Vail residents weigh in on what ‘Steward Vail’ should be
There will be several public input sessions
What’s the best way for Vail to manage its community, tourism and the environment? That’s what the team working on the “Steward Vail” project wants to find out, with the community’s help.
The consultant team this week held a pair of public input meetings at Donovan Pavilion. The Wednesday session brought out a few dozen residents to talk about ways to achieve that balance.
Cathy Ritter of Better Destinations led the conversations through the first portion of the session. Using real-time surveys via a QR phone code, Ritter went through several topics, including what priority Vail should place on aspects of tourism, the environment and other topics.
During that first period’s discussion, Ritter noted that Vail is trying to address its tourism-community balance “in a productive way.”
But team member Jim McCaul of MMGY NextFactor asked if the town recently has lost the balance between community, commerce and the environment.
Wrong direction for Vail?
One participant said he believes the town is going in the wrong direction, adding that the town government needs to stand strong against Vail Resorts. Ritter said she hoped the participants wouldn’t “pick on” Vail Resorts too much, adding that the group might be able to find ideas about ways tourist-targeted amenities could also benefit locals.
Ritter cited the example of Kalispell, Montana, where a new ski racing timing system at the resort turned into an amenity for local kids. A new lighting system at the Nordic center in Whitefish, Montana, intended to appeal to visitors has also become a “huge local amenity,” Ritter said.
There were also a number of resident comments about how to educate visitors about the town’s sustainability and/or trail etiquette philosophies.
One resident noted that visitors sometimes are receptive to education about sustainability.
“Vail’s done a remarkable job in building a sustainable community,” Ritter said.
The group then broke into tables to discuss four topics: workforce and housing; the Vail economy; environment and sustainability; and quality of life/quality of experience.
Participants were asked to talk about any two of those topics while facilitators and town staff took notes.
At the the economy table, residents talked about ways to support new and existing small businesses. There was some talk about some sort of place where entrepreneurs could get together.
And, of course, housing plays a big role.
What about Ever Vail?
At both the first economic discussion and the second housing discussion, participants talked about the future of the Vail Resorts-owned property west of Lionshead once envisioned as the site of Ever Vail. That 10-acre property was envisioned as a third resort village when it was first proposed in 2005. But conditions changed, and key town approvals for the project have since expired.
During the economic discussion, resident Mark Gordon proposed live/work spaces at whatever is built on the property.
Ever Vail — actually, the 10 acres of property — also came up during the housing discussion.
Cooperation with other communities was seen as an important element of creating more workforce housing. But Vail Local Housing Authority chairperson Steve Lindstrom noted that other communities are also competing for employees with Vail.
“Eagle is becoming the next cool mountain town,” Lindstrom said. But, he added, “More housing floats a lot of boats.”
Discussions to inform an ultimate plan will continue through this year. Ritter said a draft of the Steward Vail plan is expected in the fall. The Vail Town Council could vote on a final version of the plan by the end of this year.
June 28 and 29: Public feedback meetings.
Oct. 19 and 20: Final public workshops.
December: Anticipated Vail Town Council approval.
For more information and ongoing survey results: Go to EngageVail.com.