River park passes with 62 percent of vote | VailDaily.com

River park passes with 62 percent of vote

John LaConte
jlaconte@vaildaily.com

A rendering shows the proposal for the Eagle River Park. Eagle voters on Tuesday approved a sales tax increase to fund construction of the park.

EAGLE — A sales tax increase to construct a river park passed by a nearly two-to-one margin on Tuesday, another sign that locals here value recreation.

Outgoing Mayor Yuri Kostick said, for him, the river park's construction — which will begin in the fall when the water levels are low — will be the ultimate swan song as he prepares to leave office after eight years of public service.

"It feels good to see it pass and by such a big margin with a big turnout," he said.

With more than 1,500 people casting ballots, the river park garnered more than 62 percent of the vote.

"My mind is racing with what's next," said Town Planner Tom Boni. "We have to begin a public process and find a land architect, go after grants; we have a lot of work to do."

Matching funds will now be available via the half percent sales tax increase, allowing the town to seek grants on the park, perhaps offering even more than the $5 million project approved by voters.

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Boni said additional grants could connect the park to the Eagle County Fairgrounds, Hole in the Sky Disc Golf Course and Eby Creek Road via an extension of the Valley Trail.

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

While the planning details still need to be worked out, one thing that is certain is the first part of the process will be the construction on the features in the river itself, eagerly anticipated by local boaters.

"Now I won't have to go all the way to Glenwood," said kayaker Derrick Dreyer, an Eagle resident who voted in favor of the park.

Dreyer currently kayaks in the area, practicing moves on a feature he calls the Truck Stop Wave, named after the truck stop which will be transformed into the park when the project is complete.

"It's going to provide an opportunity for beginners as well as experts to hone their skills in a safe environment," Dreyer said.

Stand-up paddleboarder and Eagle resident Lance Schober said he'll definitely get more hours on his board as a result of the river park gaining voter approval on Tuesday.

"I'm really proud of our town for passing this," he said.

The passage of the ballot measure was met with high fives and a sigh of relief at Bonfire Brewing in Eagle. Bonfire co-founder Andy Jessen, who is also an Eagle town trustee, was breathing a sigh of relief. The patrons he was serving were slapping high fives.

"It was a huge community effort, from start to finish," Jessen said.

'WHO DOESN'T LOVE A PARK?'

Eagle County owns the land the river park will be constructed on, with the county and the town working hand in hand to see to its development.

"This is a level of collaboration that I've never seen between the town of Eagle and Eagle County," Kostick said.

River park supporter Aaron Brown moved to Eagle from Gunnison, and said the addition of a river park there added a lot of vibrancy to that community.

"It's not just for kayakers and whitewater rafters; it's a great place to go barbecue and hang out in the water, catch a tan and let the dogs go for a swim," he said.

Boni said the Eagle River is among the most beautiful rivers in the world and deserves to be a showpiece of the town.

"It's nearly undammed, the flushing that occurs is amazing, and there's a real excitement that builds with the natural change in flows that occur on such a wild river," he said.

Unincorporated Eagle resident Gerry Strickland says it will be a great place for a wedding. And Eagle resident Alicia Soffietti, who will be getting married in a few months, says she looks forward to using the park for years to come.

"Who doesn't love a park?" she said.

EAGLE BALLOT MEASURE 1

YES 962

NO 589

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