Go Bair knuckles | VailDaily.com

Go Bair knuckles

Joy Overbeck

If you didn’t get to make your voice heard at the Open Space Advisory Committee meeting Monday, April 26 – perhaps because it was held at 2:00 in the afternoon when you were actually at work! – now’s your chance.

Since they passed the Bair Ranch proposal on to the commissioners with a favorable vote (surprise, surprise), if we want to stop this ridiculous waste of our open space taxpayer funds, now’s the time to contact the commissioners to voice your opposition.

Either that or we will be paying $2 million to preserve the Bair Ranch as High Canyon Adventures Guest Ranch, a very private hunting-dude business where people from all over the world pay big bucks to frolic, while we lowly Eagle County taxpayers are forbidden to set foot there.

If you want to see what you and your family won’t ever be allowed to see up-close and in person, go to their Web site at http://www.highcanyon.com and prepare to be amazed.

This project fails to fulfill the committee’s own guidelines in alarming ways that should have disqualified it. One of their criteria is “supporting agricultural and ranches,” but this is not a working ranch that reflects the West’s heritage, as proponents have claimed. No, the Bairs sold their sheep over a year ago and a couple of years ago purchased lots of horses, built lodging for 48 people, and started their guest ranching operation. And there is no requirement in this agreement for the Bairs to purchase stock to once again become a working ranch.

Incredibly, they and their mouthpieces from Boulder continue to insist that the reason there can be no public access whatsoever on the ranch is because it will interfere with “ranching operations.” Funny, the off-road ATV and jeep “tours” the Bairs advertise on their guest ranch website don’t interfere with “ranching operations”! Neither do the dinners and picnics they hold for 500 guests.

What a huge boondoggle. According to Cliff Simonton, the county planner who reviewed the project and ranked it “average,” the applicants “absolutely forbid access.” One question: Why do they get to dictate all the conditions when we are paying all the money?

At the same time they tell us we will have access to a new 512-acre “river parcel,” yet Simonton in his evaluation ranked the entire project “no access.” Why? Because the river parcel is on the south side of the river, and since the project doesn’t build a bridge or provide for parking which is illegal on the highway, the only access is by boat.

The committee changed Simonton’s low ranking for no access, insisting that people could raft across, putting in from the Dotsero green bridge. But this is an obviously useless concession anyway, since it’s already legal to fish the river there from the northern side.

And Eagle County money isn’t even going to the purchase of this “accessible” land; the BLM will actually buy it. So once again our money buys no access whatsoever, just like the Bairs want it. They really think we’re simpletons.

By plumping up Simonton’s ratings in various categories like this, the committee managed to inflate his ranking of 42 points out of 60 for the Bair project to a grand total of 52 points. That is, their grade inflation transformed a professional planner’s C-minus into a B-plus. Kind of makes you wonder.

There is only a small window of time left for us to save the valley floor we all see every day from becoming totally concrete-ized and condo-ized from Vail to Gypsum. Isn’t that why we have an open space tax?

Especially with the pending sale of Bruce Eaton’s beautiful ranch and the gravel pits in Edwards, why are we spending our precious open space millions on something will only benefit one family – something we will get a mere glimpse of for a minute or two as we motor to Glenwood?

We must say no to special interests who would use taxpayer money for their own privileged lifestyles. To quote another local outfitter who owns property not far from the Bairs, “I’d love to have you give me $2 million or $5 million and just stay here and allow me to be an outfitter and make a living.”

Pass this, and the massive giveaway will be unending. This committee has been stampeded by yet another panic deadline to get the Bair deal done; this time it’s July. They haven’t even had time to consider any alternatives.

The county commissioners will consider whether to vote yes or no on this project May 11. Making your “no” heard is the only way to stop this travesty. Call them at 328-8605 or e-mail them at arn.menconi@eaglecounty.us; michael.gallagher@eaglecounty.us; and tom.stone@eaglecounty.us. Or go to the county Web site at http://www.eaglecounty.us and use the links to the commissioners.

Show up and scream May 11. Eighty-seven percent of this county is already public lands; we must do something proactive on the valley floor or it will be all condos and concrete.

Joy Overbeck


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