Strawberry Hill Proposed Conservation Easement Update

On May 24th, the Colorado Springs City Council approved a resolution authorizing a land exchange between the City of Colorado Springs and The Broadmoor by a vote of 6-3. The resolution stipulated a conservation easement be placed on the Strawberry Hill property, also known as Strawberry Fields, as a component of the exchange. A conservation easement on the property would ensure perpetual public access and open space protection.

The Board of Trustees of Palmer Land Trust remain neutral on the proposed land exchange and look to the City and its due diligence process to determine if completion of the exchange is in the best interest of the City and our parks system.

While the City completes its due diligence process, Palmer is continuing its own due diligence process to determine whether it will hold the conservation easement. Palmer’s due diligence began with a conservation values assessment of the property. The assessment is meant to ensure that a project fits within Palmer’s mission and that certain conservation criteria are met. The Land Committee of the Palmer Board approved conservation values for the property on March 17. The due diligence process is now focused on an evaluation of the condition of the property, a review of the property’s history and use, and other steps to ensure that Palmer fully understands the property and can permanently protect the conservation values if it accepts holding the conservation easement.

Palmer is currently discussing the terms of the proposed conservation easement with the City and The Broadmoor. Palmer will utilize the provisions set forth in the approved resolution as well as its standard open space conservation easement terms as the basis for the proposed conservation easement on Strawberry Hill.

A conservation easement is a binding legal agreement that offers voluntary, permanent restrictions of a property to protect its conservation values. A qualified land trust holds the easement and is given the right to enforce the restrictions laid out within the easement. The easement restrictions remain with the property forever, no matter who may own the land in the future, and can include limitations on development rights, subdivision rights, new structures or other improvements, mineral extraction, paving, industrial activities, or alteration of watercourses or topography. To ensure the terms of the conservation easement are upheld in perpetuity, Palmer is responsible for the enforcement of the easement terms, annual monitoring of the property, and approval of reserved rights within the easement.

Palmer is a state-certified and nationally accredited land trust and one of the 15 largest local and state land trusts nationally. The organization currently holds conservation easements on 118 properties and more than 103,000 acres, including easements on 14 public properties in El Paso and Teller Counties, like Red Rock Canyon, Stratton, and Ute Valley open spaces.