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  • An informational board sits at a viewpoint in Sandstone Ranch.
  • A gazebo is available at the trailhead of Sandstone Ranch.

A more than 2,000-acre property in southern Douglas County that was once destined for residential development is now open to the public with 12 miles of trails for hiking, bicycling and horseback riding.

Sandstone Ranch, which was purchased by the county in January 2018, sits in the foothills between Denver and Colorado Springs. The property, adjacent to Pike National Forest, features mountain views, red rock formations, wildlife and a historic ranching operation.

The land, once owned by a residential development company, was slated to become a neighborhood until the housing market crashed in 2008, said open space director Cheryl Matthews. Then, the land was put on the market.

In 2017, the owner decreased the price to $18.75 million and the county was able to purchase it. The Chatfield Reservoir Mitigation Company contributed $6 million to the project in order to mitigate environmental impacts caused by the increase in water supply in the reservoir. Funding also came from the Douglas County Open Space Sales and Use Tax. The county is also in the process of receiving Great Outdoors Colorado funds for the project.

“We all know this is the gem of the county,” Commissioner Roger Partridge said. “It’s amazing how there are so many people around the whole metro area who know about Sandstone Ranch.”

The Douglas Land Conservancy will hold a conservation easement on the property, ensuring that the land remains open space.

“We’ve had to look at this from the aspect of how to open this to the public but also protect it,” Partridge said. “Because it can easily be overused. That’s been the hardest thing.”

If the need arises, there is room to develop additional trails in the future, Matthews said. More details on the Sandstone Ranch Master Plan are available at douglas.co.us/sandstone-ranch.

“When we came through here and looked I thought it was amazing and then we would go around a curve and I thought ‘this is even more amazing,’” Commissioner Lora Thomas said about the first time she came to the space. “It’s all possible because in Douglas County, we believe in partnership.”

All of the available trails will be multi-use.

“We have a big county with a lot of citizens and age ranges and interests. This is good for horseback riding, biking, families and bringing dogs out on leash,” Commissioner Abe Laydon said.

One portion of the property will continue to operate as a ranch, Matthews said.

“Get out there and enjoy it,” Matthews said.