Growing towns, big plans
Vail, CO, Colorado
EAGLE ” Tim Cochrane thinks he’s figured out a way to finally get a kayak park in Eagle. All it will take is a private company to move its entire operation. But that’s how Cochrane thinks.
Cochrane, for the last eight years the director of the Eagle Valley Chamber of Commerce, is full of big ideas to bring more business to Eagle and Gypsum. These days, he’s got a success to point to ” downtown Eagle. The down valley chamber lobbied long and hard for improvements to Broadway Street in Eagle, an effort that finally bore fruit in a $5 million facelift for the area.
“The chamber has been concentrating on downtown,” Cochrane said. “We said it five years ago, and always said it.”
The improvements will be crucial if ” probably when ” a large commercial development is built on the east edge of town.
“Without the head start we gave it, downtown could probably have an unrecoverable setback,” he said.
With downtown Eagle out of the way, the next item on the chamber’s list is a kayak park between the Eagle visitors center and the Eagle County Fairgrounds.
The chamber has long lobbied for that park, but there’s been a major complication: For years, long-haul truckers have used the area just east of the fairgrounds as a parking area. That parking is a place for truckers to rest up, and, when Vail Pass or Glenwood Canyon shut down, a place for them to wait out the road closure.
Kayakers spend more money in a town than truckers, Cochrane said. A dedicated kayak park in Salida brings thousands of people to town every year. But without a new place for the truckers ” in a valley where vacant along the interstate land is generally too valuable to park a truck ” the kayak park is a no-go.
In Cochrane’s mind, all that has to happen is for an Eagle-based oil company to move its operation to Dotsero, build a gas station/convenience store to cater to truckers and residents of the still-developing Two Rivers Village subdivision, and free up space for both kayakers and, perhaps, new shops and offices along U.S. Highway 6 through Eagle.
“We’re close,” he said. “It’s going to happen.”
The business route
If the oil company moves, it will also start the ball rolling on another item on the Chamber’s to-do list ” turning Highway 6 into an Interstate 70 business route between Eagle and Gypsum.
The chamber is lobbying the Colorado Department of Transportation for the designation, which would presumably pull more traffic off the interstate in search of goods and services.
Along with that, though, would be sprucing up the highway in both Eagle and Gypsum.
Again, that will require working with both business leaders and government to accomplish.
“It’s part of the chamber’s vision to be the business leader,” Cochrane said.
To do that, the chamber has four representatives on the group that’s re-writing the Eagle Area Community Plan, a document that attempts to set guidelines for future growth.
But “promoting economic vitality” can’t come at the expense of the reasons people move to Eagle and Gypsum in the first place.
“We can’t do that at the sacrifice of the way of life we value, or the 500-plus members we have now,” Cochrane said.
Finding that balance can be tough. It’s why the chamber is staying out of the political wrangling over Eagle River Station, a proposed commercial/residential development just east of Eagle.
A chamber board member, Jan Rosenthal Townsend, is one of the most vocal opponents of the plan.
“We have 11 different board members,” Cochrane said. “They’re all doing what they feel is in the best interest of Eagle.”
New focus on Gypsum
While the chamber has been focused on Eagle, some business owners in Gypsum believe the group hasn’t paid much attention to their town.
Cochrane acknowledged that complaint, but said Peter Struve, owner of Mac’s Liquor, is about to join the board.
“I think the Gypsum area hasn’t been represented as well as it could have been,” Struve said. “But we don’t communicate with each other as much as we should, either.”
Struve said Gypsum’s town government has been active in bringing amenities like the recreation center, the town’s new amphitheater and the roundabout at the entrance to town. Now it’s time for the business community to catch up with improvements of its own.
“The roundabout’s looking good,” Struve said. “But past that, it goes downhill ” literally.”
That’s where the chamber can be a voice to both encourage individual businesses and lobby when needed, Cochrane said.
“If it’s just one business owner talking to the town council on one night, that’s one thing,” he said. “It’s another if we’re up there representing the voice of 500 members.”
Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 748-2930, or firstname.lastname@example.org.