Could Parkland be Replaced?
The Chatfield Reallocation Project would effectively remove 587 acres of land from Chatfield State Park. A Denver Post article published on May 23, 2012, reports that state parks officials would like to replace this parkland. Could the land be replaced by purchasing 587 acres nearby? The short answer appears to be, “No.”
Chatfield state Park is located in the 80125 zip code. On July 15, 2012, a search of the 80125 zip code on zillow.com (an on-line real estate database) found 20 parcels of one acre or more. Offering prices ranged from $14,261 to $280,172 per acre with a mean of $40,095 per acre. At $40,000 per acre it would cost taxpayers $23.5 million to purchase 587 acres of “replacement” parkland. Alternative 3, which is recommended by the DEIS, would no longer have the lowest cost if $23.5 million is included for replacing parkland.
In fact, the 587 acres are probably irreplaceable. Only 225 acres were listed for sale in the 80125 zip code. Just three parcels were larger than 4 acres. Only the largest 95-acre parcel appears to have any riparian habitat similar to what would be lost.
Who is Responsible for Unforeseen Costs?
According to the DEIS, the costs of the preliminary studies and mitigation work will be borne by the members of the consortium of water providers. The consortium will finance the work with a federal loan to be paid back over 50 years. The Colorado Department of Natural Resources will be responsible for the work. Some things are less clear:
- What if there are cost overruns? Who pays for them? Can the loan be increased to cover them?
- What if one or more of the members of the consortium goes bankrupt or ceases to function?
- Who bears the bills if much less water is available than is expected?
- How rigorously will the members of the consortium be required to honor their commitments to maintain environmental quality and ongoing mitigation? Could future financial concerns lead to further degradation of Chatfield State Park or neglect of mitigation areas?
How Will Reallocation Affect Property Values?
Many people choose to live, shop, and work in Littleton and other South Metro Denver areas because of recreational opportunities afforded by Chatfield State Park as it exists today. If the value of the park is diminished, as it certainly would be by the Reallocation Project, it seems reasonable to assume that value of nearby property will be affected well.