About face at Ford Park
Ryan Summerlin July 12, 2013
Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from the Vail Homeowners Association monthly report. We publish weekly excerpts from the association, which keeps a close eye on economic and political trends in and outside of the town. The newsletter electronic version with links to supporting documents is available at www.vailhomeowners.com.
In response to concerns from within the community and Vail Homeowners Association about overdevelopment in Gerald R. Ford Park, the Vail Town Council (4-3 vote) reversed their earlier decision to add “phase two” projects to its list of Ford Park projects enabled by the reallocation of the conference center fund.
Those additional projects involved improvements to the amphitheater courtyard entrance and educational center building with an office and greenhouse for the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens. The decision caused considerable upset and even anger from the proponents who had been led along by the town’s actions of “appending” the additional improvements to the primary phase one Ford Park projects of ball field improvements and amphitheater lawn seating changes.
The Vail Valley Foundation has worked to help with the Ford Park redevelopment by raising substantial financial contributions by philanthropic donors to match the reallocated town funds in order to build a package of Ford Park projects sponsored by the foundation. The package included components in both phase one and phase two portions of the total redevelopment.
It is not yet clear how the recent council decision to pull back on phase two projects will affect the donors’ participation in the park’s redevelopment since. According to the foundation, all of the things that appealed to the donors were really in phase two.
The proposed phase two park improvements had run afoul of the well-entrenched community desire to preserve open space, including Ford Park and hundreds of acres spread throughout the community. The Vail Homeowners Association, some weeks ago, suggested to the Town Council that there should be a pull back on moving forward with Ford Park phase two, at least until construction was completed and the public had adjusted to the changes brought about by phase one.
Further, the association asked that the current Town Council honor the promises made by the former Town Council to not allow artificial turf, no matter how seemingly inconsequential in area, to be installed on the Ford Park ball fields. The opposition to artificial turf on Ford Park has been a long held symbol of excessive commercialization and urbanization by many of the community’s open space preservationists and conservationists. This perspective reflects one of the core principles at the heart of the opposition to the overdevelopment of Ford Park.
Over the past couple of years, the proposed second phase improvements had, under cover of being appended to the review of phase one, been quietly moving through the approval of a very low keyed master planning and operational revision procedure.
Some of these revisions were at odds with and sought to hopscotch over earlier 1974, 1985 and 1997 Ford Park planning documents that were themselves highly contentious during their authoring.
As the public became aware of the details and opposition mounted, the train pulling the second phase proposals came off its track, creating a rallying point for preservationists once they began to see the extent of, what they considered, urbanizing features in the proposed Ford Park projects.
Public attitudes about town development preferences are changing: The Ford Park matter now joins a similar urbanization/open space controversy over the redevelopment of the Golf Clubhouse site, also being funded from the reallocated Conference Center Fund. These two projects are part of a larger package of other major redevelopment initiatives being considered by the current Town Council.