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Figuring out future of Eagle’s fairgrounds

EAGLE, Colorado “-It’s the kind of opportunity that doesn’t come along often in Eagle County, Colorado ” 140 acres of largely undeveloped land that’s publicly owned and along the river.

So it’s no wonder the Eagle County Fairgrounds has been the focus of several plans and the subject of countless debate. Over the years, the property located between Interstate 70 and the Eagle River just west of Eby Creek Road has been improved and used for a variety of recreational activities.

The latest plan, done in 2006, is to relocate three baseball diamonds and a soccer field, built back in the 1990s. The fields are perched on a bench above surrounding land and are a target for gravel extraction. Gravel has been extracted from other parts of the land and, officials say, economics indicate it’s time to find more.

Moving the ballfields will be expensive ” $2 to $3 million ” but mining revenue could offset the cost.

“Mining the area would utilize the resource, which frankly, it would be silly not to do,” says Eagle County planner Cliff Simonton.

The new fields would be moved to already mined, reclaimed property at the western end of the fairgrounds. Steve Russell, director of rec district that operates the fields, says the 2009 season could be the last but the rec district wants the new fields to be open before play ends at the old ones.

Simonton said the ballfields’ lights won’t likely make the move. New lights, that give off less glare, could be built. The rec district is also considering artificial turf for the new fields, which has been popular at the agency’s fields in Edwards. Plus,-turf means no pesticides spilling into the nearby Eagle River.

The rec district also hopes regional, state and national tournaments can be played at the new fields, which means better restrooms, concessions and parking.

“We are excited about the opportunity,” says Russell. “The new facility is going to involve a lot more capacity.”

A kayak park and fishing access are among the ideas to take advantage of the river banks. The 2006 plan includes picnic pavilions, a riverfront running trail and a cantilevered deck near the rodeo arena.

But the predominant feature of the 2006 master plan is the so-called “Land Bank” ” a 35-acre parcel smack dab in the center of the fairgrounds for which several uses have been proposed.

That list includes U.S. Forest Service offices and workforce housing. Another idea is to exchange the land for school district property east of town and build a high school. Both of those plans would likely require a second road into the land, Simonton said.

Newly elected Eagle County Commissioner Jon Stavney, who previously served as mayor in Eagle, believes that second road is a top priority.

“The site just isn’t tied to the community enough,” Stavney said. “It’s not part of the day-to-day life of citizens right now.”

The county also is concerned Eagle will identify the area as open space in growth policies the is revising, Stavney said.

“It should have green space included, but there’s a lot of other uses we could do with it, too,” he said.


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