Great opportunity for open space | VailDaily.com

Great opportunity for open space

Jack Bombardier
Vail, CO, Colorado
newsroom@vaildaily.com

I’d like to add my voice to the others advocating for the county to purchase a conservation easement for the Colorado River Ranch. The 35-mile-long Colorado River Road is one of Eagle County’s (and Colorado’s) most beautiful and underappreciated areas, and the ranch lies right in the heart of it.

This is a great opportunity to protect from development an area that has seen virtually none over the past 23 years that I’ve lived in Colorado. To drive or float along the River Road is to experience Colorado the way it used to be.

Over the time I’ve been spending time here, first camping and fishing and then to live, very little has changed along the River Road. Now I do float trips and have customers coming here from all over the country, and almost all express some level of awe and amazement at how lovely and scenic this area is.

One possible objection might be that people will wonder why the county is spending tax dollars on this when there might be more pressing needs in our current economic climate.

Well, the funds to pay for the easement won’t come out of the general budget, but in a fund set aside for exactly these kinds of open space purchases.

The open space fund is there to keep Eagle County the kind of place that people want to visit or to live in, and not to escape from.

The owners of the Colorado River Ranch seeking the easement have bent over backwards to provide as much access as possible onto what is a working ranch.

One criticism I’ve read of the easement seemed to think that there wouldn’t be any public access, possibly due to the previous easements purchased for the Bair and Gates ranches, but there will be.

Conservation easements are not about looking back, but about looking forward. What does it matter whose brand was burned onto a cow’s butt 20 years ago? Isn’t it more important that there are someone’s cattle out there 20 years from now? And that’s why conservation easements are so difficult and courageous to do. It means spending today’s dollars to preserve tomorrow’s quality of life.

The Open Space Advisory Committee looked closely at it and voted unanimously to go ahead with the easement, but in a way their decision was easy. They only had to look at the merits of the project without having to worry about any political ramifications. They didn’t have to worry about what voters would think.

But that is something the commissioners have to consider.

So if you are in favor of keeping a sizeable chunk of Eagle County beautiful and undeveloped, come to the public hearing on June 23 to show your support, or e-mail the commissioners at eagleadmin@eaglecounty.us.

Jack Bombardier

Gypsum