Foundation might try honesty

Don Rogers

The Vail Valley Foundation is so starved for quotes for an Eaton Ranch newspaper ad they took one from the opposition.There I am, in the larger mischaracterization of Eaton as an all-for-open-space or all-against-open-space issue. As if I agreed with the county overspending to help buy the downtown Edwards gravel pit. “But now the community has at least a chance to keep the heart of Edwards green, if enough people with means are interested.” Oh, boy. Here’s my John Kerry moment. I did write that back on Sept. 10, 2004, in our first editorial that praised the foundation for taking a bold step. And I meant what I said. Still do. I like that the foundation took up the $12 million option on the 72-acre plot whose bulk is, well, the gravel pit. By doing so, the foundation provided options for the land. But the editorial stopped well short of endorsing any plan then. For one, there was no plan.My bad, though. I didn’t foresee the foundation taking a stance in January that all of that land had to be open space or they would not participate. I figured that some would wind up developed, especially since the truly pretty acreage with the wetlands to the west remains in a developer’s hands.I didn’t foresee that a choice would become a campaign to get the commissioners to empty their open space purse AND dip into the county’s general fund for $2.2 million more just as soon as the new majority took office.Guess I should have.But their bad, now. They’ve put out a false impression of my belief that this is a very poor idea. They and the commissioners could well win a battle but lose the war for open space. Are they so lacking in arguments for squandering money that should be spent preserving better and MORE land that they needed to lie?Don’t get me wrong. I’m not mad. I think they were really quite clever. Still, including my quote in their advertisement was a trick, a misrepresentation of my true opinion, a false pretense. They know my real position. So this was unethical, frankly. But never mind that. There are plenty of quotes to pluck for future ads. How about this, from our second editorial on Eaton, “Concept needs time to ripen,” Sept. 24, 2004: “The foundation might become more interested in collaborating with Hermes and Sanders for a project that fits better within itself and the surrounding neighborhoods and commercial development. It sure would beat piecemeal alternatives.”Or this: “How much is one view worth?” Jan. 16: “Part of Eaton’s land could be developed while leaving a swath of greenbelt near the Eagle River that widens into the flood plain and wetlands on the 105 acres to the west. … Logically, I believe, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for the county to commit $6 million to the Eaton parcel.”Here’s another, from “Beyond purse for open space,” Jan. 19: “Trouble is, it’s not clear that it would be all that smart to empty the open space bank and then grab over $2 million from the general fund with the county’s other commitments and needs.””Don’t squander precious funds,” Jan. 20: “We can understand the siren’s call to preserve the entire 72 acres and leverage that to save the small portion of developable area of the 105 acres just to the west at any cost. We just don’t think it would be a very smart move for the county to empty the purse for the prime open space land that would remain open anyway. Or to save Edwards from a little more development in an area that’s in the development zone.””The stampede to save a gravel pit,” Jan. 23: “There’s a lot more precious land than this to save from development. … But the commissioners – Edwards’ reliable sugar daddy – did bite, of course, without the local governments there having to make any commitments of their own.””Eaton Ranch’s false choice,” Feb. 4: “The more we think about it, the less we like the idea of Eagle County’s government emptying its dedicated open space coffers and then taking $2.2 million more from its general fund to in essence buy a gravel pit in downtown Edwards.””Feedback on Eaton shows lots of interest,” Feb. 10: “We worry that all this spending will wind up worsening, rather than helping, the grand cause of open space preservation in this county. Money spent ‘saving’ Edwards may well come at the cost of lost opportunity at more fitting locations later. … A fair number of open space advocates worry about precisely the same thing.””Grant bid exposes Eaton flaw,” March 6: “So now the grant application to GOCO was massaged to tacitly recognize the riverside land that truly matters as open space, which the county can protect without squandering $12 million of public and private money.””Here even enemies can be friends,” March 13: “I’m not the one pretending the issue is all open space or none at all. That’s not the argument here. The same open space committee that had just one dissenting vote against spending $2 million to help preserve the 5,000-acre Bair Ranch in Glenwood Canyon was split 6-5 in favor of Eaton. One of those six, Tom Edwards, explained in a commentary later that he favored developing part of the Eaton land and preserving the important part along the river.”Oh, use this, also from “Grant bid exposes Eaton flaw”: “And I’m supposed to just shut up about what I think might be the dumbest decision the county has made in many years, maybe ever?”Yeah, use that one. That would actually be honest. Managing Editor Don Rogers can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 600, or editor@vaildaily.comVail, Colorado

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