Arranging open space
A longtime local will help the Town of Eagle manage its current open space, and assist the town in planning new acquisitions.
Bill Heicher, who recently retired from a career as Eagle District manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, has accepted a part-time position as the town’s open space coordinator. The position is being paid for through the town’s open space fund, which is generated by a $2 per night tax on local hotel rooms. Eagle Town Manager Willy Powell said the tax generates about $160,000 per year. The initial budget for the supervisor’s position, as well as management, rehabilitation and other costs, is estimated at $20,000 per year.
While the hours are part-time, the job is a big one.
The town currently owns several hundred acres of open space, predominantly at Eagle Ranch. Most familiar are the 140-plus acres of riverbank along Brush Creek running through much of Eagle Ranch. There’s another several hundred acres of open space in the southern and western parts of the property.
In addition, the town owns several acres at the Bluffs property in east Eagle, parcels along the Eagle River near the Eagle Villas apartments, as well as several other parks and smaller parcels scattered throughout town.
All that property requires maintenance and supervision. Part of Heicher’s job will be to supervise management issues such as keeping down noxious weeds. But a more critical part of the job will be helping residents use the property appropriately.
While the big parcels of land have only been in the town’s possession a few years, Heicher said some areas are already being harmed by misuse. Some of that damage is coming from motorcycles and all terrain vehicles, Heicher said, but harm is also being caused by mountain bikes.
In the high desert environment of much of the public land around Eagle, seemingly small scars can last for years, and even decades, said Heicher.
“Part of the job is getting the word out, signing areas, and doing some enforcement,” Heicher said.
Powell said education will be the first priority. To that end, signs are being produced, and a process has started to produce access and trail maps. But, Powell added, there will be enforcement when needed.
“We need people to use our open space in appropriate ways.” added Powell.
Enforcement could come at a steep price. Heicher said intentional violators could conceivably have their equipment seized. That isn’t the first option, though.
“We want to work with different groups, the off highway vehicle groups, the mountain bike groups,” said Heicher.