What's Happening with the Purchase of North and South Table Mountains?

by Judy Denison

Save the Mesas

The purpose of the Save The Mesas organization is to secure the purchase of Golden's North and South Table Mountains for Jefferson County Open Space, in order permanently to protect these unique lava mesas from development and to ensure their preservation as a sanctuary for people and wildlife in the midst of the Denver metro area. North and South Table Mountains include the majestic cliffs overlooking Golden which provide so much of Golden's identity, and are recognizable in logos of the City of Golden and of Coors Beer.

Save The Mesas was formed in January, 1998, in response to the threat of Nike's developing a huge complex on top of South Table Mountain. In part because of Save The Mesas' publicity efforts, and in part because of the innate unsuitability of the land for development, Nike withdrew its consideration of the site in April, 1998.

After that, Save The Mesas turned its efforts toward helping Jefferson County Open Space obtain access to funds to purchase lands on top of both mesas. Save The Mesas activities, such as the Mesa Music Fest in August, were focused on raising the community awareness of the need to bring these lands into Jefferson County Open Space to finally end the 25-year-long battle to protect the mesas from one development or another.

Save The Mesas volunteers were major workers for the Save Open Space ballot initiative organized by Plan Jeffco. This measure was to issue $160 million of revenue bonds, to obtain money up front to buy Open Space lands now throughout Jefferson County, before they were lost to development or had become too expensive. North and South Table Mountains are listed with high priority in the county's Open Space acquisition plans. In November, this ballot initiative was passed by a resounding 70% of the voters.

Save The Mesas is continuing its work to publicize the ongoing effortsto purchase the mesas for Open Space and to prevent any sort of development. Meetings are held on first and third Mondays at 7:00 pm at Higher Grounds Café, 14th & Washington, in Golden. For more information, call Judy Denison, 303-279-5177, judy.d@cwix.com. To subscribe to the Save the Mesas e-mail list click here.

The Table Mountains Conservation Fund has been set up as a non-profit arm of Save The Mesas, to solicit donations from individuals and foundations to use towards purchase of Table Mountains parcels. Tax-deductible contributions may be sent to the Treasurer, Larry Dale, 17317 W 17th Place, Golden, CO 80401, lddale@worldnet.att.net.

North Table Mountain

North Table Mountain's 2,120 acres lie just north of Clear Creek. Its cliffs are a popular practice area for rock climbers. North Table Mountain is listed with high value in the Nature Conservancy's inventory of natural areas. A 230-acre parcel on North Table Mountain was acquired from Coors Brewery by Jefferson County Open Space in 1993. In October, 1998, the county closed a deal on the 57-acre Clark property.

On November 25, 1998, Jefferson County Open Space reached a deal with Argentine Mines to purchase nearly 900 acres on North Table Mountain for about $9 million (a cost of about $10,000 per acre). They expect to close on this purchase by the end of March, 1999.

Purchase of the 274-acre Ramstetter East property closed in early January of this year. With these purchases, about 69 percent of the top and sides of North Table Mountain will be preserved. Efforts continue to purchase the rest of the county-designated lands on North Table Mountain.

There are currently development threats to non-designated smaller parcels along the slopes, which are listed as important to Golden in Vision 2010 although they are not in the county list. It is possible that private donations could be used to buy conservation easements on these lands, which would then be turned over to Jefferson County Open Space.

South Table Mountain

South Table Mountain lies just south of Clear Creek, and comprises about 2500 acres (~4 square miles) of land on its top and sides. The most prominent landmark of South Table Mountain is Castle Rock, featured on logos of the City of Golden and Coors Beer.

The land under consideration by Nike was about 1400 acres on the western part of the mesa, owned by Coors Brewing Co. and the family of Leo Bradley. Immediately after Nike withdrew its consideration of purchase of the land, a meeting was held between lawyer Leo Bradley (representative of Coors) and Ralph Schell, Director of Jefferson County Open Space. On April 17, 1998, Bradley made public a letter to Schell outlining Bradley's understanding of their meeting. To see the entire letter click here. The main points are:

•The ~1400 acres will be pulled from the market until Dec. 31, 1998, to allow time for Open Space to make a cash offer.

•If the owners accept the offer, Open Space will have until Dec. 31, 2000, to arrange funding. During that two years, Open Space will lease the property.

•If the owners reject the offer, Open Space is then to participate "actively" with the owners in preparing a master plan for developing the entire mountain. The master plan would include areas for natural, open and recreational uses, and mixed types of economic uses. All slopes should be untouched, except for access and underground utility purposes.

On December 2nd, 1998, Jefferson County Open Space made an offer to Coors and Bradley for an undisclosed amount for the purchase of the ~1400 acres. Bradley said that the owners will spend the next few months considering the offer.

Save The Mesas is adamant that it will never allow any development of any part of South Table Mountain and will allow only open space use. It will vigorously defend the agricultural zoning currently applied to the mountain by the county.

In the meantime, a pending transaction announced on September 11, 1998, would bring another 473 acres on the east side of South Table Mountain into open space by a series of purchases, land exchanges, and conservation easements between Jeffco Open Space, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the State of Colorado. State Senator Ed Perlmutter played a large part in these negotiations, which will cost the county less than a million dollars. This land includes 80 acres currently leased by Jefferson County Open Space from the Colorado Department of the Military.

In addition, there were already 8 acres of open space deeded to the City of Golden in 1995 and 1996.

E-mail Judy Denison

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