Could Dowd Junction accommodate housing?
MINTURN — While the upper valley is again in near-crisis mode for workforce housing, there aren’t a lot of options available. One of those options could be at Dowd Junction, eventually.
The U.S. Forest Service office is handy to Interstate 70 and along an existing Eagle County transit route. But Meadow Mountain is also a popular recreation area. That’s just one question that would have to be answered before there are any new uses at the site.
With that and a host of other questions in mind, Forest Service officials are holding very, very preliminary discussions with local governments about how the federal offices at Dowd Junction might be used in the future.
The Forest Service could be interested. Since the Holy Cross and Eagle ranger districts were consolidated in the early 2000s, the agency has split resources and manpower between its offices in Minturn and Eagle. Having those offices about 30 miles apart can be complicated.
Dave Neely, District Ranger for the Holy Cross and Eagle districts, said a plan to consolidate those offices could help improve both human and energy efficiency. But, he added, moving just for the sake of moving isn’t in the cards.
“Of paramount importance is that (any move) needs to be a positive improvement… It needs to be good for our communities,” Neely said.
Any move would also have to take into account the Forest Service’s decades-long presence at both Meadow Mountain and in Eagle.
The biggest question for the Forest Service to answer would be just where a consolidated district office might be, and how that works with current users, including people stopping in for maps, Christmas tree-cutting permits and other reasons. There’s also the matter of where to store the equipment needed on Forest Service property across a good-sized geographic area.
A lot of Moving Parts
It’s a lot of moving parts, Neely said. And, given that any planning for future uses has to be done around existing work, any plan for consolidating the two old district offices could take a few years.
Vail Town Manager Stan Zemler said federal and local officials have been talking for some time about possible ways to accommodate both federal and local needs.
“We’re signaling to the Forest Service that if and when they get (ready to sell land), there’s interest on our part, and we’d like you to be aware that we want to work together, and be first in line.”