Volunteers drive Avon trail plan | VailDaily.com

Volunteers drive Avon trail plan

AVON — For years, a large piece of land between Avon and Singletree has been the subject of plans ranging from employee housing to a recreational haven. Now, plans are coming together for a network of trails on the property. The land was originally owned by the U.S. Forest Service. Thanks to a complex land trade finalized last year, the property is now part of the valley's open space portfolio, owned by the town of Avon, with conservation easement — a contract ensuring the land will be preserved — held by the Eagle Valley Land Trust. But even while the land was held by the feds, Lee Rimel dreamed of biking and hiking trails weaving across the parcel. A couple of years ago, Rimel and the Vail Valley Mountain Biking Association went to U.S. Forest Service officials to ask if a group of volunteers could build a long-envisioned trail link between Avon and Singletree. After getting the go-ahead from the feds to work along a carefully-planned route, those locals got to work, sometimes alone or in pairs, and sometimes in slightly bigger groups. Swinging pickaxes, Pulaskis and shovels, the volunteers took two summers to create the link, which runs mostly along the south side of the parcel. The volunteers' next project was the "saddle ridge" trail, which heads north into the parcel off the Avon-to-Singletree link. That trail is expected to be finished this summer. Town's Role Building more trails this way — with some people spending Saturdays or summer evenings working away — could take years. That's where the town of Avon comes into the picture. Since the property is now owned by the town, it can spend money on the project — as long as it meets with the approval of the land trust. Avon Town Manager Virginia Egger said the idea, pending revisions, of course, is to spend roughly $90,000 this year on trail design and construction and then seek grants next year to finish the entire 7.5-mile network, which was primarily designed by local cyclists. "The town's role is to take the amazing work of these volunteers, make it a reality and help pay for it," Avon Mayor Rich Carroll said. Carroll noted that a dozen people came to the most recent meeting of the Avon Town Council to support the plan. Given the number of people who usually turn out for meetings, that's a lot. "It's super exciting," Carroll said. "We're going to have biking, hiking and running trails on 475 acres of open space in Avon." Broader Vision Putting a network of trails on the Avon parcel, as well as the crucial trail link between the Avon and Edwards communities, is just part of a broader vision of turning the Vail Valley into a cycling haven. Local riders are also working with the International Mountain Bicycle Association to have the valley designated a "ride center." The Avon parcel would combine with the trail network near Eagle to provide mountain-biking enthusiasts with an alternative to Fruita or other well-known cycling draws. 'Grassroots Effort' "This is just a great example of a grass-roots effort," council member Chris Evans said. "It makes you want to go and support it." Rimel said he's been a relatively small part of the volunteer effort, preferring to give his own kudos to the local mountain bike group and the people who have dedicated so much time to what is, at its core, hard, sweaty work. But trails on the parcel has been Rimel's dream, and he's happy to see that dream so close to coming true. "It's immensely gratifying that so many others have put so much time, energy and effort into this," he said.

Avon seeks input on the land exchange

AVON, Colorado – Avon’s Town Council will be accepting public comment at the next Town Council meeting on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. on Avon’s recommendations concerning the Town’s participation in the U.S. Forest Service multi-party land exchange. After receiving comments and discussion, a resolution will be considered by the council in support of the effort at the following meeting, May 24. The Eagle Valley Land Exchange project began in 2007 as a joint community planning effort by the Eagle County Board of County Commissioners and the Avon Town Council with the help of the Eagle Valley Land Trust. Since then, the proposal has grown to include six public entities potentially transferring over 2,200 acres of land in Eagle County. Parties to this proposed land exchange include the town of Avon, the Colorado State Land Board, Eagle County, Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, the Town of Minturn, and the U.S. Forest Service. The town of Avon is participating in the exchange to acquire parcels adjacent to the town boundaries in order to protect valued open space.- Avon will receive two parcels of land totaling 563 acres. The first parcel known as Beaver Creek Point sits between the Wildridge neighborhood and the Singletree neighborhood in Edwards. The second parcel is located to the east of Avon on the north side of Interstate 70 near Dowd Junction. The parcels will permanently create buffers between Singletree and Wildridge and any future development on the northeast side of Town. With certain exceptions, each parcel will be encumbered with a conservation easement that will permanently and perpetually preserve the lands as open space. The purpose of this public hearing is to consider the types of uses that the town would consider suitable exceptions to the Forest Service conservation easement, including trails, community facilities, road alignments and affordable housing. Comments or questions on land use for the Avon parcels can be directed to Sally Vecchio at 970-748-4009 or svecchio@avon.org.-For more information on the proposed land exchange, please visit the Town’s website at http://www.avon.org.–

Feedback sought on proposed trails in Avon

AVON — The town of Avon is seeking input from the community on plans to construct approximately 6.5 miles of new, mixed-use mountain biking and hiking trails in the West Avon Preserve, a parcel between Wildridge and Singletree which was part of a multi-party land exchange that was finalized last year. The 478 acres of open space was placed in a conservation easement held by the Eagle Valley Land Trust and is now managed by the town of Avon. Both the Land Trust and the town are required to approve any new trails in the Preserve. Hiking, biking and horseback riding are currently allowed uses. Motorized vehicle use is not allowed on Preserve trails. Residents of Avon and Singletree are asked to attend one of three open houses to provide feedback on the proposed mountain biking and hiking trails. The Avon Community Development Department will host the open houses on: • May 6 at town hall from 5 to 6:30 p.m., as a work session with the Avon Planning and Zoning Commission. • May 7 at the Wildridge fire station from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. • May 10 at the Wildridge fire station from noon to 3 p.m. The Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association has constructed the Singletree Connector Trail and is in the process of completing the new Saddleridge Trail in the Preserve. Both are single-track, multi-use trails. The mountain bike association has presented to the Avon Town Council a proposed new set of trails which include approximately six miles of dirt, single-track, and the reclamation of a half-mile of double-track trail to Beaver Creek Point. The majority of the trails would be constructed starting in June, with the balance constructed next summer. Both contractor and volunteer work is planned. The town council is expected to take action on the proposed trails at its May 13 meeting. The information gathered at the open houses will be provided to the council before that meeting. For more information, go to http://www.avon.org/trails. If you are unable to attend the meeting and would like to provide comments or have questions, e-mail Matt Pielsticker, mpielsticker@avon.org.

Community volunteers needed for trail project between Avon, Edwards

AVON — Volunteers are needed to build the new Saddle Ridge Trail the weekend of June 15 and 16. If you are interested in volunteering, register with Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado at http://www.voc.org. Click on "Volunteer," then "Project Calendar," where you will find the Saddle Ridge project. You can call Tessa Christensen, volunteer and project coordinator, at 970-827-5165, or visit The Kind Bikes & Skis in The Riverwalk of Edwards or call them at 970-926-1260 for information. The trails are on the 478-acre parcel that is located between Avon and Singletree. This land, transferred from the Forest Service to the town of Avon through a multiple government and Eagle Valley Land Trust agreement, now has a permanent conservation easement protecting the land for eternity. The trail system connecting communities results from partnership between the U.S. Forest Service, the town of Avon, the Singletree Community and the Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association. Working together, they created a trail system enabling hiking and mountain biking just a few steps or pedals from residents' homes. The West Avon Preserve, as this land is now called, provides an overlook and outdoor recreational spot where residents can watch Avon's annual fireworks show. Scores of hikers and mountain bikers enjoy the trails. With the Eagle Valley Land Trust conservation easement in place on this land, it will be preserved and protected in its natural state.

Trails group looks to what’s next in town of Avon

AVON — When the West Avon Preserve opened for hiking and biking on April 15, there was a celebratory atmosphere on the trails. Mountain biker Bill Sullivan got there first thing in the morning, saying he couldn't wait to ride Lee's Way Down. "I love what they've done with this area," he said. Sullivan came from Vail that morning to enjoy the West Avon Preserve trails, which connect Avon's Wildridge neighborhood to the Singletree neighborhood in Edwards. The 478-acre parcel has seen the development of 11 miles of trails throughout the past three years. In April 2014, the town quickly approved and appropriated funding for new trails in the area after residents expressed their desire to see the long-proposed trail system constructed that summer. While the parcel was originally thought to be an amenity for Wildridge and Singletree residents to enjoy, trail users such as Sullivan have been visiting from all areas of the county to experience the trails. Lee's Way Down, which was machine-made by Momentum Trail Concepts in 2014, has become a legendary ride. "It was recognized after just a few weeks as one of the best descending rides in Eagle County," said Lee Rimel, Lee's Way Down's namesake. How popular it would become, however, was a surprise to even those who built it. "I didn't know that was going to happen," said Matt Thompson, with Momentum Trail Concepts. "I wasn't as in tune with the riding culture at the time, so I didn't realize how big it was going to go. But I learned very quickly." NEW PLAN OUT NEXT WEEK Now, with hikers and bikers flocking to the preserve like migrating birds to a wetland, local trail groups are looking to what's next. "More trails in nearby areas would help spread out some of the use there," said Thompson. One of those nearby areas is the Upper Metcalf area to the north of the West Avon Preserve. Longtime Wildridge resident and mountain biker Taylor Seaton says he has been excited about the idea of Upper Metcalf trails for years. "I've seen Avon's master plan for their trails, and it's awesome," said Seaton. "I always thought of it as something that might someday happen, but to see that it's possible right now is super exciting." Next week, a new trails master plan will be released, with a Metcalf Drainage trail suggested as a downhill route similar to Lee's Way Down. The idea is to connect the potential trails in the Upper Metcalf area with the existing trails in the nearby West Avon Preserve and eventually, the rest of the trail system in Eagle County. "There will be a nice paved route up Metcalf, but we're also looking at putting a dirt trail next to it," said Michelle Wolffe, with the Avon Recreational Trails Group. "Similar to what Eagle has done with their singletrack sidewalks." JUNE 15 MEETING A trails meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on June 15, at Avon Town Hall, during which residents will get a glimpse of Avon's new trails master plan and be encouraged to offer input. The updated plan will show all the new trails that are purposed, the estimated cost of construction, and what criteria will be involved in establishing prioritization of the purposed trails. Wolffe said the situation could be similar to what residents saw in 2014, where the construction began quickly after residents expressed support. "A few years ago, when the town of Avon had some funding, they weren't sure on whether to move forward with the trail system, and the same thing is happening this time," she said. "They have funding again, but where it goes, they don't know. We're hoping the community will come out to the open house on the 15th to voice their support of the trails and if the expansion is something they would like to see happen." Thompson and Momentum are currently working on trail maintenance on Vail Mountain. Experts in the area of maintenance as well as construction, he says the popularity of the West Avon Preserve trails will require a double down on maintenance if the 11-mile network isn't expanded. At a meeting of the Avon Town Council on May 24, councilman Matt Gennett said he wanted to see the town seize the opportunity to construct yet this summer, given that Avon has money targeted in the budget for this year. "I do think the process is a bit onerous and cumbersome for something that's so overwhelmingly popular," he said. The plan would first have to go to the town's planning and zoning commission for a recommendation, and then the council would have to approve two readings of an ordinance to get trail work started, Town Manager Virginia Egger told Gennett. Egger said that second reading could occur during the first week of August if the council directs staff to aim for that schedule. "Then we felt we could bid, and commence construction in September," she said. "But I know there is concern, who will be out there, and are all the contractors booked by the time we want those trails."

Land exchange would create open space

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – State, local and federal officials have been working for the past four years on a land exchange involving thousands of acres and millions of dollars. The project just might get done this year.The Eagle Valley Land Exchange was first proposed in 2008. Among all the pieces – including $4.6 million of county money and $1 million from the town of Avon – the two U.S. Forest Service parcels that might have the biggest effect on valley residents are in Avon. One, the so-called “West Avon” parcel, is more than 470 acres just to the west of town. The other, “East Avon,” is just north and east of the Post Boulevard interchange with Interstate 70.The West Avon piece is envisioned as open space now, but it’s been seen in the past as a possible location for “work-force housing,” as well as more expensive homes. The parcel on the east end of Avon could provide more open space, as well as direct access to future development at the Village at Avon. While both parcels are currently public land, that’s no guarantee they’ll remain open space.Eagle County Open Space Coordinator Toby Sprunk said those parcels are called “inholdings,” pieces of public land surrounded by private property. The U.S. Forest Service doesn’t particularly want parcels like that, given that they’re hard to manage and not attached to other public lands.Those parcels are sometimes sold. Sometimes they’re traded for other property that’s currently surrounded by federal land. That’s part of the plan for this land exchange, which includes property owned by the Colorado State Land Board. That board was created at statehood, with the federal government providing square-mile parcels all over Colorado, all of which were to be managed for the benefit of public schools. Sometimes, those parcels are used for school buildings. Part of the Homestake Peak School sits on state land. Other times, those parcels are sold, or are used for commercial building, with rent going to the land board. About a quarter of Eagle-Vail’s commercial district is on State Land Board property. That piece is included in this trade, but the biggest piece in this exchange is a 640-acre parcel that sits above Edwards to the north and west of Singletree.The state parcel will be sold to Eagle County interests, which will then trade the property to the Forest Service for its property in Avon.The trade also includes the state property in Eagle-Vail. Part of the trade involves a U.S. Forest Service parcel between Dowd Junction and Minturn, which would be used for Colorado Department of Transportation facilities. Moving the transportation department’s facilities would allow the state to redevelop the property in Eagle-Vail.Eagle County Commissioner Jon Stavney said that move could help revitalize the Eagle-Vail commercial area, since it’s the biggest piece of property along U.S. Highway 6. In addition to the big pieces of property, the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District is part of the deal and will use some small Forest Service parcels for water-storage tanks. While the trade has more moving parts than most watches, Stavney said after years of work, all of the parcels are in place. Appraisals have been done, too, which allows all of the parties to make sure the cash and land values tally up for the swap.Having those pieces in place led Sprunk to tell the Avon Town Council that a deal was almost in place. That wasn’t quite right.While the numbers and parcels seem to be in place, the U.S. Forest Service still has work to do on the 64-step checklist that accompanies any land exchange. That list still includes assuring the public that the trade complies with the National Environmental Policy Act.Stavney said the environmental review work has been done. Now, though, it must be applied to the specific parcels and the results published in the Federal Register. That step could take a few months, but Stavney said the deal could conceivably be done this year.It better be. Because of rules applying to land appraisals, if the deal isn’t consummated by Nov. 10, the appraisal process starts over again.But those involved in the work believe the trade will happen.”It’s very exciting, not just for Avon but for the broader community,” Avon Mayor Rich Carroll said.That’s especially the case with the West Avon land.”There are hundreds of people who use that land every day,” Carroll said, adding that on a recent evening, he ran into at least 20 people on the West Avon trails.”I think this represents a really, really good direction for our open space efforts,” Carroll said.Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com or 970-748-2930.

Easement an issue for school access

AVON – If Village at Avon developers want to build a road on National Forest land, they need a plan for a school or agree to a land exchange, U.S. Forest Service officials said.The Forest Service denied in August a request for an easement that would have allowed Magnus Lindholm of Traer Creek LLC, the developers of the Village at Avon, to build a road traversing Forest Service land. The road would cross an isolated 80-acre parcel of National Forest east of Avon to reach tract M, where a new elementary school and new homes would be built.”We denied it because (Lindholm) has access through private land,” said Cal Wettstein, a district ranger with the U.S. Forest Service. “From a Forest Service standpoint, it isn’t timely to issue an easement. Traer Creek was predicating the need for a road because it would lead to a school. However, one of the key pieces of information we got was that the building of the school there wasn’t definite.”But Lindholm said the easement was denied wrongfully. “The Forest Service thinks that the School District can’t accept the land until they have the money to build the school, but they can,” he said.Wettstein said the Forest Service didn’t flat out deny Lindholm’s request.”We said we would reconsider his request if they can come with a guarantee that there will be a school there and if we could see more community support for it,” he said. “Instead of providing an easement through the land, the Forest Service would prefer doing a land exchange for that 80-acre parcel.”When they develop the Village at Avon, that 80-acre parcel will be surrounded by development,” he added. “Then it would be difficult to manage the land. Once the Village at Avon is developed around the parcel, there’s not much value for wildlife habitat.”But Lindholm said he wouldn’t consider a land exchange.”If this doesn’t work with the easement, I’m not going to apply for an exchange,” he said.After previously considering two other sites, school district officials told Lindholm they are interested in track M. The school district is holding a public meeting at Avon Elementary School on Wednesday to discuss where the new school should be.”Tract M is the school district preferred site based on discussions that have happened to date,” said Pam Holmes Boyd, spokeswoman for the school district. “But we act as a referring agency. The town of Avon is the one that accepts the school site.”The easement Lindholm applied for the easement two years ago. Though he could access the potential school site from his private land, he said the easement would provide a much direct route, not only for parents driving their children to school but for emergency services.”If we get the easement, Swift Gulch Road, currently under construction near the Wal-Mart Interstate 70 exit, would continue east over the Forest Service land and straight to the school,” Lindholm said. “If we use the private road, it would cost more to the town to plow and maintain it.”For Eagle River Fire Protection District Chief Charlie Moore, the access through the Forest Service land would provide a shorter and less winding road in case of an emergency.”The better the access for us, the better the fire protection we can deliver,” Moore said.In terms of maintaining the road, Bob Reed, director of public works and transportation for the town of Avon, also believes a road through the Forest Service land would be better than a road coming from above.”From what I’ve seen, it would definitely be easier terrain to work with,” Reed said.The Forest Service could issue an easement across National Forest if it is in the public interest and if it’s the best access both logistically and environmentally, Wettstein said.”We have received numerous letters opposing the easement,” he added.Opponents have also written letters to the school district. In a letter written to school district Superintendent John Brendza, several people – including Avon town Councilwomen elect Tamra Nottingham Underwood and Kristi Ferraro and Eagle County Commissioner Arn Menconi – say they don’t believe parcel M is the best site for a school because it is too far away and detached from the community. The letter also says there are concerns with health and safety risks posed by the railroad corridor, the Eagle River and the high voltage power lines impacting the parcel. “We believe that Mr. Lindholm’s desire to move the school site to parcel M has very little to do with serving the best interests of ECSD and has a lot more to do with maximizing profits for Traer Creek,” the opponents say in the letter.Trail benefit Ellie Caryl of ECO trails, is among those who support Lindholm’s easement request.If he gets the easement, Lindholm has committed to build a new ECO trail system that would connect the existing trail in Dowd Junction to the town of Avon.”That would save the taxpayers an amount that I estimate to be at least $900,000 in construction and design costs,” Caryl says in her letter to Wettstein.The new trail would make it convenient for people living in Buffalo Ridge to access the school, Lindholm said.”A kid coming from Buffalo Ridge will not have to cross one street to get to the school,” he said.Staff Writer Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454 or vwhitney@vaildaily.com. At a glancePublic inputWhat: Public meeting to discuss the future location of a new elementary school at the Village at AvonWho: Eagle County School DistrictWhen: At 6:30 p.m. WednesdayWhere: Avon Elementary School—————————————

Vail Daily letter: For Dantas

On Tuesday, we will be casting our vote for Dave Dantas for re-election to the Avon Town Council. Dave has effectively served the residents of Avon and has invigorated our town and economy through his support of measures such as: a partial real estate transfer tax exemption for residents selling and buying new property but choosing to stay in the town of Avon; working to acquire a key parcel of land from the U.S. Forest Service for open space/trails use; installation of safe recreation paths leading up to and in Wildridge; proposing a pavilion at Nottingham Lake as a family entertainment venue; and the addition of a new ambulance facility on Swift Gulch Road. As we look to the future of Avon and the improvement of our community in a still-uncertain economy, we trust Dave Dantas to make responsible decisions for our benefit and welfare.

Wildridge meeting about trail

AVON, Colorado – The Community Development Department will host a Wildridge Community Meeting on Wednesday to review the planned improvements for the Beaver Creek Lookout Trail, commonly referred to as The Point. The meeting will be held in the Wildridge Fire House starting at 5:30 p.m. As part of a multi-party land exchange that includes Eagle County, the State Land Board, and the Eagle Valley Land Trust, the United States Forest Service will convey a 470-acre parcel of land known as the West Avon Parcel to the Town of Avon. The Beaver Creek Lookout Trail is located on the West Avon Parcel, and plans for improving the quality of this trail and trailhead are included in the Avon Recreational Trails Master Plan. Before the land exchange is finalized, the town is reviewing the planned improvement for the Beaver Creek Lookout Trail. When the council reviewed the land exchange proposal in June, a number of Wildridge residents attended the meetings and expressed support for the land exchange deal, but also voiced concern with some of the planned improvements for the Beaver Creek Lookout Trail, including the parking area at the trailhead. Council agreed to re-visit the trail plan and the planned parking area before the land exchange was finalized. For more information on the Wildridge Community Meeting, the Eagle Valley Land Exchange, or the Recreational Trails Master Plan visit the Town’s website at http://www.avon.org. If you are unable to attend the meeting and would like to provide comments or have questions, call Matt Pielsticker at 970-748-4413 or email mpielsticker@avon.org. EDWARDS, Colorado – Canine Companions for Independence, a national nonprofit organization with a regional Colorado office and a dedicated corps of volunteers in the Vail Valley, will host its annual fundraiser at the Edwards Interfaith Chapel and Community Center from 5:30-8:30 pm. Aug. 15. The event will showcase several graduates of the program, a buffet, live auction and a special guest of honor, teenage author Shea Megale. Canine Companions for Independence provides highly trained service dogs to children and adults with disabilities. Dogs are provided to clients at no cost – all expenses of breeding and training a Canine Companion are funded through private donations. Several dogs have been placed in the last few years with veterans who have received disabling injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan. “We rely on the donations of private citizens as well as their time to help train these wonderful animals so that those in need can have help,” said Joan Solon, longtime volunteer and organizer of the event. “We will have several graduate teams at the event which includes CCI dogs and their owners and there will be demonstrations showcasing the remarkable capabilities of the dogs.” The evening will feature teenage author, Shea Megale, who wrote the “Marvelous Mercer” book series. The books describe the imaginary exploits of her beloved CCI assistance dog Mercer, who would sneak out of the house in the middle of the night and experience activities that Shea herself would never be able to do. Shea has Spinal Muscular Atrophy and has been confined to a wheelchair for most of her young life. The evening will also showcase an international buffet which will be offered by local chefs including Richard Bailey of Coco Bar Cascades, Paul Ferzacca of La Tour Restaurant, Peter Millette of Sapphire Restaurant and Oyster Bar and Paul Wade of the Lodge at Vail. A live auction will be held offering valuable and exciting items such as a rare Bainbridge white Labrador Retriever puppy (not a CCI dog), a week at a luxury villa in Tuscany, a five day stay at a game lodge in Namibia Africa, and an original painting by renowned Western artist Carrie Fell. A silent auction will be held as well. Tickets cost $100 for adults and $50 for children between 6 and 12 years old. Children 5 and under will be admitted free. CCI dogs are welcome to attend. Reservations are required. For further information or to make a donation, call Joan Solon at 970-926-0573.

Avon developers want to switch school site

The Village at Avon developers want to relocate a proposed elementary school for the third time since the development was approved and they are turning to the U.S. Forest Service for help. Traer Creek, LLC is seeking permission to build a road across 80 acres of Forest Service land located north of the Eagle River and the commercial stretch of U.S. Highway in Eagle-Vail. The road would provide access to a future school, which Traer Creek now wants to put on private property east of the forest lands. The developers originally planned to build a school in the main Village at Avon development near Wal-Mart Supercenter and The Home Depot. Traer Creek then moved the school site to the north side of Interstate 70, near the William J. Post Boulevard interchange on I-70. The change, and the development’s size, has irritated some residents. “I don’t particularly like the Village at Avon, but the changes they are doing are making it even worse,” said Kristi Ferraro, Avon resident. “It’s not good for the residents of Avon.” Nevertheless, the idea has some major supporters. The school district prefers moving the site, particularly because officials believe the development company will follow through on its plan to build an elementary school there. The district intends to wait until more of the proposed homes are built in the area before building the school. To pay for construction, the district would likely need voters to approve issuing bonds. “Those schools are better in a residential area,” said Karen Strakbein, the school district’s assistant superintendent of business services. “High schools are better to have near a roadway.” Government oversight The new school site also would be larger ” 9 acres compared with 7.3 acres ” and easier to develop because the land is flatter, Strakbein said. Superintendent John Brendza sent a letter to the Forest Service supporting the relocation. Conversations with Denver school officials also convinced Traer Creek to move the school away from a freeway interchange because it is unsafe, said Dave Kautz, senior vice president for the development company. “I’m a parent,” Kautz said. “I wouldn’t want my kids to go to an elementary school next to an interchange.” Kautz said there haven’t been any changes to the Village at Avon’s proposed development plan. Last year the developer did ask the Avon Town Council to approve a batch of changes, including moving the school site, adding more homes and more commercial space on the north side of I-70. The request was unanimously denied. “Any perception that there have been changes is inaccurate,” Avon Town Councilman Pete Buckley said, noting that the council is closely monitoring the development. Traer Creek plans to install water, sewer and electric lines to the school and to add onto the county’s paved recreation path that aims to connect the county’s east and west ends. There is currently a break in the path between Eagle-Vail an Dowd Junction. ECO Trails, the organization that is building the countywide trail system, would save about $1.5 million in their budget if Traer Creek pays to extend the trail through Forest Service lands, Kautz said. Public funds for the trail system are limited and Traer Creek’s proposal would enable that portion of the trail to be finished sooner, said Ellie Caryl, ECO Trails planner. Public benefits Only the road, the trail and utility lines will be built on the forest lands site. The Forest Service will still own the land. Traer Creek could build an access road around the Forest Service parcel, but it would result in a steeper, windier road. The school district also said it will only agree to move the school if the Forest Service allows a road through its land. “We’re obligated to provide access sometimes but in this case they have alternate access points,” said Howard Kahlow, a Forest Service lands specialist. “We’re not obligated to approve this, but there would appear to be some public benefit.” If the Forest Service approves the plan, Traer Creek will likely put more single family homes and commercial buildings near the interchange. But any changes to the development plan require the Avon Town Council’s approval, Kautz said. Ferraro believes profit is one of the reasons why Traer Creek is essentially switching the school. She said commercial space would be more visible near the interchange. And it may be easier to get Forest Service approval for the road if it will be used for a school, rather than a commercial project, Ferraro added. The Forest Service parcel at one time could have been a haven for migrating animals, but the area near it has become too heavily developed, Kahlow said. Forest Service officials believe that building a road and bike trail through that parcel will actually increase the value of the site. Staff writer Tamara Miller can be reached via e-mail at: tmiller@vaildaily.com or by calling 949-0555 ext. 607.