Vail ready to add another 48 acres to ’dedicated’ open space inventory
The property’s use can only change via a public vote
Looking at all of Eagle County’s 1 million acres, a 48-acre parcel doesn’t seem like much. In Vail, 48 acres is a big deal, especially when that land is going to be preserved.
The Vail Town Council at its Tuesday meeting is expected to pass the first reading of an ordinance that will put 48 acres of donated land into the town’s inventory of dedicated open space. The parcel is in East Vail, on the south side of Bighorn Road just off Willow Way. If adopted by the Vail Town Council, this parcel will be the first dedicated open space since 2005 added to the town’s portfolio.
The land was donated to the town by Cara Beutel in late 2019. The donation came with a caveat: The property must be put into the town’s designated open space inventory.
The term “designated” carries a lot of weight when discussing open space in Vail. Other open lands — including those zoned Natural Area Preservation — can be changed from one zoning category to another by Town Council action. Designated open space is locked up more tightly. The use can only be changed by a vote of residents.
A legacy of preservation
Jim Lamont said that restriction was deliberate. Lamont spent roughly a decade in the late 1960s and 1970s helping design Vail’s land-use codes, many of which are in place today.
From his current home in Mexico, Lamont said that any dedicated open space added to the town’s inventory is a “milestone for the community … It’s symbolic that efforts that began in the 1970s have been followed by successive generations.”
Lamont added that with Vail nearly built out, adding dedicated open space is “an important sign that the community is paying heed to protection.”
Vail Environmental Sustainability Director Kristen Bertuglia has been the town’s point person on the deal for the open space donation. Bertuglia called the addition of the East Vail property “monumental.”
Noting that the town has relatively little dedicated open space — 533 acres. To add nearly 50 acres to that — particularly untouched land with riparian areas and that’s home to several species of animals and plants — is a very big deal, Bertuglia said.
An easy decision
Ludwiz Kurz, one of three members of the Vail Open Space Committee, along with Councilmember Kim Langmaid and Town Manager Scott Robson, said the decision to accept the donation was an easy one. Kurz noted that some of the property could be suitable for building, so adding it to the town’s inventory is an important preservation move.
Bertuglia said she’d been told that at least a couple of potential developers had approached Beutel about possibly selling the parcel.
But, Bertuglia added, after some “back and forth” about the land’s value and other issues, Beutel decided to donate the property.
Bertuglia said a handful of other potential donations are in the early-discussion stages.
Kurz said he thinks the East Vail parcel donation might convince others to do the same.
“When someone was so gracious, it might spur others to think about it,” Kurz said.
Eagle Valley Land Trust Director Jessica Foulis said the East Vail parcel could be a talking point when discussing potential land donations elsewhere in the county.
Foulis noted that the land trust can accept donations, or manage conservation easements on other parcels. Those easements are essentially contracts that forever prevent future development on a piece of property.
Foulis added that the land trust is “happy to help (the town) in any way we can.”
• Location: South side of Bighorn Road in East Vail.
• Size: 48.13 acres.
• Donor: Cara Beutel.
• Current acres of town of Vail open space: 533.