Eagle open space dispute continues
Residents remained divided over who gets to use open space lands in Eagle, though the different groups may be nearing a compromise. Motor vehicle users have been the most outspoken. Bob Egan, owner of Eagle Motor Works, said motor vehicles should be able to travel through open space to reach surrounding federal lands, and proposed the option of sound monitors and better muffler systems to reduce noise. But Jean Duprey recalled activity on the county road leading to federal land on Bellyache Ridge during periods of “unchecked use” by motor vehicles.”As a regular hiker in that area, I was accustomed to bringing out trash bags filled with beer, pop, rubber belts, rims, wheels, oil cans and open-coil batteries,” said Duprey. “The trails became, in the five years before the revegetation, the riders’ own personal playground.”Town leaders, meanwhile, are planning an open space field trip Aug. 28 to survey potential trailheads and look at some of the damage that has already occurred above Eagle Ranch. The field trip will be open to the public.Seasonal closuresAt a recent town meeting in Eagle, J.T. Romatzke of the Division of Wildlife again explained the purpose of seasonal trail closures. He said elk are stressed they are forced into contact with humans. He also said that the “elk epidemic” plaguing Eagle Ranch property owners will decrease as construction continues.”Right now, that area is ideal for grazing for them,” said Romatzke. “As build out progresses, those elk will retreat back into the surrounding terrain.”But when the elk do begin to retreat, it will, initially, be onto town of Eagle open space, making seasonal closures that much more important, Romatzke said.Coming of ageOne issue surrounded the open space debate appears to have been solved: Underage motor vehicle use on town streets will not be permitted. The language in a letter written by Eagle’s attorneys was strong and clear.”This law is not a matter of dispute. Any person who drives any motor cycle on the town streets and does not have a valid driver’s license with a motorcycle endorsement, is violating the law, and can and should be written a ticket into the County Court,” stated the letter, written by lawyer Steve Carter.Eagle Mayor Jon Stavney called the shift in policy a sign that times are changing in the growing town, along with a changing climate in the legal atmosphere nationwide.”It is perhaps an unfortunate sign that our town has come of age,” said Stavney.Echoing those statements was Town Manager Willy Powell, who also addressed the legal risks involved with under age travel on town streets.”I have talked to the police chief about that, I have talked to our attorney about that, we have talked to other cities about it as well,” said Powell. “I am not in a position to direct our police chief to turn a blind eye to that. There is just too much liability exposure.”The bill from any potential lawsuit resulting from not enforcing this law would be paid by Eagle taxpayers, Staveny said.Open space policy will again be taken up at a special Aug. 31 town board meeting.