A park is born | VailDaily.com

A park is born

Melanie WongVail, CO Colorado

Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyCordillera resident Suzi Carey steps across a creek while touring the Eagle River Preserve on Monday in Edwards. The open space with new vegetation will be fully open to the public next spring.

EDWARDS, Colorado Dump trucks have roared in and out of the land on the northwest side of the Edwards intersection for years, but now the 72 acres known as the Eagle River Preserve is a still and peaceful getaway.The new park was open for a pair of tours, giving residents a sneak peek of what the open space will offer in the future. Right now the preserve is dotted with new trees and plants and has a short gravel trail system that circles the park. A series of ponds filled by water from Lake Creek will form a water system as the park is completed.The finished trail system will have paved and gravel trails, as well as narrower discovery trails that will lead visitors to a solitary spot or picnic area. Residents will also be able to access the river at certain spots for picnic or fishing.Eight-year-old Nick Williams of Vail peered into the bubbling Eagle River from the bank, which was lined with golden from the changing leaves. Nick said he was eager to fish in the river next spring, but his favorite part of the park was the huge birds nest he spotted in the trees.Cordillera resident Jane Wilner said the preserve looked like a great place to come read or go for a run.Its quiet and serene, and you can hear the stream, she said. Id take the grandkids here for a picnic.Vail resident Mary Elrod said she thought it was great that the community took the initiative to preserve the land.Maybe this will be an example for the other towns downvalley, she said. Its fabulous, and its very well thought out. Ill be back next year for sure.Edwards resident Greg Johnson said that as a longtime local, he is glad to see the land preserved.Anything we can do to protect the river and the river corridor is great to me, he said. A grand opening is set for next spring, and there are plans for more trees and plants, more trails, benches, signs, picnic areas, a possible dog run, and an educational center. Eagle County Planner Cliff Simonton said the place will be much more vibrant in the spring after a good winter of snow. The park will be open in the winter, and planners are considering maintaining the trails for cross-country skiing.The thing thats great about this place is that theres so much discovery involved, Simonton said. Youll come around a corner and say, Whoa, I didnt know that was here.The second half of the park is still being developed. At the moment it is nothing but mounds of graded dirt, but eventually it will be wetlands, trails and what planners hope will be a nesting ground for birds. Because the land is under a conservation easement, the uses are strict a limited number of buildings and paved trails are allowed, no public functions can be held, and certain areas of the river must be protected. The preserve land was purchased in 2005 for $12 million in a joint effort between Eagle County, the Vail Valley Foundation and the Eagle Valley Land Trust. Also, more than 1,200 individuals wrote checks to help buy the land, said Ceil Folz, president of the Vail Valley Foundation.The land was owned by the Eaton family, and in the past it was used as ranch land, then a gravel pit operated by B&B Excavating.The work on the land has been funded from tipping fees from B&B Excavating for dumping dirt on the land.

Staff writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.