The U.S. Forest Service is set to sell 20 acres of prime undeveloped land in the Animas Valley to pay for a new office complex for the Columbine District in Bayfield.
The parcel in question is behind the Trimble True Value hardware store and adjacent shopping center, north of Durango outside city limits on Trimble Lane. It’s an old, long-vacant horse pasture with a few structures on it, surrounded by luxury subdivisions.
Patrick McCoy, a lands and minerals forester with the Forest Service, said the agency deemed the land as an “excess” holding.
And with the Forest Service Facility Realignment and Enhancement Act that passed in 2005, local districts are allowed to take proceeds from holdings identified as excess to use for the acquisition, maintenance and construction of new sites.
“We think the proposed action of selling it would not have any super impacts on forest resources,” McCoy said.
“We think proceeds could be used for possibly acquiring new property and building new offices near Bayfield to replace the existing compound.” He also said the current offices are outdated and in need of serious maintenance.
Carrie Woodson, a chief appraiser for La Plata County, said the Forest Service has owned the parcel for more than 40 years, so the federally exempt land has not been appraised.
Land sales on adjacent properties show just how valuable undeveloped parcels in the Animas Valley really are: Trimble Crossing paid $5.5 million in 2007 for 4 acres on the corner of Trimble Lane, and next to that, another vacant piece of land sold in 2008 for $1.4 million.
“That gives you a little bit of an idea what land values in that area would garner,” Woodson said. “It’s really prime for a subdivision, but they’d need a Class II land-use permit to do that.”
McCoy said the Forest Service will likely have the land appraised internally, then put the parcel out for a public bidding process.
There will be an opportunity for public comment, he said.
McCoy said nationwide the Forest Service holds thousands of properties that have been identified as being no longer needed for public use. The sales allow local districts to keep 100 percent of the proceeds, he said, to redirect those resources for better use.