In Colorado’s San Luis Valley, the city of Alamosa has been searching for a way to improve livability for its residents by connecting the community to the Rio Grande, which flows through the city’s backyard but can be difficult to access. Western Rivers Conservancy found a perfect way to do it, while simultaneously protecting a mile of the river for fish and wildlife.
In the heart of the San Luis Valley, a new state wildlife area now protects 17,019 acres of public open space along the Rio Grande, as well as outstanding habitat for fish and wildlife, thanks to the efforts of Western Rivers Conservancy (WRC) and its partners Costilla County, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), the LOR Foundation and Colorado Open Lands.
In Colorado’s San Luis Valley, Western Rivers Conservancy launched an exciting new project to expand open space and improve river access for the city of Alamosa. Our effort will conserve a valuable stretch of the upper Rio Grande as both nature park and outdoor playground, doubling the size of Alamosa’s public park system and meeting the community’s need for recreational opportunities centered around the river.
This arcticle ran on October 4, 2017 online at Intermountain West Joint Venture.
As a kid growing up in the San Luis Valley, Brian Bechaver, now a district wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, had free run of his family’s ranch, plus the sagebrush and riverside cottonwood groves on neighboring ranches, too. Over several decades he’s watched familiar agricultural land go up for sale and end up in hands that might not continue the access-friendly neighbor practices of the past.
But at least a few of the ranches Bechaver roamed will always be open to everyone. In 2016, with the goal of protecting prime fish and wildlife habitat and improving public access, the non-profit Western Rivers Conservancy purchased the Brownie Hills and Olguin Ranch properties in the San Luis Valley.
Deepening our commitment to Colorado’s San Luis Valley and the upper Rio Grande, Western Rivers Conservancy is preparing to purchase 368 acres along the Rio de los Piños. This high-elevation trout stream flows from nearly 10,000 feet in the San Juan Mountains and descends swiftly toward the San Luis Valley. Below Cumbres Pass, just off the Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic and Historic Byway, the river enters a high plateau and slows to a picture-perfect, meandering trout stream, surrounded by open meadows and mixed conifer forests of spruce and fir.