On March 1, 2021, Denver City Council approved an agreement with Starr Peak Holdings, LLC to accept 450-acres of Axton Ranch in Jefferson and Gilpin Counties to the City and County of Denver’s Mountain Parks system. Axton Ranch will be the first acquisition of a new Mountain Park since the donation of James Q. Newton Park in Conifer in 1939. In addition to the 450 acres, the donation also includes a Right of First Offer on an adjacent 38-acres that the Axton Family is retaining. The Right of First Offer provides the city with the first opportunity to acquire the 38-acres if the family ever decides to convey it.
Axton Ranch is adjacent to Roosevelt National Forest and near Arapahoe National Forest, Golden Gate Canyon State Park and Jefferson County Open Space—a contiguous assemblage of over 14,000 acres of public lands. The property consists of mixed conifer and aspen stands, meadows, ponds, Beaver Creek, and a portion of a historic trail constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps providing access to nearby Mount Thorodin and Starr Peak.
The donation of Axton Ranch continues Denver’s legacy of its Mountain Parks system and since 1912, its legacy as a leader in regional open space protection. It also creates new opportunities to realize Denver Parks and Recreation’s (DPR) 20-year visioning document, Game Plan for a Healthy City and the Denver Mountain Parks Master Plan.
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What is the timeline for Denver to accept and close on the donation?
Per the dates and deadlines of its agreement with the Axton Family, the city anticipates accepting and closing on the donation by October 2021.
How will Axton Ranch Mountain Park be managed?
Axton Ranch will be managed and stewarded by Denver Parks and Recreation (DPR) as a “Conservation Area” meaning that the property’s natural resources and open space values will be protected and any public use and recreation will be limited in order to preserve those resources and values. The Denver Mountain Parks system consists of 24 Conservation Areas totaling 5,888 acres that include prominent mountaintops, forested ridges, steep slopes of dense mixed evergreen forests, rocky outcrops, and narrow riparian corridors providing critical wildlife habitat, watershed protection, and dramatic scenic backdrops. At Axton Ranch Mountain Park, DPR’s management will emphasize forest health, wildlife habitat conservation and watershed stewardship.
How will Axton Ranch Mountain Park be protected?
The donation is subject to deed restrictions agreed upon by the city and the Axton Family to protect and manage the property as a park and open space in perpetuity. In addition to the deed restrictions, DPR will designate the property as “Axton Ranch Mountain Park” after accepting and closing on the donation by October 2021. Park designations are unique to the City and County of Denver and arise under Section 2.4.5 of the City Charter. It is a legal process to preserve and conserve park property and a means of enhancing the quality of life and enjoyment for present and future generations. A Designated Park may not be sold or otherwise disposed of without the approval of a majority of the registered voters voting in an election held by the City and County of Denver. The only exception is that the federal and state governments typically have the power of dominant eminent domain which entitles them to condemn a Designated Park for nonpark uses.
Once it is acquired by Denver will Axton Ranch Mountain Park be open to the general public?
No. There are many steps DPR will need to take before Axton Ranch can be opened and made accessible to the general public. These steps include DPR staff and partners assessing and completing an inventory of all the natural resources (scenic, forest, water & wildlife) and built resources such as the Civilian Conservation Corps trail that make Axton Ranch unique and special. After that initial assessment and inventory is completed, and before Axton Ranch Mountain Park would be available for public use, DPR would undergo a public planning process to help design and develop any infrastructure necessary for sustainable use and recreation that protects the property’s natural resources and open space values. This would be in addition to any applicable planning, zoning and land use reviews required by other governmental entities. Until then, public use will be limited to DPR’s Outdoor Recreation programs and partner programs.
Why did the Axton Family approach Denver with this donation?
Alvin Axton, a North Denver native and North High School graduate, began assembling the ranch as it exists today in the 1950s with his father, Guy. Spanning four generations of ownership, the Axton Family sought a donee who could continue the stewardship legacy started by Alvin and Guy almost seven decades ago. With the passage of the Parks Legacy Fund in 2018, and over a century of experience stewarding its 14,000 acre Mountain Parks system, DPR is well situated to continue, honor and protect that legacy making Denver and the Axton Family a strong match.
How will Denver engage the communities that live in the vicinity of Axton Ranch and other stakeholders?
Stakeholder engagement is absolutely critical for successful stewardship of public lands and one that DPR takes seriously. Prior to accepting and closing on the donation, DPR will provide opportunities for neighbors and community members living in the vicinity of Axton Ranch to ask questions and provide comments about the conveyance of Axton Ranch to Denver. These opportunities will be in addition to public comment opportunities for any planning, zoning, and land use reviews required by Jefferson and Gilpin Counties. After the city accepts and closes on the donation, and before any long-term decisions regarding use and management are made, DPR would engage stakeholders as part of a public planning process.
I still have comments or questions about the donation of Axton Ranch. How can I receive additional information, voice my opinion, or stay informed?
For questions and comments, please contact us at email@example.com.