Heart’s in the right place | VailDaily.com

Heart’s in the right place

Don Rogers

Harry Frampton, head of East West Partners and president of the Vail Valley Foundation, has weathered some criticism lately. That could hardly be a surprise.After all, East West is planning to develop 19 acres along the Eagle River in Avon. And the Vail Valley Foundation has led the charge to buy what is mostly the Edwards gravel pit for open space.Open space and riverfront preservation advocates can find fault in the Avon development. “Smart growth” thinkers can disagree with squandering precious public funds on protecting land in an obvious development zone in Edwards.But if you count the Vail Daily among Frampton’s critics, think again. Here’s why:– The Confluence property in Avon is surrounded by town and across Highway 6 and the Eagle River from the eastern parking lot for Beaver Creek. The current home of the Beaver Creek Rodeo is an obvious place to develop – “in-fill,” the planners would call it. Just be respectful of the river itself, and it appears that the developers will do that.– Our issue with the current gravel pit, which makes up the bulk of the 72-acre Eaton Ranch, is not the Vail Valley Foundation providing an opportunity for the land to be bought as open space. Our issue is with Eagle County emptying its entire open space fund AND adding $2.2 million more in general funds to pay for half the $12 million asking price. If private donors, Edwards entities, and open space organizations can pool enough to buy the land, why that’s great. But however much Edwards residents might like open space in place of the gravel pit, we don’t believe this is much of a deal for the rest of the county.And remember, those pretty wetlands are not part of Eaton, but the property to the west, under contract to a developer. It would be wiser to shape a greenbelt along the river in conjunction with this land, develop the piece near Edwards’ busiest corner, and save the county funds for where they’d do more open space good, in our view. That’s not an anti-open space stance, by the way. Quite a few land preservation advocates share this opinion. They just may not live in Edwards.This is primarily why the state’s top open space organization, GOCO, was not going to contribute to the gravel pit. This is at least in part why the county Open Space Advisory Committee was split 6-5 in favor – hardly a consensus – and might well reject Eaton Ranch if a vote were taken today.Still, we applaud the Vail Valley Foundation and its president, Harry Frampton, for providing the option, even if we disagree with the wisdom of the county contribution. Yes, Frampton set himself up for some criticism. But what has he done that’s so terrible? His company has put together a solid, environmentally sound plan for developing a former trailer park along the river in Avon. And the Vail Valley Foundation, under his leadership, has given the residents of Eagle County another option for Eaton Ranch.We don’t have to agree with the county’s funding commitment to appreciate Frampton’s leadership on both accounts. We know Harry’s heart is very much in the right place. Vail, Colorado

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