Some 90,000 people annually use parts of the Rio Grande Trail, and most of them pass by land conserved through Aspen Valley Land Trust. From busy Henry Stein Park, owned by AVLT since 1972, to the Jackson Ranch on the edge of Glenwood Springs, over 17 percent of the popular trail passes through or by more than 1,200 acres of AVLT-conserved land. Another 3,400 acres of conserved land is easily visible to hikers and bikers on the trail.
Red Butte Ranch & the Stein Legacy
Red Butte Ranch, seated at the base of Red Butte between the Roaring Fork River and McClain Flats Road, was once owned by 1989 Aspen Hall of Fame inductees Henry and Marjory Stein. In the 1940s, Henry bought 500 acres of what was to become the Stein Ranch for $10,000 – which he only told his wife about later – and which became a remarkable legacy of conservation at the entrance to Aspen. After Henry’s death the ranch was platted as a PUD, and in 2000 the Stein family dedicated two conservation easements to AVLT and open space to Pitkin County – including part of the Sunnyside Trail and a corridor along the Rio Grande Trail through what is known as the “Roaring Fork Gorge.”
In 2004, the remainder of the ranch was sold to Robert and Soledad Hurst, who proceeded to amend the plat to shrink lot sizes, give up a road expansion right of way, move the approved lots out of the main view plane, create two recreational climbing areas to be owned by the County, restore 17 acres of degraded sagebrush habitat, and dedicate a 59-acre conservation easement to AVLT and Pitkin County in 2012. Today this easement, combined with the neighboring Stein Ranch easements, helps establish a notable 1.9-mile corridor of scenic open space and critical habitat along the Rio Grande Trail through the heart of the Roaring Fork Gorge.