Let’s Save Long Lake!

Wildlife habitat. Recreational access. Sustainable ranching. These are many of the aspects that we all treasure in this valley and that shape the unique character and spirit of the Gunnison Valley. Together, we have an opportunity to help each of these conservation values flourish here in Crested Butte by protecting 120 acres of Long Lake. Protecting Long Lake is a prime example of how of we can balance these conservation values of land and water protection, ranching heritage, and recreational use.

Easily accessible from Washington Gulch, Long Lake is a refuge for our community. If sold to a developer, the access to Long Lake, Crested Butte’s local swimming hole, could be lost forever. However, with your support, the Land Trust has the opportunity to protect the access on the eastern shore of Long Lake including access across from the Meridian Lake Park Dam. As the local boots on the ground organization, the Land Trust seeks to not only protect recreational access, but also responsibly manage the recreational use responsibly by investing in infrastructure to reduce impacts to this beloved lake.

The Long Lake property is naturally divided by the lake itself running roughly northwest to southeast. With the recreational access contained to the east side, the western shore and slope of Smith Hill remains prime wildlife habitat. The western shore has a combination of aspen forest, mixed conifer forest, open meadow, native shrubland, and open water providing diverse and important habitat for a myriad of species including mule deer, black bears, osprey, pika, northern leopard frog, and elk. Protecting this land and allowing it to remain as wild as possible enhances the habitat of adjacent conserved lands and protects an important elk migration corridor. Continuing to keep the valley floor connected across conserved lands ensures more room for wildlife to roam. As a result, our valley’s wildlife populations will remain healthy over time.

A family ranching operation currently leases a section of the proposed Long Lake parcel for grazing that abuts it’s property in Washington Gulch. The southern shore of Long Lake provides critical access to water for their livestock while they graze the south facing slopes of Smith Hill. The Land Trust will honor the Forest Service’s agreement to lease approximately 50 acres of the Long Lake parcel (120 acres in total) for grazing.

The Plan

Together with our partners, the Crested Butte Land Trust has assembled a land exchange with the Gunnison National Forest. To own and ensure community access to the east side of Long Lake from Washington Gulch, the Land Trust will exchange 613 acres on Fossil Ridge near Lost Canyon, currently owned by the Trust for Public Land (TPL), and the recently protected 15 acres at Copley Lake near Irwin.  These properties, both surrounded by Forest Service land, will be added to the Gunnison National Forest in exchange for complete ownership over the 120 acres on the eastern shore of Long Lake.

The Land Trust plans to manage the property consistent with the current Forest Service management of public access. Hiking and biking access to the property will be allowed across the Meridian Lake Park Reservoir Dam. Parking will only be permitted within the designated parking lot on the north side of Washington Gulch Rd. In addition, the north side of the property and waters of Long Lake will be managed for public access and recreation. However, the south side of the property will be managed to protect wildlife habitat and agricultural use, with no recreational trail development.

The Fossil Ridge acreage was donated by the longtime residents Judy and Butch Clark. In 2010, the Clarks sold the property to the Trust for Public Land (TPL) with a stipulation that if re-sold, the proceeds from the sale would go directly to the Gunnison Valley Housing Foundation (GVHF). The Clarks wanted to donate a significant piece of land in the Fossil Ridge area to the Housing Foundation. At the time, however, when the original land donation was taking place in 2010, the foundation had not yet acquired its tax-exempt status. To get the deal done, the Clarks approached TPL and asked the organization to hold the land, which the TPL agreed to do.

Now, with your support, the Land Trust has the opportunity to purchase the Fossil Ridge parcel and contribute nearly $3 million to the Gunnison Valley Housing Foundation to ensure our valley’s year-round residents and workforce have affordable places to live. This innovative project structure is a win for everyone in the Gunnison Valley.

We cannot save Long Lake with out you!

Timing is everything. 

The Long Lake property is in the crosshairs of the public lands debate and has been added to the Federal Land Disposal list. As a small property with a high maintenance burden on federal land managers, this community treasure is slated to be auctioned. If sold to a private developer, we could lose Long Lake forever. Public access to recreation on Long Lake is not guaranteed.  The stakes have never been higher. The land exchange is set to be completed by Spring 2019.

We cannot save Long Lake without you.

Together, we need your help in raising the remaining $1.9 million toward the total costs of this community project including the purchase price of the Fossil Ridge property, due diligence to assemble the trade, and land management infrastructure needs.  The Land Trust will also establish the Long Lake Land Management Fund to help the Land Trust responsibly care for this Crested Butte gem in perpetuity. Every gift makes a difference. The Town of Crested Butte generously supported the project with a contribution of $1 million. To learn more about the Town of Crested Buttes contribution, click here

For more information about the Long Lake Land Exchange and to give your gift to save Long Lake, please call 970.349.1206 or visit our website, cblandtrust.org/donate.

Frequently Asked Questions

No, the Land Trust will not permit vehicular access to Long Lake, unless under special circumstances. There is not enough space or the correct topography for a parking lot on the property.

No, the Land Trust respects the private property owners management of their property to prohibit public access across their properties to the western shore of Long Lake. Additionally, the southern flank of Smith Hill is critical wildlife habitat (ideal spring elk calving habitat) and late summer/fall grazing land. A trail corridor would impact these two conservation values.

The Land Trust is only acquiring the 120 acres on the east half of Long Lake. The Allens will continue to own their portion of the lake and access. They have graciously allowed the public to access Long Lake without a permanent easement. The Land Trust is coordinating with the Allens as proactive partners to manage recreational access to Long Lake.

Yes, fishing will be allowed once the Land Trust owns the property. Colorado Parks and Wildlife will continue to stock trout in the lake.

No, the water rights associated with Long Lake are held by both private and public entities, with the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District owning the bulk of the water rights in Long Lake.