Osprey Orchard

(Scroll down to see the map. Please direct comments to toddmhartley@gmail.com.)

Taking flight ...

Picture a lazy summer afternoon in Colorado. The sun shines down, sparkling off the ripples in the Roaring Fork River. An osprey dives for fish. Deer move through the towering cottonwoods growing in the marshes. A perfect day in a perfect setting.

In the heritage orchard, students move among the fruit trees, pruning branches and earning credit toward degrees in sustainability. Nearby, at the adjoining park, a child jumps off a waterfall into the pond and swims to mom waiting on the beach. Later, they'll walk the interpretative trail, pick apricots, and learn about permaculture farming. Big brother and sister, meanwhile, are riding the pump tracks at the BMX park while dad watches from the deck at Crown Mountain Mill with a sandwich and a cider made right on the premises.

By the river, a young couple take a walk through the lush riparian forest. This evening, across the orchard at The Cidery, they'll tie the knot, saying "I do" against a stirring backdrop of the river and Crown Mountain. Then they'll celebrate with friends at the midvalley's best wedding spot before retiring for the night to the bridal suite at Talon & Claw, the luxury bed & breakfast next to the venue.

Welcome to Osprey Orchard, a proposed multi-faceted, 17-acre, public-private partnership in Eagle County, Colorado, that, if accepted and approved, will preserve open space and public river access while providing needed amenities that are destined to become a source of community pride for generations to come.

• Heritage Orchard

The heart of Osprey Orchard will be the orchard itself: eight acres of apple, plum, and apricot trees sourced from specimens already growing wild along the edges of the property. Working with Colorado Mountain College, the Heritage Fruit Tree Project, and the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute, 600-800 trees will be planted, pruned, and gleaned, providing an invaluable opportunity for CMC students working toward a bachelor's degree in sustainability to get hands-on experience. In keeping with permaculture practices, the acreage will also support vegetables, grasses, beehives, and the other hallmarks of a healthy ecosystem. A conservation easement with Eagle County Open Space and other groups will ensure that for the next 99 years, at least, the land will only be used for agriculture.

• Crawford Park

Next to the orchard, at the southern end of the property, will be a five-acre orchard park and edible garden subleased to Eagle County or Crown Mountain Park. Accessible by ADA-approved ramp from the parking area above, the park will have a one-acre swimming pond with a waterfall cascading over a climbing wall at the deep end and a sandy beach at the shallow end. The remaining four acres will be an orchard with a trail winding through it and signs explaining permaculture practices and outlining the area's history as an orchard and U.S. Forest Service tree farm. There will be clearings among the trees with picnic tables and a children's playground utilizing unique features already on the site, and a small portion of the property will be kept off limits to protect the mating pair of ospreys who return to their nest in the park each spring and summer.

• The Cidery

Located on the western side of the property, The Cidery will be an event space capable of hosting weddings and other gatherings of up to 250 people. The two-story building will have a ballroom on the lower floor, with doors opening out onto an expansive patio and lawn with big views overlooking the Roaring Fork River and Crown Mountain. The upper floor will house a lounge with a large deck overlooking the lawn.

• Talon & Claw

Adjacent to The Cidery and available to groups booking events there, Talon & Claw will be an upscale bed & breakfast with nine guest rooms, a dining room and open kitchen, and a small lounge for evening cocktails. The back deck of the inn will have a hot tub and big views looking east toward Basalt Mountain.

Osprey Orchard will lease the 17-acre parcel from the U.S. Forest Service while subleasing the acreage for Crawford Park to Eagle County or Crown Mountain Park. Additionally, Osprey Orchard will lease from Eagle County the western end of the former tree-processing building overlooking the property. Osprey Orchard will work with Eagle County to repurpose the building and will operate two businesses and a bouldering wall there.

• Valley Road Cider Co.

The fruit from the orchard will be harvested and used to make hard ciders at the Roaring Fork Valley's first cidery. Initially, VRCC will offer three ciders: a traditional apple cider, an apple-apricot cider, and an apple-plum cider, with all the fruit grown in the orchard. Other ciders and seasonal concoctions may be added in the future. The ciders will be available for purchase and on tap at Crown Mountain Mill.

• Crown Mountain Mill

Occupying the southern part of the building, Crown Mountain Mill will be a farmers' market and lunch counter with a patio overlooking the orchard and a deck overlooking the Crown Mountain BMX Park. Serving deli sandwiches, salads, and other light fare, in addition to hard and non-alcoholic ciders, the lunch counter will be a perfect spot for bikers to grab a bite to eat and for groups to hold award ceremonies after competitions. The market, meanwhile, will give local farmers a place to sell their wares year-round and will have two spaces in the summer for food trucks.

• The Mill Bouldering Wall

The large southern wall of the tree-processing building is made up of river rock cemented together with mortar and is inadvertently an excellent climbing wall already. A weatherproof foam pit will be installed at the foot of the wall, and anyone who signs a waiver can go and try out their bouldering skills.