Eagle Ranch transforms small town
EAGLE – What a difference seven years can make.Not all that long ago, Eagle ended at the 90-degree turn where Capitol Street morphed into Brush Creek Road. The population was about 2,000 people, and if residents wanted to see a movie or play a round of golf, they drove upvalley or to Glenwood Springs.The community changed drastically after January, 1999, when the town approved a 1,290-unit development called Eagle Ranch. Since that decision, Eagle Ranch has more than doubled the size of Eagle and brought a slew of new amenities to town – it has also increased home prices and traffic.What has Eagle learned in the years since it approved this massive development?”People love the mountains and people are going to keep coming,” Eagle Town Planner Bill Gray said. “Eagle has never grown like this in its history. Eagle Ranch represents a lot of the good things about a community.””With any development, it’s not going to be 100 percent positive,” said Roxie Deane, former Eagle mayor who oversaw the Eagle Ranch development approval process. “There’s always going to be a trade off.”
As recently the 1980s, the annual cattle drive to and from Eagle Ranch brought traffic to a halt along Capitol Street. By the early 1990s, however, development plans for the property were being bandied about. And What did Eagle get in exchange for approving a development that more than doubled the size of town?From the outset, Eagle Ranch dangled a whole bunch of juicy carrots. Topping the list was a municipal golf course. While Eagle County had already approved a number of public courses the costs often priced locals right off the links. The municipal course allowed Eagle Ranch to lower greens fees and give Eagle residents a price break. Today, peak season 18-hole rounds cost $65 for Eagle residents, $85 for Eagle County residents and $102 for ‘guests.’ The twilight rate for town residents is $35.Eagle Ranch’s other amenities its own small “downtown,” more than 1,000 acres of open space and parks.”There are a number of wonderful amenities at Eagle Ranch,” Gray said. “In particular, the pedestrian component of it with the sidewalks and paths ended up being really good.””Not everything is positive,” Deane said, “but the town did receive a lot from Eagle Ranch. We really did try to think about and mitigate as many things as we could.”
It’s the question that inevitably get asked when people consider the red hot real estate market at Eagle Ranch: Who are these people and where are they coming from?
“Our buyer profile is everyone from a first-time home buyer to a second homeowner,” said Doug Landin of Slifer Smith and Frampton Real Estate. “A huge percentage of the buyers come here to be part of the Eagle community.”In 2004, the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments conducted a survey and reported that the town scored the highest numbers ever recorded in praise of it’s “sense of community.”That’s why Chris and Shannon Fedrizzi were the first residents of Eagle Ranch. While they have since sold their house on Sawmill Circle, they are now living in the village while building another home on Robin’s Egg Lane.Chris Fedrizzi was born and raised in Eagle and Shannon hails from Minnesota. The couple saw Eagle Ranch as a place to raise their children. “It’s great for kids. For us, that was the main selling point,” Chris said.Wright said the are brigades of strollers trolling the walking paths and a robust student population at Brush Creek Elementary. “We have been fortunate to have lots of families come in. Eagle Ranch is primarily a primary home development,” Wright said. While young families are the biggest demographic group, Eagle Ranch is also attracting a large number of empty nesters and retirees. Gray said some residents buy in Eagle Ranch with the intent of creating a second home, but end up living there full time. Golf Digest recently rated the Breckenridge-to-Glenwood Springs corridor as the No. 1 emerging golf retirement community. And while golf growth is stagnant nationwide, Eagle Ranch has bucked the trend. “We have been successful in growing our rounds each year,” says Jeff Boyer, Eagle Ranch director of golf. “I’m proud of the condition of the course. Our junior golf program is also a source of great pride.”
Eagle Ranch has been successful in real estate sales and in developing amenities. However, has also resulted in traffic problems.”There’s a big traffic bottleneck in Eagle,” Fedrizzi said. “There’s is no question in my mind Eagle Ranch is the main contributor to it.”Construction of the west Eagle roundabout has somewhat eased the problem, but the fact remains that when people are headed out to work or returning home, there’s only one interstate exchange in town. Everybody is going to the same place.”It was much easier to manage a town of 2,000 versus a town of 5,000,” Gray said. “This growth impact happened very fast and the existing roads were not designed to handle it.”Long-term solutions include new I-70 interchanges and upgrades on Highway 6. But in the meantime, residents will have to bear with the traffic.The speed of development at Eagle Ranch also has been a concern. “A slower rate would have been nicer,” Deane said. “For the town as a whole, it would have been easier to handle the impacts.”This article first appeared in the Eagle Valley Enterprise.Vail Daily, Vail Colorado CO