Chuck checks out
You’ve got to respect a guy who knows when it’s time to “step away.”
With all the hoopla building rapidly toward Nov. 4 – Election Day in Vail – where three incumbents and five challengers have thrown their hats in the ring for the four available seats on the Town Council, not much is being said about the one incumbent who hasn’t.
The soft-spoken, introspective – almost introverted – Chuck Ogilby made it clear early on he’s not interested this time around, saying in his four years as part of Vail’s highest authority he accomplished everything he set out to do.
“I leave really satisfied. The stuff important to me when I came in are taken care of or are in the process,” Ogilby says. “Now I’d like to step away for a while.”
Indeed, the “fire in the belly” that drove Ogilby to run for office – redeveloping Lionshead – is now winding its way through the planning process; Donovan Park is finished, complete with a $2.8 million pavilion; a conference center has been approved by voters; and the town’s budget, though suffering economic difficulties, is at least balanced.
Now, Ogilby says, it’s time to tend to some of the things that may have slipped a bit.
“I’ve let my business life and personal life go to some extent,” he says. “I really need to pay attention to those things for awhile.”
Home sweet home
Personal life now can return to the banks of Gore Creek, in the Intermountain neighborhood of West Vail, where Ogilby occupies the oldest inhabited home in Vail.
The Ruder Home, built in 1893, has been a primary residence for him, his wife, Merideth, and their two children, Kayo and Mollie, since he bought it in 1969, a year after he first came to Vail. Built by hand from huge logs and surrounded by towering aspen trees, the cabin has been modified several times on its way to being featured in several magazines, including Colorado Homes and Lifestyes, Country Living and Vail Magazine.
Named after Bob Ruder, a former councilman and namesake to Ruder’s Run on Vail Mountain, the house is a veritable museum full of Old West artifacts, antiques, wood stoves, stone chimneys and other relics – even an old, handmade sign over a doorway that reads: “The Lord will provide.”
In the summer, it’s also home to a small herd of “pack goats,” Ogilby says.
Even though Ogilby is rarely mentioned as one of Vail’s “pioneers,” he says he considers himself one.
“I never worked for Vail Resorts; I never had anything to do with the mountain,” says Ogilby, a builder by trade. “But living in this house in Vail – where my kids were born and raised – makes me feel that way.”
Ogilby, who built the Shrine Mountain Inn above Vail Pass and the Apollo Park Lodge in town, remembers when Interstate 70 was first built and animals would congregate in his yard, dazed and confused about how to continue their semi-annual migration.
“Deer would gather like cattle around this house because of the new fence; we could tell they were quite upset,” he says. “Some of them died on the property, and others were poached by hunters. The ones who survived learned how to use the migration tunnel.”
Since he began his only term on the Town Council in 2001, Ogilby – who for most of that time sat at the far right, next to Diana Donovan – has been known for staying out of the fray, waiting patiently for his turn, then delivering a thorough, carefully prepared analysis of whatever agenda item is on hand. For example, just last month, when discussing the estimated $190,000 it would cost to build and tear down the temporary Vail Ice Dome this season, its fourth, Ogilby brought up an idea he presented the first year – permanently installing the refrigeration system underground.
“It would have been relatively inexpensive at the time, and it would have paid for everything,” he says, calling the failure to do so his “biggest regret” as a councilman. “I hope the council can still get that done. I think everybody is inclined to do it next spring.”
The “hardest decision” Ogilby had to make as a councilman came in 2001, he says, after an estimated 7,000 people – mostly underage and intoxicated teens who’d smuggled in alcohol and other drugs – packed Bridge Street on New Year’s Eve. The council ultimately voted to impose a curfew on future New Year’s Eves, as well as Fourths of July, for people under the legal drinking age, as well as having police officers man checkpoints at all entrances to Vail Village on those nights.
“That was hard, not just for me but for the whole council,” he says.
In his dreams
Still, Ogilby says, nothing over the past four years has kept him from sleeping at night, although he has thought a lot about at least one project with which he’ll not be involved. His “dream project,” he says, is one that has come up time and again over the years, only to get shelved because of its obvious costs.
“I’d like to someday see us bury 999 feet of Interstate 70, from Lionshead to the main roundabout, then build recreation and cultural centers on top that would piggyback on the conference center,” says Ogilby, adding that a 1000-foot tunnel, by law, would have to be ventilated, adding enormous costs. “We could pay for it with real estate sales and leases for the land that would be created.”
Ogilby says he’ll be particularly disappointed, though, if he’s not able to at least vote on whether the town should form an Urban Renewal Authority, which in turn, perhaps, could fund much of the redevelopment of Lionshead through an aggressive, controversial method called tax incremental financing, or TIF.
A resolution adopting such an authority may be on the table for Ogilby and the rest of this Town Council’s final meeting, Nov. 4.
“That’s the only thing I’d really like to vote on before I leave,” Ogilby says.
The “most gratifying” accomplishment as a town councilman, Ogilby says, was completing Donovan Park and its pavilion earlier this year.
“We took it from a piece of land entangled in lawsuits to what it is today,” he says, crediting the process with helping the council devise a new way to tackle complex projects. “After early setbacks, the council really learned how to work together. Task forces of four council members became a way to get things done.”
Ogilby, in fact, was a member of the Donovan Park Task Force with the wife of the man for whom the park was named, John Donovan.
Ogilby also teamed with Diana Donovan on the Holy Cross Defense Fund in 1968. A political novice when she ran for Town Council in 1999, garnering just enough votes to secure a two-year term, Diana Donovan garnered the most votes when she ran again in 2001.
Insiders said she almost became Vail’s mayor.
“My most enduring accomplishment has been maintaining and strengthening my long-term friendship and respect for Diana,” Ogilby says. “She has grown and matured in her council seat more than the rest of us; she has a wonderful feel for the community side of Vail while knowing the downtown core must work, as well.”
30 years serving Vail
Most people in Vail don’t realize Chuck Ogilby, a builder by trade, has been a loyal public servant in Vail for three decades.
He first got involved in his own neighborhood as a member of the Vail Intermountain Water District in 1974, keeping his position on the board when that organization joined the Vail Valley Consolidated Water District, which ultimately grew into the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District.
The experience made him a true expert on water issues, to go along with his being a longtime activist for environment issues, for the ranching community and for the outdoors in general.
A PSIA-certified backcountry guide, Ogilby was actively involved in developing the 10th Mountain Hut System as a founding member of the Backcountry Skiers Alliance; and he says he’ll continue as president of the Vail Pass Task Force, which works with the U.S. Forest Service to manage the motorized and non-motorized use of 50,000 acres of sensitive High Country land.
Far more than anything that happened during his time on the Town Council, Ogilby says his greatest achievement as a public official came in the late “70s, early on in his “water years” as a founding member of the Holy Cross Wilderness Defense Fund, a group dedicated to fighting any project that would divert water from that wilderness. The fund was successful in preventing construction of the massive Homestake II reservoir – as well as the Eagle-Piney diversion, over which a legal battle went all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court.
“We felt if Homestake were built it would set a precedent for Denver taking water out of Gore Creek,” Ogilby says. “We worked hard to defeat it so the precedent wouldn’t be there.”
Then, in the 1980s, Ogilby was instrumental in securing the Gold Medal trout stream designation for Gore Creek. Not only has the designation brought untold millions of dollars in tourism – mainly from fly fishermen – to the Vail Valley, but it further discouraged any efforts to divert water from Gore Creek and its tributaries.
Ultimately, as a town councilman, Ogilby was involved in yet another battle for Gore Creek’s water – again going all the way to the Supreme Court – joining Breckenridge in a lawsuit seeking rights to water for recreational purposes, specifically whitewater parks.
“That was an enormous accomplishment in my time on the council,” Ogilby says. “The fact it happened will forever keep the Denver Water Board from diverting Gore Creek.”