Eagle hammering out open space rules | VailDaily.com

Eagle hammering out open space rules

David L'Heureux

Approximately 70 people showed up at a recent town meeting to voice opinions concerning what types of access will be allowed through Eagle’s open space.The 12 individual recommendations – covering motorized use; access for mountain bikers, hikers and equestrians; seasonal closures; dogs on open space; and the need for more signs, new trails and volunteer activities – were laid out for the Town Board in a by Open Space Coordinator Bill Heicher and town planner Bill Gray.In response, the standing-room only crowd offered comments that ranged from civil to occasionally heated in tone.The group with the most to lose was motor vehicle users, who would be prohibited from traveling across open space in the Eagle Ranch development if the Heicher’s and Gray’s recommendations are approved as is. Not surprisingly, it was motor vehicle users that had the most to say in response to the 12-point proposal.Bill Jones, a lifetime Colorado resident who uses open space and adjacent public lands to snowmobile in the winter, said that to adopt the plan the way it was presented was an oxymoron.”It makes open space closed space,” said Jones, adding that restricting travel to marked trails only was “absurd.”Barb Schierkolk spoke to the crowd in tears as she told the board why she saw need for motorized access through open space.”This is a personal issue for me because I am disabled,” said Schierkolk, who was injured in a hunting accident. “The only way I can get to the backcountry is on my A.T.V.”She went on to say that increased parking at trailheads would be desirable to make motorized backcountry travel a logistical reality. Those opposed to motorized access seemed willing to compromise on the issue if that was the way the winds were blowing.”If there is a compromise on an access point, it should be between Second and Third Gulch,” said Gary Martinez of the Eagle Ranch homeowners association.Other than motorized use, seasonal closures came up most frequently.Many hikers, snowshoers and runners asked the board to consider lifting seasonal closures on at least one or two trails. The Horton Street access point, past Brush Creek Elementary, was seen by many as having potential for winter use.Offering the counter point in favor of seasonal restrictions was the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s J.T. Romatzke.”The seasonal closures allow the wildlife the chance to get into areas where there are more grazing opportunities,” said Romatzke. “The winter is a stressful time of year for these animals. Adding in human interaction makes it even more stressful.”Bill McEwen, a hiker, made the strongest argument in favor of those who travel on foot only.”There have been drastic changes in the landscape surrounding Eagle Ranch in the last 10 years,” said McEwen, who says he hikes hundreds of miles on the lands around Eagle each summer. He attributed those changes to the increased traffic of wheeled vehicles, motorized or otherwise.His call for “no wheeled access across open space lands to public lands,” drew the only audible groans from the crowd on the evening.A group with a vested interest in these proceedings, mountain bikers, was noticeably quiet, possibly a sign that members of that group were happy with what they saw in the recommendation.Mayor Jon Stavney said he was encouraged by what he saw at the meeting. The public process is “important,” said Stavney. “We make decisions based on a lot of different things, and public input is an important part of that,” he said. “It’s really hard to look into the crystal ball from where we stand, with 2,000-3,000 citizens, and envision Eagle with 7,000 people at buildout,” Stavney added. “When we reach that point, there is no turning back. Hopefully what we are doing is far-reaching.”