Saving White Acres 

Money will decide fate of property bordering Red Rock Canyon

click to enlarge White Acres, just off 26th Street west of U.S. 24, will be sold - to TOPS or a developer by the owner, Bethany Baptist - Church. - COURTESY FRIENDS OF RED ROCK CANYON
  • Courtesy Friends of Red Rock Canyon
  • White Acres, just off 26th Street west of U.S. 24, will be sold to TOPS or a developer by the owner, Bethany Baptist Church.

The natural wonder of Red Rock Canyon, along with its history, extends beyond its borders.

Just follow the fossil-rich hogback into the roughly 50-acre parcel of private property dubbed "White Acres." Here you will find densely forested areas reminiscent of the bordering Section 16 area, and sparser ranges of hearty scrub brush. There are also bits of history, like the remains of quarries that many speculate provided the rock for Glen Eyrie Castle.

It's a lovely piece of property, connected to other open space and visible from many parts of the city. For all of these reasons and more, many people close to the property want to see it preserved. Well, actually, everyone wants to see it preserved, in one form or another.

White Acres is owned by Bethany Baptist Church, which was willed the property by members of its congregation decades ago. Over the years, Bethany has had picnics there, but otherwise more or less left the property alone.

But now, Bethany moderator Ron Holladay says, the church desperately needs to sell the property. The church's members need the money, largely to maintain and repair their church building on Colorado Avenue and 20th Street.

"If we were a filthy-rich church, we could donate it," Holladay says, chuckling. "We don't have that problem."

In the interest of selling the property fast the church has partnered with Infinity Land Corp., a developer. Infinity is drawing up preliminary plans to put about 30 single-family homes and 16 patio homes on the property, which would be visible from the city's west side and likely from certain parts of Red Rock Canyon.

But the church and the developer have agreed to give the city's Trails, Open Space and Parks department the first stab at buying the property and leaving it in the wild. Holladay hopes the prospect of development on the property will push TOPS to purchase the property sooner rather than later.

Todd Evans, Infinity's vice president of development, says all sides support making the property open space so long as they "get what it's worth."

That could become a point of contention. Rumor has it that the church and developer want more for the property than TOPS would be willing to pay, though no one is willing to confirm that or to reveal an asking price or appraisal value. (There is no assessed value because the church doesn't have to pay property taxes on it.) TOPS manager Christian Lieber says he's definitely interested in the property, and TOPS is in the process of appraising it.

Assuming the price is worth considering, a decision on whether or not to buy the property would take at least a few months, and would require City Council approval. But TOPS will also need to consider where else it wants to spend its money. It's currently leasing Section 16, but will want to buy it within a couple years. And there are other attractive properties on the market, like Corral Bluffs recently considered by the county as an off-road vehicle park way out east.

In the meantime, pressure in the community is mounting for TOPS to buy White Acres. The Bear Creek neighborhood, Friends of Red Rock Canyon, and the Trails and Open Space Coalition are all pushing for preservation.


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