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While We Still Can

Aspen Valley Land Trust Acquires Carbondale’s Coffman Ranch, with Big Plans for Promoting Local Conservation

A slice of treasured valley heritage is now secured for generations of future land stewards, students, ranchers, farmers, and nature lovers to come. The 141-acre Coffman Ranch, located a mile and a half east of Carbondale between County Road 100 and the Roaring Fork River, has been owned by Rex and Jo Coffman since 1958. Now both in their nineties, the couple made the decision to preserve their special property forever through a unique partnership with Aspen Valley Land Trust (AVLT), the Carbondale-based land conservation nonprofit that has worked to protect areas of local significance for almost 55 years. They closed on the sale of the ranch August 31.

“Our vision for the Coffman Ranch is big, because we’re purchasing the property and that’s not typically what we do,” says AVLT’s communications manager Carly Bolliger. (The organization usually helps landowners preserve their property through conservation easements, which are voluntary agreements that do not involve sales.) “This project is unlike anything we’ve done before—and the potential is endless.”

Since 1967, AVLT has helped conserve more than 44,000 acres of land across the region. But the Coffman Ranch—rich with precious riparian habitat and steeped in longstanding agricultural tradition—is the group’s most ambitious single project to date. AVLT plans to continue operating the property as a working farm, but will gently adapt the land for use as a place for community engagement as well. There are plans for walking paths, limited river access, quiet zones, wetland restoration, and regenerative farming areas. Partner organizations and schools will be able to use the ranch for meetings and educational programming, while AVLT will be able to provide outreach events and other services on-site.

“Our hope is that, through partnering with other nonprofits, we can bring a range of expertise and experiences to the ranch that will make it a true community asset and community conservation showcase,” says Suzanne Stephens, AVLT executive director. “In that regard, this project is much bigger than AVLT and has the potential to make conservation more relevant and meaningful to a whole new range of community members.”

As our valley’s cultural landscape continues to evolve, so too does our land. Homes and commercial buildings have been built atop old forest and divvied-up generational ranches, wildlife habitat has shrunk, and vistas untouched by our growing population have become fewer by the year. Our lifestyles and professional pursuits have shifted away from the farms of yesteryear, but that doesn’t mean our connection to—and appreciation for—the land must be disconnected in the name of progress. Projects like AVLT’s Coffman Ranch site will help us make sure of it.

“This is a place to showcase and help promote conservation,” Stephens says, “and to ultimately advance our broader mission of conserving land on both the landscape scale (wildlife and agricultural corridors, etc) as well as at the community level—while we still can.”

And as for Rex and Jo Coffman, without whom none of this would be possible, their legacy of dedication to the land will live on. They’ve spent the majority of their lives on the ranch, and will continue to reside on the property for as long as they wish. Even as it has now transitioned to AVLT’s care, the name of the site will forever be: The Coffman Ranch.

Community members are invited to learn more about the project at AVLT.org/Coffman, where a thorough breakdown of project initiatives is available.

Get to Know the Ranch: "Party in the Pasture"

  • September 19, 2021 from 12-4 p.m.
  • The Coffman Ranch, 1837 CR 100, Carbondale
  • Food, music, family-friendly activities
  • FREE to the community, but please rsvp at AVLT.org/Events
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