour­nal

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