Jefferson County Could Get 1,200 Acres Of Open Space In Exchange For Allowing A Pit Mine To Expand

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Clear Creek in Golden, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020.

Jefferson County officials have had their eyes on the foothills west of Golden for decades. A sprawling set of ranch properties sits just beyond the city limits, with miles of hilly and largely untouched terrain.

Now, the county is poised to buy a large chunk of that land through a complex deal involving the mining company Martin Marietta. Ultimately, Jefferson County Open Space could get nearly 1,200 acres of the Goltra ranch properties, which sit between Clear Creek Canyon Park, Centennial Cone Park and Mount Galbraith Park.

“It’s a really exciting venture. This is one of those areas in the county that has not yet been developed, and it’s a very unique place and very unique opportunity,” said Matt Robbins, a spokesperson for Jefferson County Open Space.

The county would also get about 84 acres near the old Heritage Square theme park site, including the old alpine slide slopes and the historic Bachman Farm. County officials did not immediately provide a map of the properties.

The new land acquisitions would largely be paid for by Martin Marietta, and the company would also directly donate the land near Heritage Square. In exchange, the company would be able to expand its open-pit mine outside Golden, where it quarries stone for construction.

Under the deal, Martin Marietta would take possession of about 64 acres of county land, which is currently vacant because it’s not accessible, according to Jefferson County Open Space. The company could then expand its quarry onto about 48 of those acres.

The quarry sits just south of Golden, and it’s partially surrounded by county-owned land. Martin Marietta would be allowed to mine the county property and then, eventually give the entire mine site to Jefferson County. The property, of course, would be permanently disfigured by mining.

County officials have discussed the idea of eventually turning the quarry into a reservoir, storing about as much water as Chatfield Reservoir in its depths.

“We were already engaged in some conversations with Martin Marietta,” said Robbins. “They would like to extend their mining operation both in size and in duration, for the need for materials here in this area.”

The deal will go before the county’s open space advisory board and the county commission for approval. The county hasn’t disclosed how much money it would pay for the Goltra land, with Robbins saying negotiations are still underway. Martin Marietta also would pay the county $150,000 per year. 

In a press release, a company executive called it a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to “create a lasting legacy and support a community in which we operate.”

The deal could be done by the end of the year, but it would take years longer for the county to develop trails and other amenities, Robbins said.

Originally, the county and the company were talking about a simpler land swap. But the Goltra family approached county officials recently to restart conversations about selling their land, Robbins said. The county then suggested that Martin Marietta could pay for the Goltra acquisitions while giving the county less land directly.

County officials also expect that Martin Marietta will work with the city of Golden to sell and redevelop the core of the old Heritage Square site.