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Vail Daily Editorial: Transportation authority is an opportunity to build for the future

Whether you’re a local employee trying to get to work on time (and back home by a reasonable hour), a visitor looking for easy ways to navigate to and from local resorts and businesses, or you’re looking for a more climate-friendly option for transit, public transportation should be a service that makes life easier, not harder.

However, as identified by local business owners, economic councils and municipal leaders in 2020, public transit has been failing to meet a lot of the Eagle River Valley’s most pressing needs for a while.

This is why a regional effort sprung up in 2021 to see how a new transportation authority could solve not only a large workforce challenge but bring an improved experience for residents and guests alike. This effort combined stakeholders from eight local governments, numerous employers (big and small) across the valley, existing transit agencies in the county, and community organizations — all working toward a singular goal.

The end result: a ballot question in front of voters this November asking them to form the Eagle Valley Regional Transportation Authority

Voters in the towns of Avon, Eagle, Gypsum, Minturn, Red Cliff and Vail as well as the Beaver Creek Metro District and unincorporated parts of Eagle County will individually decide whether or not they want to be a part of the proposed RTA.

That said, in order for the new authority to be formed at all, voters in Avon, Vail, Beaver Creek and Eagle County must vote in favor of the question on their ballot. That’s because the large majority of sales tax in the county is generated in the communities located nearest to our local resorts. 

Among the possible improvements are better commuting routes and service for those that live in Eagle and Gypsum (including a potential fare-free service); more frequent and efficient routes to Leadville and Dotsero; a possible fare-free zone in the upper valley; first and last mile transit improvements; more sustainable funding for the Eagle County Airport to bring in more flights; and more.

Many of these solutions came directly from local employees and employers, who reported not using current transit due to inconvenient service times as well as bus stop locations. In addition, these changes are designed to reduce congestion on streets and limit parking demand — a benefit not only to the workforce, but to the visitor experience as well.

Effectively, by boosting transit, a better way of getting from here to there is promised. 

Not only that but by creating a transit system that better serves the needs of both locals and visitors, the RTA hopes to boost ridership — something that could go a long way to help the county achieve its climate goal of reducing emissions by 50% by 2030.

Ground transportation is by far the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Eagle County, with the most recent energy inventory report showing that 41% of emissions came from transit in 2019 and 37% in 2020. Increasing ridership on local transit could have an enormous impact on reducing these emissions, not only in getting residents and visitors out of cars and into buses, but also as the authority would seek to transition local fleets to electric buses.

Through a proposed half-cent sales tax — estimated to generate an additional $15 million in the first year on top of the existing half-cent sales tax that funds ECOTransit — the new authority would seek to fund these enhancements to local transit services. 

Considering all these factors, a half-cent tax is a very reasonable price to pay to secure the promise of more equitable and efficient transit that cuts down on emissions in Eagle County. 

The last time voters were asked to form a regional transit authority was in the 1990s — with Eco Transit forming in 1996. The valley has changed drastically since then as the population has exploded (particularly in downvalley communities), guest numbers have continued to grow (creating traffic and parking congestion) and the demand for local workforce has continued to grow. With these changes, it’s time for our local transit to change as well, not only to address current gaps but also to better prepare for the future. 

Plus, as individual municipalities struggle to find viable, efficient and robust solutions to the growing pains and workforce challenges in Eagle County, it’s refreshing to see a solution that came together as a result of not only regional collaboration but collaboration across private, public and nonprofit sectors. 

And as a solution collaboratively crafted, it’s one that promises to better unite the county through enhanced and equitable transit.

We urge voters to support the formation of the Eagle Valley Transportation Authority on their ballots this fall.

Our View: Create the Camp Hale monument, but don’t add it to ’30 by 30′ goal

Thirty years ago, a beautiful area of the White River National Forest in Eagle County was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated as a national historic site.

Forty years prior to the dedication, construction was underway on a massive military mountain training camp there, with wetlands in the area buried and the once-meandering headwaters of the Eagle River converted into a shaft-straight irrigation ditch. The area, formerly known as Eagle Park, was named Camp Hale, and by 1945, as many as 15,000 soldiers were training there.

On April 15, 1992, the Vail Trail covered a local press conference announcing Camp Hale’s inclusion into the National Register of Historic Places.

From the Trail’s coverage: “In addition to bolstering the morale of the surviving 10 Division vets … the designation gives protection, preservation and interpretation of the site a top priority.”

If it sounds familiar, it’s because a lot of these same talking points are being used to justify the creation of a national monument at Camp Hale today, 30 years later.

But do national monuments protect and preserve any more than national historic sites? If Camp Hale had a paved road, more interpretive displays, and it appeared in more national lands marketing, would it really be better protected?

The answer is no — probably not under these conditions. But that doesn’t mean a national monument in the area is a bad idea.

With a few of the last surviving soldiers who trained at Camp Hale still alive, the creation of a national monument there now, in 2022, represents one of the final opportunities to honor the still-living ski troopers who fought bravely in the Alps in World War II. A national monument could do just that — and more so, even, than a national historic site can. 

And if that’s all there is to it, it’s a no-brainer. Make it a national monument tomorrow while a few of these living legends are still alive.

But those in favor of the proposed Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument have other ideas on why it could be good, some of which are based on faulty logic.

One major reason given to President Biden to use the Antiquities Act to make a monument out of Camp Hale is that it could be added to the 30 by 2030 initiative, which aims to conserve at least 30 percent of America’s lands and waters by 2030. By creating a national monument at Camp Hale, supporters say it would also prevent future drilling and mining there.

But that’s based on the assumption that this location — a national historic site, on the National Register of Historic Places — will someday be laden with fracking equipment. There’s about as much chance of that happening at the Camp Hale national historic site today as the CIA returning there to train Tibetan Guerrillas, (yes, that also happened at Camp Hale once upon a time.)

If President Biden were to add to the 30 by 30 list an area that is already a national historic site on the National Register of Historic Places, this would only aid those who seek to discredit the effort as mere lip service — a phony way to claim new protection status for already protected places.

Also, we should know better than most that earning national monument status doesn’t mean the area will remain a national monument, and remain protected in perpetuity. The nearby area surrounding Mount of the Holy Cross was once a national monument, created by President Herbert Hoover in 1929. But the area lost national monument status in 1950 and shortly thereafter, Colorado businessman John Elliott sold the water rights for Homestake Creek and Cross Creek to the cities of Aurora and Colorado Springs. Today, the dam creating Homestake Reservoir, which pumps water to those cities on the other side of the Continental Divide, bears Elliot’s name.

And a final thing to remember about Camp Hale, (and perhaps this is why it would make a good place to withstand an increase in visitor presence), is while the area is “protected,” it’s not exactly pristine. Converting the area to a military camp required a burying of wetlands, the same type of sensitive areas locals say they don’t want to lose to another water diversion project. Locals have rallied against Aurora and Colorado Springs’ latest effort, the Whitney Creek reservoir, which would be located not far from Camp Hale. When we say we’ve already lost a lot of these wetlands in Eagle County, Camp Hale’s construction should be included in that accounting.

So if we’re going to honor the 10th Mountain Division by creating a national monument out of Camp Hale, let’s do it, but let’s not kid ourselves in the process. Let’s not add it to Biden’s 30 by 2030 list. Let’s not tell ourselves this area will be better protected by earning national monument status.

Let’s all admit that national monument status at Camp Hale will only make Camp Hale better celebrated, and that’s the true reason for the designation. Those ski troopers who withstood the harsh conditions there deserve as much.

Our View: Vail Resorts’ moves in East Vail don’t seem right

Since Vail Resorts in early 2021 announced it still planned to develop workforce housing on a parcel in East Vail — formerly known as Booth Heights — something hasn’t seemed quite right. That feeling is growing.

The firm in April announced it would build on the property, with the company acting as the developer. That reversed a pattern of several years in which the company used third parties to build both high-end projects and workforce housing.

That didn’t seem quite right.

In the April announcement, Vail Resorts announced its intent to have workforce housing on the site by December 2023. That seemed ambitious at the time, given that the six-month window for earthwork on the site begins in mid-June.

Despite a May 18 Vail Design Review Board decision to approve “minor” changes to the design, the company as of last week hadn’t applied for building permits from the town of Vail. Once those applications are submitted, Vail planners need to review the project to ensure the submittals and plans are complete and meet town codes. Will that process really be done by mid-June? Has a construction company been hired and how long will it take to mobilize on the site?

Then comes Vail Resorts’ claim that it intends to spend $17 million for the work. That seems almost laughably low. The current Residences at Main Vail workforce housing project will cost at least $27 million, on a site that was far more construction-ready than the untouched 5.3-acre site in East Vail.

Vail Resorts has rallied its local executives and employees to lobby for the project, using, among other talking points, the claim that “luxury homes” are being built in the same area without the review required of the proposed workforce housing complex.

That neighborhood was zoned and platted decades ago. New homes being built there are adhering to long-existing town codes.

It’s also curious that Vail Resorts in late 2020 pulled out of talks intended to replace the East Vail property with something more palatable to the community. The company has recently replied to a May 13 town letter that offered several alternatives to the East Vail site. Virtually any of those sites would be preferable in many ways to warehousing seasonal employees on a site that’s a long way from jobs and shopping for essentials. Vail Resorts’ letter, while offering to find common ground with the town, is also filled with numerous objections to those alternatives.

Then there’s the legal element. Town of Vail officials have launched a process to acquire the site via eminent domain — condemnation. If the required “good faith” negotiations fail, it’s going to be expensive for both Vail Resorts and town of Vail taxpayers to pursue the case in the courts.

There’s also the matter of a May 17 cease and desist demand letter sent to Vail Resorts from Triumph Development. Triumph once had a contract to buy the property, and took the proposal through a controversial town approval process. As part of a subsequent agreement that led to Triumph building the Residences at Main Vail project, the company agreed to withhold its intellectual property from Vail Resorts. The demand letter alleges that Vail Resorts is using Triumph’s plans virtually intact. That could also lead to litigation.

None of this seems quite right. There’s no point speculating about the company’s motives. Whatever those motives are, increasing Vail’s supply of workforce housing doesn’t seem to be at the top of the list.

Our View: Don’t wait to find out with new variant

Get vaccinated. Get your children vaccinated. Get your booster. Wear a mask indoors. Keep a safe distance. Exercise. Eat right. Take some time each day to assess your mental health. And make sure to get outside and get some sunlight.

You may feel helpless as the omicron variant explodes across Eagle County, pushing local daily case counts higher than they’ve ever been. But the fact is, you’ve never been powerless in this fight. You know the tools you have to keep yourself and your family protected. And you’re fully capable of using every tool in that kit to live with this virus.

Heck, we’ve been living with it for nearly two years — and doing better than most. We’ve excelled, as a community, when it comes to blunting surges, flattening curves, reopening early and getting kids back into classrooms and keeping them there while other communities around the country have had much bumpier trajectories.

So, yes, the data isn’t good. This new variant of COVID-19 spreads faster than anything we’ve seen so far. Our lodges, restaurants, shops and ski resorts are full for the holidays and this surge couldn’t come at a worse time. These next three to four weeks will test our health care systems, businesses and our resolve as a community.

But let’s be clear: This variant is still a version of the same virus we’ve knocked down before. We can knock it down again.

It’s time to stop viewing COVID-19 as something we’re close to coming around the bend on, with a finish line in view. We need to put an end to the talk about the end of COVID.

The virus is looking more and more like it’s endemic. Even when we reopened last spring and had a reprieve from the pandemic last summer, gathering again, traveling, taking in live music, and living our lives without limitations, the virus was still out there, circulating.

And now this new variant has accelerated everything again, faster than ever before. But we’ve also got more tools to fight it than we ever had when COVID-19 arrived here at the start of 2020 and Eagle County quickly emerged as one of the hottest spots in the country.

At the top of that list are safe, effective vaccines that are readily available. If you’re still hesitant about getting vaccinated, or getting your children vaccinated, rigorous scientific testing, reams of data and millions of people getting inoculated all lead to the same conclusion: Vaccines are your best weapon in this fight.

If you’re vaccinated, you are far less likely to become severely ill or die from COVID-19 compared to unvaccinated people. That’s irrefutable. And it’s the unvaccinated that are weighing down our health care system right now, pushing our hospitals to the brink around the state.

Early reports indicate that omicron cases may be less severe than the delta variant, but you don’t want to wait to find out. Omicron is more contagious than anything we’ve seen so far, and it’s circulating rapidly in this valley.

Panicking isn’t going to solve anything. You have so much you can control, and that starts with making smart decisions about gathering, about being healthy, and about looking out for one another.

Another surge is the last thing anyone wants at Christmas, but we’ve already faced this challenge before. More than ever, it’s time for us to rally again as a community, to take care of each other, and to be safe to not overwhelm our overworked front-line health care workers.

We can do this, but it’s going to take all of us pulling together. Let’s get to work.

Our View: Grimmer, Bartnik, Woodworth Foral, Sunday for Eagle Town Council

Eagle voters can’t lose. There is nothing but good choices among the nine candidates running for four Town Council seats on this year’s ballot.

Don’t take it from us. Take it from the candidates themselves, who all said as much at a recent forum that had a collegial feel where everyone seemed to agree that the town has a good thing going and that anyone running in this year’s race would serve voters well.

That said, we urge voters to check the box for incumbent Geoffrey Grimmer in his race against Weston Gleiss for a four-year team. We also recommend Janet Bartnik, the other incumbent in the field, for a two-year term, as well as Jamie Woodworth Foral and Nick Sunday for two-year terms.

Grimmer and Bartnik were appointed to the Town Council to fill the seats of beloved locals Adam Palmer and Andy Jessen, and have carried on the vision set forth by the former council members when it comes to sustainability, smart growth and ensuring the town’s long-term viability.

That vision includes a bold initiative of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. Grimmer and Bartnik have been instrumental in those sustainability efforts, which include the establishment of the Adam Palmer Fund, which will provide grants and loans to support a variety of sustainability initiatives in Eagle.

Grimmer, who has been at the forefront of the town’s sustainability push, said at the candidate forum that many carbon emission reduction efforts currently being explored have a high potential for return on investment and can save the town — and its residents — money over time. He wants the Town Council to “create a vision that pulls people,” as opposed to pushing them, and that making common-sense changes to be a more sustainable town is an effort that should unify residents.

Bartnik, who is the executive director of Mountain Recreation, has plenty of experience when it comes to shepherding public money responsibly and working collaboratively with other entities. She is focused on shoring up the town’s financial future and wants to drive solutions to some of the issues facing communities across the valley, most notably a shortage of affordable housing that has made it hard for businesses to find employees, as well as a lack of child care services.

As for the other two open seats, we liked Jamie Woodworth Foral’s take on the town needing to be proactive, not reactive, to the challenges it faces with population growth, housing and future development. She also said that the town’s staff runs the town, not the other way around, and that it’s the Town Council’s job to grow and support that staff. She said she’d like the town to hire an assistant town manager to help assist what everyone agreed is a great town manager in Brandy Reitter.

While all of the candidates said that it’s essential to maintain the small-town character and feel that has kept residents in Eagle and drawn in new ones, Sunday articulated it best when he said he wants to “keep Eagle weird.” That means improving the things that locals already love about the town while not forgetting what makes Eagle unique, whether it’s the free concerts in the town park in the summer where you might run into someone with a pig on a leash, to keeping the town’s off-beat holiday light display that has an inadvertent phallic resemblance.

And, as the operator of a company that distributes video games and jukeboxes across the Western Slope, he said he’s free of any conflicts of interest when it comes to development pressures that could erode that small-town character.

We also liked plenty of the ideas from other candidates on the ballot. Shawn Bruckman, the director of sustainability and compost operations manager at Vail Honeywagon, said two of the biggest issues facing Eagle as it grows are “parking and water” and that some recently approved developments have not aligned with Eagle’s land-use code when it comes to providing adequate parking and maintaining the flow of traffic.

Judson Haims, a longtime local, said it’s essential for the town to grow its sales tax base, but he said decisions on how the town grows would be driven by listening to the community and allowing business owners and other residents to guide the council.

Weston Gleiss suggested Eagle could welcome more light manufacturing business like the one it already has in QuietKat e-bikes to create more local jobs. He also said the town could capitalize better on its access to public land and open spaces to support new business.

Weston Arbogast, an engineer with an interest in water use and sustainability, said the town should support more diverse housing options, including more deed-restricted properties, to keep locals from leaving and entice new residents.

Sarah Parrish, a real estate agent and longtime local, also said the town needs to diversify its housing options and also supports multimodal transportation for commuters and giving already-approved residential developments the support they need to move forward quickly.

It’s hard not to like any of these ideas, and any one of these candidates would serve residents well on the council.

In our opinion, the best choices are Geoffrey Grimmer, Janet Bartnik, Jamie Woodworth Foral and Nick Sunday.

Our View: Eagle County Commissioners don’t need a third term

The Eagle County commissioners have asked, again, for an extension in the amount of time they can hold office, putting Issue 1A on the fall ballot.

Colorado’s Constitution prohibits elective office holders from serving more than eight consecutive years. Voters can extend or remove those limits.

In Eagle County, the commissioners are the only elected officials limited to just a pair of four-year terms, despite several attempts at change.

In the wake of the 1994 passage of the state’s term-limit amendment, county officials asked voters almost immediately for relief, following the forced retirement of a popular county sheriff and other office-holders.

The original ballot question asked to remove term limits from all office holders. Voters said no. A few years later, the question was split, with the commissioners on one question and other elected officials on the other. Voters approved lifting limits for the sheriff, clerk and recorder, treasurer and other offices, but left them in place for the commissioners.

The commissioners asked again in the early 2000s, and were again rejected.

The current question asks voters — in a slightly sneaky way — to add another four-year term to the current two-term limit. That would allow commissioners to serve up to 12 years — if voters agree, of course.

The term-limit question is a tricky one. One one hand, why should arbitrary limits subvert the will of the voters? If the county clerk, or sheriff, or surveyor want to serve multiple terms, and voters agree, why should the state impose a limit?

On the other hand, the more political an elective job is, short-circuiting the power of incumbency allows a regular infusion of fresh talent into the process.

The commissioners are the most political office holders in the county, and catch the most input on whatever decisions they make.

Congress is the best example of incumbency creating voter malaise. Representatives and senators can, and do, serve for decades, often amassing great power and sizable fortunes in the process.

The situation is different for county commissioners, of course. And there’s a logical argument for 1A, particularly when it comes to serving in state and regional organizations. A few of those organizations, including the Colorado River District, make policy. Others are primarily lobbying groups. But all depend in large part on seniority.

Given that relatively few of Colorado’s counties are locked into the two-term limit, that puts Eagle County’s representatives at a disadvantage.

With that in mind, though, Eagle County voters have already answered this question several times. Not enough has changed in the past couple of decades to change that answer. While experience in any job can be valuable, there’s also something to be said for new people and new ideas.

We encourage voters to check no on their ballots — again.

Our View: Yes to Vail sales tax to fund housing

Vail has been short of workforce housing since the first gondola clattered uphill in 1962. But today’s housing crunch may be as bad, or worse, than it’s ever been.

While Vail in the last few years has put millions from its existing housing funds and ample reserves into housing initiatives, that isn’t a sustainable course of action. Today’s housing crunch may finally have convinced town voters it’s time to create a stable housing fund.

Unlike Avon, which is asking voters to tax short-term rentals — a tax someone else pays — Vail is asking voters to increase the town’s sales tax rate for the first time since 1974. The proposed increase — .5% — won’t apply to groceries, so locals will bear little of the burden. Most people won’t notice either, since .5% adds $5 to a $1,000 purchase. That’s a big day at the hardware store or ski shop.

If passed, the sales tax revenue — estimated at $4.3 million in its first year — will be dedicated to housing projects and initiatives.

That revenue can be used for town-only initiatives, and the proposal’s 30-year sunset provision is roughly in line with the standard repayment time for revenue bonds.

But local governments are best served when private-sector partners get involved, so funds can also be used for those projects.

The ballot question — 2A on your ballot — specifies that revenues from the new tax go to housing, but the money can be used both inside and outside of Vail.

Given the $70 million estimated cost of redeveloping the west side of the Timber Ridge property, money from the proposed sales tax will almost certainly need to be augmented with other money. Still, this new revenue stream is a good start.

Opponents of the proposal have argued that Vail’s money won’t be spent entirely on housing for people who work in town, or will be available to those who don’t work in town.

The town has set up a tiered system for the 23 units at Edwards’ 6 West apartments for which the town purchased deed restrictions. Those restrictions mean units go first to town employees, then people who work in Vail, then people who work in Eagle County for an annual average of 30 hours per week.

In a valley that relies on a commuting workforce, it will be difficult to ensure that funds from the sales tax will benefit only those who work in Vail. We believe the town will make a sincere effort to ensure that housing fund money will first benefit Vail’s workforce. We also believe that this is the time to boost the town’s housing funds, and we encourage a “yes” vote on the question.

Our View: Yes to Avon rental tax

Adequate workforce housing has always been a problem in Eagle County, but the current situation may be as bad as it’s ever been.

With that in mind, local governments are putting serious resources into addressing the problem. But what’s needed is a stable revenue source.

Both Vail and Avon this fall are asking voters to approve new revenue streams to help fund housing initiatives.

Avon’s proposal is a new, 2% tax on short-term rentals. According to the ballot language, that levy would raise $1.5 million in its first year. There’s no expiration date included in the request.

For most of us, $1.5 million is a lot of money. In the big scheme of things, though, $1.5 million won’t buy much in the way of housing projects, even with years of collections. But $1.5 million per year is a good amount to back revenue bonds or participate in partnerships.

Those partnerships can involve either private developers or other local governments, although working with the private sector seems to provide more bang for the buck.

The Avon tax proposal is a type generally favored by voters: one that someone else pays. In addition, it’s popular to blame short-term rentals for the valley’s current housing shortage.

Short-term rentals certainly contribute to the lack of housing. A former Vail Daily staffer had to move four times in five years because landlords decided to convert their long-term rentals to short-term use.

On the other hand, many owners short-term their property, so they can use those units themselves from time to time. That’s been the case since the ski industry’s earliest days. The difference, of course, is reach. Little classified ads in big-city newspapers have become internet listings with photos and global reach.

It can be somewhat difficult to track just who’s renting out their units. Still, tracking and registration systems exist — at the cost of a bit more town staff time.

Short-term rentals aren’t the only cause of our current housing crunch — there isn’t much inventory, and many owners are also moving to the valley full-time. Many units in the short-term pool have never been used as long-term rentals. But the increase in short-term rentals has affected the valley’s rental stock. It seems fair to have guests of those units pay a bit more to help house those who take care of everyone who visits the valley.

Our View: Coggin, Rediker, Davis, Seibert for Vail Town Council

Vail is fortunate to have 10 bright, passionate candidates running for four seats on the Town Council in this election.

There’s not a bad choice to be made in the bunch. That said, we believe the best four candidates this year are incumbent Travis Coggin, former Council member Kim Newbury Rediker, Barry Davis and Pete Seibert.

Coggin brings both relative youth and experience to the board. Better yet, he understands both business and the unique challenges of trying to own a home in Vail. He also spent much of his youth in town, so understands what it’s like to be a kid in Vail.

Coggin believes in the processes of local government, arguments and all, but can address issues as they come, not as they linger.

Davis brings many of the qualities Vail needs on its Town Council. His business experience ranges from bartender to entrepreneur. That business experience is, we believe, essential for Vail. Departing Council member Jenn Bruno, the co-owner of a Vail Village retail store, and Mayor Dave Chapin, a minority partner in a Vail restaurant, brought an in-the-action perspective to the council that isn’t always present.

Davis also has young children in the local school. He’s one of only two candidates this year with young children at home. He lives in the Chamonix Townhomes neighborhood. If Vail’s serious about keeping people in town and attracting more families, Davis’ voice will be important.

Seibert also lives in the Chamonix neighborhood. Again, that’s a good perspective for board members who want to truly understand at least part of the town’s attempts at creating workforce housing.

As someone who literally grew up with Vail, Seibert has a clear view of what made Vail great and what it will take to keep the town on the right path.

Newbury Rediker has by far the most broad community service experience of all the candidates. She’s served two terms on the council, is currently a member of the Vail Recreation District Board of Directors and has served with many other community groups. She’s first-hand familiar with the town’s deed-restricted housing program and has worked for several local businesses. She’s currently the assistant general manager of The Antlers Lodge.

You’ll notice that we’ve left incumbent Brian Stockmar off this short list. Normally, an incumbent who’s served diligently and honestly — as Stockmar has — would have a relatively easy path for endorsement for another term. That we aren’t endorsing him speaks more to the quality of the other four candidates we’ve endorsed.

For the others who didn’t earn an endorsement, we hope all will continue their interest in serving their community, whether serving on the town’s different advisory boards to participating in community life in other ways.

Any of this year’s candidates could credibly serve on the Vail Town Council. But the insight, experience and temperament of Davis, Coggin, Seibert and Newbury Rediker make them the best choices in an important election year for the town. We believe they’ll also work best with the three council members not up for election this year.

Our View: Yes on 6A to help Mountain Rec build for the future

Mountain Recreation is asking for a lot from voters in the district with Ballot Issue 6A, but that’s because voters asked for a lot themselves.

For the past four years, Mountain Rec staff has been surveying the public on what it wants, and the end result of all that engagement is an ambitious proposal called All Access Rec.

If approved, the measure would allow the district to make facility and equipment improvements to its three popular facilities in Eagle, Edwards and Gypsum, as well as adding more community spaces, additional programs for all ages, and an all-access pass to allow community members to utilize all three facilities. There will also be year-round access through updated and new community spaces, behavioral health programs, local nonprofit services, and social activities, as well as improvements to trailhead, swimming, and recreational facilities to provide more access for active outdoor recreation, summer camps, and youth and adult recreation programs.

It’s a bold vision for the future of recreation and community spaces in the western end of the valley. But that vision comes with a substantial asking price in the present. The district is asking voters to approve a property-tax increase that will support about $60 million in construction and improvements. The mill levy increase more than doubles the district’s current mill levy, and is estimated to cost $32 per year per $100,000 in home value, or about $217 per year for the average home in the district.

Some voters might wonder why the district can’t do these upgrades a la carte, possibly starting with the oldest of the three facilities, the well-loved Eagle Pool and Ice Rink. That facility is now 18 years old and was built when Eagle numbered around 3,000 residents. The town, according to the most recent census data, now has more than 7,000 residents.

In a wide, narrow valley, the district’s geography makes that kind of piecemeal building all but impossible. The cost required for any single major upgrade at the Gypsum Recreation Center, Eagle Pool and Ice Rink or the Edwards Field House is significant enough that it would require bonding — which would mean going to the public for funds for each individual project.

And while upgrading one at a time would allow the district to space things out, the voters in any one of the district’s hubs would be unlikely to vote and pay for a major upgrade in another. By taking that kind of approach, it’s likely the district would never get anything meaningful done.

That’s why the Mountain Recreation board has taken its district-wide approach. While the price tag is higher, this measure will set the district up for years, instead of constantly going back to voters for more money.

More importantly, the district has been responsible with the public’s money. Its last bond measure came more than 20 years ago, and those bonds were paid off 10 years early.

The district also heard loud and clear from two targeted surveys and in-person feedback at more than 30 events across the valley over the spring and summer that the bulk of voters were largely enthusiastic about the proposed upgrades. But what was also clear: the original $80 million price tag was too steep.

After some cost trimming, the district came back with the $60 million ask. It expects to raise the additional capital from private donations, with $6 million already lined up.

That’s not underselling the request to voters. It’s substantial. But, given the district’s trustworthiness handling the public’s money, and the acknowledgment that these asks aren’t going to get any cheaper as the western end of the valley continues to grow and construction costs continue to skyrocket, this proposal deserves your support.

It’s a necessary pain point to set up a bright future to create community centers that are multicultural and multi-generational.

A yes vote is an investment in the overall health of this valley, both physically and mentally, and that investment is one we’re inclined to say voters won’t regret.

Vote yes on Ballot Issue 6A.