After reading a recent news story about the proposed bike trail on the Haymeadow property I have a few questions and comments. The article states the trail will be built on private property, but it is anticipated the trail property will be deeded to the town as open space. It is my understanding the Haymeadow project is still in the review stage and there are no approvals or agreements giving the town or the landowner any vesting of this trail property as being town open space.
These questions are raised from my perspective as the former open space coordinator for the town, a professional wildlife biologist and concerned citizen.
The article is not clear on the source of funding for the $60,000 approved for trail construction. Will the money come from the town's general fund or the town's open space fund? If the source is the open space fund, I question the legitimacy of that expenditure.
The ballot question for the occupation tax approved by Eagle voters in April 1996 specifies: "Tax to be used exclusively for the preservation of agricultural lands and for acquisition, maintenance and management of land and easements in and around the town of Eagle for open space buffer zones, trails within open space areas, wildlife habitats and wetland preservation."
I would draw attention to the use of the words "exclusively" and "trails within open space areas." To me, the word "exclusively" specifies that expenditures derived from this occupation tax must adhere to the ballot language. The term "trails within open space areas" doesn't seem to fit or support the location of the proposed bike trail.
I also have concerns with the compatibility of this trail and the deer and elk which use this area. The area where the trail is to be located is important wildlife habitat.
Recreational use of this area could have a severe impact on wildlife. What mitigation measures are being considered to offset the impact? Will there be seasonal use restrictions placed on the use of this trail? Will dogs be allowed on the trail? If so, can they be off leash? Who will enforce trail restrictions since this land is currently in the county?
For a number of years the town leaders have expressed a desire to adopt a formal process for fully investigating issues and concerns prior to approving and establishing recreational trails.
This proposed bike trail appears to have skirted this process. Whatever happened to the mayor's push for "consistency and transparency?"