Cherokee Ranch and Castle Foundation partners with Douglas County to protect open space; prevent landfill
By Elizabeth Wood West
The Cherokee Ranch and Castle Foundation’s (CRCF) recent purchase of a 215-acre piece of land known as the Henry property, and the Board of County Commissioners’ subsequent granting of a conservation easement on the property, will serve to preserve and protect the property’s natural, scenic, open space, educational, and recreational values in perpetuity.
The Douglas County Open Space and Natural Resource Division (DCOSNR) identified the Henry property, located on the east side of Highway 85 and adjacent to Cherokee Ranch, as a high priority for protection. It determined that the property contained valuable wildlife habitat; that it provided opportunities for public recreation and education; that it provided a scenic viewshed from the highway; and that it served as a buffer for the already-protected Cherokee Ranch and Castle property (Douglas County acquired a Conservation Easement from the CRCF in 1996 and remains an active partner in assisting with its programming).
Previously-proposed plans to expand the Sedalia Recycling Center and Depository (SRCD) into a 358-acre landfill project have been permanently scrapped, as the Henry property was the key piece of land needed for the proposed landfill project.
The Sedalia Land Company (a Waste Connections Inc. company and SRCD’s owner) proposed plans to combine the Henry property with its existing 124-acre landfill and recycling facility – both of which are located east of U.S. Highway 85 and contiguous to the Cherokee Ranch and Castle property in Sedalia.
The Sedalia Land Company submitted the landfill’s expansion plans to Douglas County in 2009, which were met with strong opposition from many community members and organizations that ultimately formed a coalition to oppose the expansion. Concerns about the proposed landfill project included negative impacts upon 12,000 acres of combined contiguous open space, wildlife, noise, the migration of trash, and increased traffic on U.S. Highway 85.
The establishment of this easement is a testament to the power of the people and the difference a small group of community members can make in the future of many generations to come. The Board of County Commissioners’ Deed of Conservation Easement with the CRCF for $1,600,000 was signed on the same day as the CRCF’s purchase of the Henry property, solidifying the partnership.
Cheryl Matthews, Director for DCOSNR, explained that a conservation easement strips a property of the existing development rights and outlines what is permitted and prohibited on the property. Matthews stated, “It is the desire of Cherokee Ranch and the County to provide for passive public recreation on the property on soft-surface trails. Many citizens in the county were opposed to seeing this beautiful property used for the expansion of the Sedalia landfill and worked to find an open space solution to protect the views and the habitat,” she stated. “Fortunately, a satisfactory solution was found and, jointly, we were able to implement it.”
Cherokee Ranch and Castle CEO Donna Wilson added, “We sincerely believe that the strong, persistent efforts of the broad regional Coalition to Preserve Douglas County are responsible for preventing the new municipal solid waste facility. The leadership efforts and future planning from the coalition and the staff of Douglas County will ensure the perpetuation of this special viewshed, wildlife habitat, and educational and recreational asset for the public for decades to come.”