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Flock to the river

Nicole Frey
Kira Horvath/Vail DailyGypsum resident Peggy Jensen has lived on the Eagle River for two years and says she loves the sounds and sights of the river.
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GYPSUM – The view, the sounds, the fun – they’re just some of the reasons people are flocking to live by the Eagle River. “The view lured me, and I said, ‘We can do this,'” said Peggy Jensen, who, along with husband Kim initially hesitated at the price of the Eagle River Estates. But the river encouraged the couple to take the plunge.”It’s beautiful to watch,” she said. “There are so many types of birds and game. We’ve seen beaver, fox, marten, deer and elk. I love living there.”An amateur painter, who works for the town of Gypsum, Peggy Jensen takes inspiration from her picturesque view. In the warmer months, the Jensens and their grandchildren cool off in the water and use the sandbar to build castles.”We see rafters starting in April, and it’s fun to watch them,” Peggy Jensen said. “Fisherman use the greenbelt and sandbar.”A California native who moved to Colorado from Seattle, Peggy Jensen is a self-described “water-type person.””We always vacationed by lakes and streams, went fishing,” she said.

When Tom Edwards was in the market for land in Gypsum 15 years ago, he naturally gravitated toward the Eagle River. “I’ve always liked water,” said Edwards. “As a kid, it was a special attraction for me. Every time we crossed a creek, I thought, ‘Oh water!'”When he bought his lot there wasn’t much around it but wide, open spaces. Since then, a neighborhood has grown up around him.

“The river’s real wide here,” said the retired architect from his Eagle River Estates home. “It’s a nice corridor. We like hearing it when it’s high. We like the view, and I can walk down and fish, though I don’t do that near as much as I used to.”Dudley Ottley, a broker with Slifer, Smith and Frampton Real Estate, mentioned a riverfront home that recently sold for $750,000, while the same one across the street – and farther from the river – sold for less than $600,000. “Being on a body of water, you get unobstructed views, and that’s what people want,” Ottley said . “People will pay a premium for riverfront property.”Cliff Simonton, senior planner for Eagle County, confirmed being close to the water boosts the value of a home – more so if there are water rights attached. Riverside or not, homes will fill up as fast as they’re built in Gypsum, said Lana Gallegos, the town’s senior planner. “For a 5,000-person town, we have quite a bit going on,” Gallegos said. “Your closest neighbor used to be five miles away, now it’s 20 feet. I believe growth is going to come to Gypsum. We need to plan carefully. It’ll be OK as long as we handle it right.”

A rafter and former kayak racer, Ottley said he understands the draw of water. “And boy, until you’ve actually lived on a river, it’s hard to explain how nice it is,” he said. “It’s very peaceful and relaxing. It’s a nice sound to go to sleep to.”Water also cools the air, making those warm summer nights more comfortable. “I think it’s an aesthetic thing,” Simonton said. “People like the idea of owning a piece of that riparian environment. They like the sight and sound of the water and everything that goes along with that – the changing seasons, the air quality. You feel a little more isolated from development.”But as more riverfront property gets sold off, the parcels that remain get more expensive, Simonton said. “I think because of the panoramic view,” Edwards said, “our house has appreciated more than a regular house, but everything’s appreciated so much, it’s hard to tell.”As land and homes close to the river are snapped up, local governments and environmentalists are trying to make sure the environment stays healthy in the wake of the influx, Simonton said.Eagle County demands buildings in unincorporated Eagle County be constructed at least 50 feet away from the river’s highest water point. “We want to be sensitive to things that can leave your property and go into the river, like fertilizer from your lawn or water from your roof,” Simonton said. “What may seem like a little thing can have a negative impact on the river.”Gypsum doesn’t have setback standards, but builders must obey state and Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations, including insuring wildlife won’t be harmed, Gallegos said. Builders in Gypsum do not have to follow county rules. Simonton also said building in a flood plain is discouraged, though steps can be taken to boost a building’s chances of avoiding a flood.

Those who don’t live by the water, wish they did. “If I could, I’d live on the river in a heartbeat,” said Scott Ruff, who lives in Eagle River Estates. “It’s so tranquil to sit on the deck and listen to the river. It’s so relaxing.”Living a short walk from the river, Ruff said he visited it a few times during the summer to do a bit of rafting, but he’s missing out on the day-to-day pleasures the Eagle River provides, like listening to the water rush by and fishing from the back yard. But living near the water isn’t all bird watching and fishing. The proximity to the water means more bugs, including mosquitoes. But Edwards said the town has done a good job eradicating the pesky critters to prevent the spread of West Nile Virus. Living nearby, Peggy Jensen said she’s never had a problem with mosquitoes. Another annoyance of living riverside are those people who haven’t quite grasped the concept of private riverfront property. Edwards said before a neighborhood grew up around his home, people used to cut through his property to fish in the river. “I haven’t had that happen for four or five years,” he said. “I usually tell them it’s private property. I pointed out the (public) access, and there haven’t been problems.””I think it’s a great experience,” Edwards said. “When the river’s high, we can see rafters come down the river. They’re a novelty.”Staff Writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 748-2927 or nfrey@vaildaily.com. Vail, Colorado


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