A serendipitous commentary | VailDaily.com
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A serendipitous commentary

Elizabeth Chicoine

Don Rogers hit a responsive chord with me in his recent commentary, “My life’s work.” I wonder, did he write it in coincidence of the headline to that day’s paper (Oct. 3) “West Vail thinks Riverwalk”? His introspective commentary regarding “Who are you and what do you do?” is also easily applicable to the town of Vail’s decision to entertain a Riverwalk-style development in West Vail. Town leaders are grappling with that very question. Who is Vail and what does Vail do? Beyond a mission statement, what is the purpose of Vail? Who and what make it tick? Talk is happening on how to revitalize Vail in a coherent way. Gosh, so much to grapple with and so many implications. Personally I see Vail as an almost human town. I dare say, I love her. Vail is an entity unlike any other mountain town. A town that has such a positive image that people pay the town money for manhole covers. Can any other town claim such fame to its logo? Vail has given back to most of us, whether we live there now or once did. Now it is time to give back to our beloved Vail. She needs our ideas, thought, and a future. Looking at the question of who Vail is seems easy, yet it is indeed difficult to summarize. Vail is simply, Vail. The town is iconic for skiing, history, cutting-edge, spirit – the list goes on according to the individual defining its magnetic pull. What is the purpose of Vail? The Vail Valley Foundation is where I look to see guidance in this area. The foundation has proven Vail to be a hallmark of music, theater, sports; you name it. Vail has a soul and a deep purpose, much in thanks to this community backing. So in Vail’s favor, the town can answer these two deeply fundamental life-giving questions. No. 1, Vail knows who it is. No. 2, Vail has deep purpose, not reliant on just one area of attraction. Yes, skiing is our backbone, but our founders and current leaders have wisely enhanced the visitor and local experiences with the arts and a diverse array of sporting enticements. Vail is certainly on the path to revitalization.But one layman’s view that might behoove the consultants to study is why did families start moving downvalley? Personally, I think that many of us are susceptible to great marketing. The Norman Rockwell advertising of Eagle Ranch has been highly effective. The town of Vail needs to find its marketing niche in retaining some local families to carve out home within the town limits. Personally, now living downvalley, I long for the days when I lived along the town of Vail bus route. I foresee a huge marketing campaign with a nostalgic alpine photo of a family walking down their evergreen-strewn condo path to the free and convenient bus stop. The kids could be carrying their ski equipment, and the mom and dad would be grinning with pride. Here’s a typical Saturday in Vail. Superimposed would be the downvalley commuter frantically loading skis on the rack, piling into the car and stopping to fuel up with gas. The Vail local would next be seen sipping coffee in the gondola heading up Lionshead. Subsequently, the downvalley commuters were now stuck in an early morning snow-related accident in Dowd Junction. The slogan for the Vail campaign could read, “Fresh tracks … live and work in Vail.” Vail is the best-kept secret in our valley in terms of where to live. Truly, in my younger days of wanting a Norman Rockwell symbolic life, I forgot to qualify the price of time. Don’t we all? And now there is the undeniable price of gas. Vail has much in its court, given the current economy. It is now up to our leaders to guide us in a wise marketing plan to get people to return upvalley. Yes, you may indeed live in a condominium if you return to Vail. But you may actually get to have the life of a Norman Rockwell painting instead of just the house. Living vs. driving. Perhaps that could be the new upvalley twist. Fresh tracks vs. shoveling the driveway to your new home. Paying for gas vs. a free bus and the gas money now going towards some better purpose. Just a thought. I know that my reasons for moving downvalley were all rewarded. I tried to buy a small condo in Vail in 1990. I ended up buying in Edwards because the developer at the Reserve had the foresight to make his property FHA-approved. It was a risk, and hard, too. But it was my chance to own. Back then, it was a long distance call to my work in Vail. People moved downvalley to strengthen their dollar. If West Vail does some type of Riverwalk redevelopment, it would behoove the town of Vail to encourage the developers to make some of it FHA-approved. Those first homeowners could appreciate a gain on their property that is unrestricted. In one mom’s opinion, Edwards worked because “normal” people had a chance to get ahead. The retail center worked because it had mom-and-pop gift shops like Any Occasion right alongside high-end art such as Philinda Gallery. A mom could be strolling along to purchase a Hallmark card, while her out-of-town guest could purchase a one-of-a-kind painting. Edwards is just plain eclectic. That retail design could work perfectly in West Vail, too. It won’t be difficult to sell many of us on the appeal of an apartment above such a space in Vail. Just superimpose the traffic jam in Dowd Junction with the free bus outside one’s condo. Market what is the essence of Vail. It has a soul and a purpose. It knows who it is and what it does. In our new fuel-strapped world, perhaps, just maybe, it will be more economical to live upvalley rather than downvalley. Elizabeth H. Chicoine of Eagle writes a weekly column for the Daily. She can be reached at echicoine@centurytel.net. Vail, Colorado


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