Fairgrounds will be ‘regional park’ | VailDaily.com

Fairgrounds will be ‘regional park’

Connie Steiert
Vail CO, Colorado

EAGLE ” The Eagle County Fairgrounds are a source of entertainment, pride and com-merce for the entire county. But what about the other attractions in the fairgrounds complex, including the much- used playing fields and the Eagle River?

County officials are exploring ways to make the fairgrounds complex function as a regional park with new features and more entrances.

” The intent is to look at the entire property and do the best job we can,” said Brad Higgins, Eagle County Fair manager.

Expansion plans include new playing fields, picnic areas, a river promenade, a whitewater park and a possible pavilion and conference center.

Planning consultant Shapins Associates is helping the county update the park. The concept is to create more of a pedestrian-friendly atmosphere with expanded recreational opportuni-ties along the Eagle River.

The name for the regional park has yet to be determined. The county is considering Eagle River Regional Park or Sawatch Regional Park, the latter refer-ring to the mountain range in southern Eagle County that includes Mount of the Holy Cross.

” We would be open to other names,” Eagle County Senior Planner Cliff Simonton said.

The concept for the pavilion is similar to Donovan Pavilion in Vail, which is used for special events.

” We don’t see anything like that currently in the lower end of the valley,” Simonton said.

But because of its probable costs, Simonton said the pavilion probably won’t be built for at least a few years. What might come sooner are enhanced pedestrian walkways, including one tracing the edge of the Eagle River.

The county also would like to relocate the playing fields within the complex as the gravel mining operation on the site moves in that direction. That would likely happen in about three years.

” We believe the park would operate much better if the area where the ballfields are currently located could be lowered to an elevation more consistent with the rest of the park,” Simonton said.

Such a move also would lower ballpark lights so that they would be less visible from the highway. Soccer fields, volleyball courts, horseshoe pits and picnic shelters also are in the plans for the future.

The county hopes to see some improvements occur in and around the fairgrounds as well. Those improvements might include widening or moving trails around the complex so live-stock and horses don’t mix with pedestrians.

” There are improvements being talked about, such as new horse stalls for the Eagle River Center and cantilevered decks for vendors,” Higgins said. ” Hopefully, what comes of this plan will be looked at together so that whatever we do as a park will benefit the fair and rodeo as well.”

Still, Higgins said these improvements are just in the dis-cussion phase at the moment.

” Right now, the sky’s the limit, he said.”

Timing of the development depends on money. The county commissioners will be seeking funding sources and partner-ships. The county has earmarked $ 250,000 for improvements to the fairgrounds this year.

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