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Golf dreams trump Nordic trails

Bill Clinkenbeard/Special to the Daily
Special to the DailySquaw Creek schoolhouse as it appeared in earlier days.
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Les Shapiro owned 170 acres, south and contiguous to the Willimson/Bohlin properties. He had bought the property originally from Violet Montgomery, who lived there part-time and spent the rest of her time in her home in Missouri.

Les had named the property Chaveno after a Ute Indian chief. Les and Terrill Knight, president of Knight Planning Services and formerly head of the Eagle County Planning Department, had gained approval for an equestrian center and 14 ranchette building sites for that property.

After Jerry Rea and Les Shapiro gained control of the Williamson and Bohlin properties, they started planning it as a cross-country ski facility. Terrill was hired to help develop the plans. This early planning work resulted in an application for a Planned Unit Development (PUD) to Eagle County in December 1983, under the name “Squaw Creek Recreational PUD.”



The PUD application called for 110 single-family units clustered on 450 acres of the 1,031 total acres (rounded to 1,100 acres in most Eagle County records.) Another 40-acre tract would include 30 units in a townhouse-type arrangement, a clubhouse and a restaurant to “service the development and users of the ski touring trails in the development.”

Though the requests were modest, the Eagle County Planning Commission defeated the original application in a 3-2 vote, believing that the density of 140 units on 1,100 acres was too great. However, the Eagle County Department of Community Development thought otherwise and recommended that the County Commissioners, who have the binding votes, approve the application.



Several public hearings were held as required by law. There was considerable opposition, mostly of the “nimby” (not in my back yard) variety. However, on December 26, 1984, a little over a year after the application was filed, the commissioners approved the first step of the application, the Sketch Plan, 2-0. David Mott and Dan Williams voted aye and the other commissioner, Keith Troxel, was absent.

Lift lost

A preliminary plan still needed to be approved before final platting – when sales of property could begin. “Preliminary plan” is somewhat of a misnomer, as it would seem to imply approval with only preliminary details available.



However, details of building sites, buildings and amenities, layouts of open and recreational spaces, engineering and cost studies of roads, water and sewer systems, and all other infrastructure issues must be included in the preliminary plan.

An environmental impact study is also required. If the commissioners approve the preliminary plan, the development plans can then be implemented. If they disapprove, the project is either dead or new plans are drawn up and resubmitted.

Any significant changes to the preliminary plan must be approved by the county before they can take place. After approval, the county requires considerable moneys placed in escrow before construction begins. The plan is “preliminary” to final platting of the property.

There were several conditions attached to the early approval of the Squaw Creek Recreational PUD. Among these was relocation of the proposed ski lift. Yes, a ski lift was envisioned to get cross-country skiers up Mt. Mirador from the clubhouse.

The county commissioners said to move the lift to make it “less visually sensitive and mitigate impacts on wildlife.” I doubt that the wildlife gave a hoot about moving the lift a few yards. These became moot issues, however, because the lift was never built.

The commissioners also directed that buffer zones be provided on the western side of the property around the Squaw Creek Schoolhouse. That schoolhouse is where many of the children of the early settlers were educated. It was highlighted in a pamphlet titled “The First Pioneers-A Squaw Creek History” which I had June Simonton, a local historian, prepare in 1991. The pamphlet was to be used in our marketing programs.

To the east of this schoolhouse can be seen the berms that provide the buffer that the commissioners asked for.

Olympic influence

Another county concern was that traffic volumes might require the intersection at U.S. Highway 6 and Squaw Creek Road be improved. The commissioners directed that studies be made to quantify the problem. Rather prescient of them. Squaw Creek road was the only access to the new development and this development turned out in the long run to be much larger than originally envisioned.

Final approvals for the Squaw Creek Recreational District were obtained in 1985. However, only 70 dwelling units were finally approved instead of the original 140.

Les Shapiro hired Lawrence Chadwick of Minturn to begin the roadwork that would provide access to the building sites. Chadwick Construction is still a very active earth moving company.

Plans for cross-country ski trails were made and Glenn Ewing of Eagle, a former Olympic biathlon competitor, was hired to lay out the trails.

Marketing started and reservations were being taken for the building lots, at about $65,000 each, and with a minimum down payment. This was probably one of the last bargains in home sites in the Vail valley.

Les Shapiro’s original Chaveno property was not developed for equestrians as originally planned. It was brought into the new development two years later. Violet also sold a two-acre parcel to the Carter family.

This property became Carterville and sits near the entrance to Chaveno. A stack of deer horns about 20-feet high marked it.

Planning proceeded on the Squaw Creek Recreational project. In 1986, Felix Posen and I entered the picture. With this, the focus of the project shifted from a cross-country ski development to a golf community with world-class credentials.

The story of how we got involved in this project starts in Japan, many decades ago.

Editor’s note: In keeping with a tradition that began with Dick Hauserman’s “Inventors of Vail” and continued with Pete Seibert’s “Vail: Triumph of a Dream,” the editors of the Vail Daily plan to serialize Bill Clinkenbeard’s “Cordillera, From the Ground Up,” in weekly installments each Sunday. Bill can be reached at 748-0971 or via e-mail, billclink@comcast..net.


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