VAIL — People here are passionate about their parks. That passion shows up in the way parks are used and can run hot when talk turns to changes.
The latest controversy over the town’s parks is planning for Ford Park, the subject of a Vail Town Council discussion at tonight’s meeting. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. At issue is a new “master plan” for Ford Park that might, or might not allow a number of improvements.
Ford Park is the town’s biggest and most-used park, home to everything from concerts to ball games. An ambitious plan for changes at the park has drawn strong support from people who believe improvements will make the park better and opposition from those who believe the park has seen enough improvements and will lose its character if more building occurs.
Work started this year on a first round of improvements, funded primarily by a share of money once intended for a conference center. Voters in 2011 approved a town-sponsored ballot initiative to spend the money — more than $9 million — on projects including Ford Park and the town’s golf course.
Construction at the park has begun and includes re-grading lawn seating and expanding the eastern restrooms at Ford Amphitheater, expanding the park’s athletic fields and building a new restroom-concession building there.
Those plans, and plans for a subsequent round of improvements, had been approved by the council. But a long discussion, including comments from those who support and oppose the plans, caused the council to withdraw its approval for the projects set for 2014.
One of the problems is the number of “master” and “management” plans for the park. Those plans, which date to 1974, are designed to guide development and the way the park is run. People on both sides of the debate have ammunition for their position in those plans.
So the council and town staff are now working on yet another plan, one that may resolve at least some of the questions about what should, or shouldn’t, be done at the park.
Greg Moffet was one of the council members who voted in March to redo the Ford Park plan. As far has he’s concerned, the process — which he acknowledged will be time-consuming — is a matter of “putting the horse before the cart.”
Moffet, who’s also a member of the Eagle County Planning Commission, said referring to various plans during deliberations takes up a lot of time, but is ultimately an essential part of determining whether to build or what to build. And, while being careful to not predict what he and other council members might approve, he added that he believes a new plan might take out some of the inconsistencies between the various plans.
Moffet believes the town council will ultimately come up with a plan for the park that would be recognized as “evolutionary” by those who wrote the original plan. Joe Staufer isn’t so sure.
Staufer, who’s been a vocal opponent of current park plans, said the most recent updates, completed in 2012, tipped the balance between building and preservation too far in favor of building and isn’t optimistic that a redo will restore that balance.
Moffet said he believes balance can be found, but it’s going to take time, and he cited Vail resident and frequent town council visitor Paul Rondeau.
“He often reminds us that if the process is good, the results will be,” Moffet said.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2939 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.