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, reported The Journal.
Evan's "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.
Information from: Cortez Journal, http://www.cortezjournal.com/