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Cheyenne City Planner Seth Lloyd, center, points to a map while explaining details of the Big Hole to city officials during a property tour Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019, at the Belvoir Ranch in Cheyenne. City officials are looking at options to create a trail to the Big Hole, which is currently only accessible from the Colorado side of the border. Michael Cummo/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – The Cheyenne City Council’s Finance Committee voted 2-0 Tuesday to recommend a proposed land exchange measure that city officials hope will eventually provide public access to an area known as the Big Hole.

City officials are proposing a land deal between the city, Mariah LLC and chemical manufacturer Dyno Nobel that could provide the key to public access from the Wyoming side of the area that features red rock canyons, and trails for biking and hiking.

The Big Hole, an area of 1,800 acres of open space just south of Belvoir Ranch that runs all the way to the Colorado border, is currently inaccessible to the public from the Wyoming side of the state line. Hikers and bikers drive to Colorado to access a trail to get to the Big Hole.

Under the proposal, Dyno Nobel would buy a 543-acre property from Mariah adjacent to the Belvoir Ranch for about $1.3 million. The property is appraised at a little more than $1 million.

The property is located about 16 miles southwest of Cheyenne.

The city would then trade 419.6 acres of land it owns in the Swan Ranch area, near the crossing of Interstate 25 and Interstate 80, to Dyno Nobel for the Mariah property. The Swan Ranch property is appraised at a little less than $1.1 million.

“Our purpose (in acquiring the property) is for open space,” Lars Story, site manager for Dyno Nobel, said during Tuesday’s Finance Committee meeting. “There’s not a lot of opportunity to purchase land that comes right up to our boundary.”

Story told committee members that the company owns about 2,200 acres around the plant. He said the Swan Ranch property would serve as an additional buffer between the plant and the city, and the land would remain in an undisturbed condition.

“This proposal is for an equal land swap,” Public Works Director Vicki Nemecek told committee members. “There will be no funds added by the city.”

Two easements are established on private property south of the Mariah property and just northwest of the Big Hole – a conservation easement that covers the property and an access easement for a future trail.

But an easement for public use of a tunnel that goes underneath the Union Pacific Railroad between the Mariah property and the private property is needed.

The city and BOPU bought the 18,800-acre Belvoir Ranch in 2003 for $5.9 million. Two years later, the city spent $525,000 to buy the Big Hole, just south of the ranch property.

In other action

In other action, committee members voted 2-0 to recommend a proposed real estate purchase between the city and John J. Koehler for about 1.5 acres of undeveloped public property south of the Cheyenne Ice & Events Center for the appraised value of $293,000.

Koehler told committee members he intends to combine the property with the former Atlas Motel property he is purchasing as part of a plan for future development.

Koehler added that he hoped to demolish the former motel buildings as soon as possible.

“I would say if we could get it done this year, we’d like to,” he said. “Otherwise, it would be in the spring.”

Committee members also recommended the third and final reading of an ordinance submitting to owners of real property within the boundaries of the Cheyenne Downtown Development Authority District the following question at a special election on Oct. 16: “Shall a special assessment of 20 mills be levied upon the assessed value of real property within the boundaries of the Cheyenne Downtown Development Authority District, excluding real property used exclusively for residential purposes, for a period of four years pursuant to the provisions of Wyo. Stat. §15-9-217(b) for the purpose of (1) administrative costs; (2) landscaping or maintenance of public areas; (3) planning or management of development or improvement activities; (4) promotion of public events; (5) activities in support of business recruitment and development?”

The full council will consider the items during its meeting next Monday.

Steve Knight is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s local government reporter. He can be reached at 307-633-3182 or sknight@wyomingnews.com.

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