There is only one way into Telluride. And, there’s only one way out. On Highway 145, as you turn right at the roundabout and head into town, you’ll drive right next to the Telluride Valley Floor. It’s on the right side of the road. Watch out. You’ll likely see cars slowing to snap a photo of an elk, or stopping to fully take in the view of the peaks in the alpenglow. The Valley Floor, after all, is a magical place.
It lies at the base of the Telluride canyon, next to the center of town. Its fields are green in the summer and feature wildflowers and evergreen trees that welcome wildlife like the elk, coyotes, rabbits, birds and controversial prairie dogs. With views of Ajax to the east and views of the mesas down the valley to the west, the Valley Floor is a place of peace, wonder, stillness and an invitation to experience what is left of wild places in the West.
The Valley Floor is now a designation of public open space that will remain forever wild. It was a controversial topic for political discussion in Telluride, one that proved revolutionary in the court system. With town fighting for rights to keep the Valley Floor as open space, and the San Miguel Valley Corporation reserving the right to build a cluster of condos and other amenities, a legal battle was waged. The Colorado Legislature passed a law in 2004 prohibiting Telluride and other communities from using their eminent domain powers to seize land outside their borders. This bill was signed by Gov. Bill Owens.
However, the Town of Telluride made an appeal on the grounds that the law was unconstitutional.
When a district court judge agreed, ruling the town, as a home-rule style government, had the authority under Colorado’s constitution to condemn the Valley Floor for preservation purposes, history was made. After a long, drawn out several years of the contest, the Town of Telluride won. When donors came together to raise $50 million, SMVC surrendered the property in lieu of the funds.
On June 20, 2008, the Town of Telluride was granted title and full ownership of the Valley Floor, and SMVC was given the funding for the property. The Telluride Valley Floor is an example of the incredible things that can happen when people come together in support of the same good cause. The 570-acre parcel is home to the San Miguel River. In the summer, fly fisherman wade into the waters in hopes of catching trout. Kayakers and rafters float westward. Wildlife stop for a drink. With a trail that loops the Valley Floor, the warmer weather allows for mountain biking the gentle hills, or simply hiking around.
In the same way, winter affords an excellent cross-county experience with a professionally groomed track. In addition, snowshoeing and winter hiking are enjoyed by many. You might have played there before. You may know the Valley Floor well. Whether Telluride is your home, second-home or place you hope to visit, remember the sacredness of the Valley Floor and help celebrate this special area’s destiny as forever wild.