Business idea springs from Eagle’s river park
EAGLE — Eagle’s newest amenity — a riverfront and whitewater park approved by voters last month — is just starting to take shape on paper, but Gypsum resident Ken Hoeve is already seeing business potential at the site.
In a split vote last week, the Eagle Town Board opted to allow a temporary use permit for a Hoeve’s proposal for Eagle Tubing and Photography. The business, as Hoeve envisions it, will rent tubes, wet suits, booties and life vests from a trailer that will be parked at the current Eagle Chambers Park location. As he plans it, the trailer will also rent stand-up paddleboard and disc golf equipment and sell ice cream. It will operate four months of the year.
Hoeve said his proposal can lay the groundwork for Eagle’s planned riverfront park, which will be located on county-owned property west of Chambers Park that is currently used as truck parking and contestant parking during the Eagle County Fair & Rodeo. The proposed park will be designed to enhance access and enjoyment of the Eagle River and will include both in-stream and riverbank amenities.
Hoeve said his proposal fits in with the town’s long-term park plan. “This is laying down the groundwork for the river park in Eagle,” he said. “I really want to do this. I think it is my destiny. I believe this business will be hugely successful.”
While the board agreed to the concept of Hoeve’s plan, his approval is conditioned on the successful negotiation of a lease to operate on town-owned property and that notion opened up as discussion that branched off of his specific request.
The issue is basic: Should the town allow free enterprise operations to set up shop in open space, park or other municipally-owned areas? If the answer is yes, how much should the town charge for that privilege?
“I get the idea that people live here and want to flourish,” said town resident Tom Olden. “The concept that really sticks in my throat is using public property for a private business.”
Brian Maloney, speaking on behalf of several business located in the Eagle Crossing Shopping Center, located on the bench above Chambers Park, also expressed objections to the plan, saying Hoeve would be benefiting from a public site with minimal investment. Additionally, he said area businesses are concerned that Hoeve’s overflow parking will negatively impact their limited parking area.
No rules, yet
The five board members who participated in the discussion were split over the issue. Mayor Anne McKibbin was absent and member Matt Solomon stepped down from the discussion because he owns a business located in the Eagle Crossing Shopping Center and is on the record opposing the plan. Additionally, Town Board member Andy Jessen disclosed a previous business partnership with people involved in the Eagle Tubing and Photography proposal, but stated he does not have any ties to the current proposal.
Mayor Pro Tem Kevin Brubeck applauded Hoeve’s pioneering spirit regarding the proposal but said he was struggling with process and fairness issues as he considered the plan.
“Vendors on public property is an issue, and I don’t know if we have addressed it properly,” said Brubeck.
“I love the idea. I love the entrepreneurial spirit of this, “ said board member Paul Witt. He added the idea of private businesses operating in pubic spaces isn’t revolutionary, pointing to the U.S. National Parks system as an example. The difference, Witt noted, is that the federal government has a process to deal with such operations and Eagle does not.
“I want to approve this, but I don’t think the town has done its job to approve this yet,” said board member Doug Seabury.
Kick the tires
Jessen offered an alternate point. “This is temporary. It’s for four months, which I would argue gives us a chance to see if it works before we make the regulations,” he said. What’s more, Jessen noted that the proposal complies with the town’s written goals and policies.
“Andy has a good point — sometimes you have to try something and see if it works,” said Witt.
In the end, the board voted 3-2 with Seabury, Witt and Jessen in favor and Brubeck and member Mikel “Pappy” Kerst opposed, to approve the temporary use permit.
“Congratulations for getting to the point of negotiating a lease that’s acceptable” Witt said
That lease could prove to be the bigger sticking point. Issues of cost, liability, insurance, parking and more all need to be worked out before folks can start renting tubes and buying ice cream at the Eagle River site this summer.
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