Eaton Ranch backers raise their $12 million | VailDaily.com
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Eaton Ranch backers raise their $12 million

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EAGLE COUNTY Kirk Aker was always confident the Eaton Ranch open space purchase would happen. But it was close.The Vail Valley Foundation announced Wednesday it had hit the $12 million mark in its efforts to raise enough money to buy the 72-acre property along the Eagle River in Edwards. With an initial boost of $6 million from Eagle County earlier this year, Foundation officials had until Sept. 1 to raise the balance of the money.

They didnt leave much breathing room, did they? Aker said.I couldnt be more pleased, he added. We were up looking at it the other day and I saw the re-claimed part of it and said, Wont it look great when its all green like that?While the fund-raising effort has hit its goal of finding the $12 million purchase price, more donations are needed.Were going to have closing costs and other fees, Foundation Director Ceil Folz said. Other money is going to be needed for some of the improvements.Those improvements will be fairly minimal but will include trails, some parking, and better access to the river. There will never be ball fields or other active recreation at the site.When the sale is final, the Vail Valley Foundation will then give the land to the county. A contract to ensure the land will never be developed is nearly finished, and will be signed by the foundation, the county and the Eagle Valley Land Trust. The land trust will enforce that contract.The effort to preserve the property came with some controversy. Critics said the price for the parcel was too high, and were especially wary of the countys $6 million contribution. That money came from the countys dedicated open space fund, and cleaned out the $3.8 million in the account. To get to $6 million, the county used $2.2 million from this years general fund.Supporters, though, say the land is worth the price. I think 20 years down the road everyone in the county will be glad this project was done, said Andy Wiessner, a member of the Eagle County Open Space Advisory Committee.Wiessner said a survey taken before the 2002 election in which voters narrowly passed a property tax hike to pay for open space purchases, showed a majority of valley residents wanted property along the Interstate 70 corridor preserved. The Eaton Ranch deal does that, he said, and it could potentially help keep development off some neighboring property along the river.Ultimately we could have several hundred acres preserved, he said.Another supporter said the price for the property isnt that high, all things considered.I think people will look back on this the way they do for Ford Park in Vail, Edwards resident Bob Warner said. That was then a more expensive purchase, by fewer people.And some people say theyll write more checks if they have to.If it looks like its needed, Ill contribute again, Aker said.Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or smiller@vaildaily.com.Vail Daily, Vail Colorado


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