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Intermountain saves land near park

Scott N. Miller

EAGLE ” After almost three years of work, the end came quickly. The start, though, came hard.

In 2004, an attorney came to a meeting of the Meadow Creek Condominiums Homeowners Association and told the group that a 2.6 acre piece of property between their property, Stephens Park and the surrounding national forest was going on the market. That’s when a small group of neighbors in the area started working on a deal to buy the land and preserve it as open space.

Tuesday, the Eagle County Commissioners voted 3-0 to provide the final piece of the puzzle, a $65,000 contribution from the county’s open space funds. There was virtually no public comment, although a handful of neighbors were in Eagle and ready to speak.

The only thing the commissioners demanded of the deal was the legal ability to help enforce a contract called a “conservation easement” that prohibits any future development on the property.

Collecting the funds

At first, Domini Zopf and a small group of committed neighbors started working on their own to raise the money. By the time they were done, they’d gotten 24 people to write checks worth $55,000. The condo association contributed another $10,000.

The small group of neighbors also got more than 200 signatures on a petition urging the commissioners to help pay for the property. And county planner Allison Ochs said her office had been “inundated” with e-mails of support.

The key, though, was getting the town of Vail involved. The town ultimately put up the lion’s share of the purchase price, and will hold the deed to it when the deal closes in late April.

“Once they got on board, it went pretty quickly,” Zopf said.

The neighbors also got the Eagle Valley Land Trust interested. That local organization doesn’t buy property, but works to broker deals, and will hold and enforce contracts that preserve property.

“Without the (contract), this wouldn’t have worked,” said Zopf.

All the way to the mountain

The Meadow Creek property was the first piece of land to come through a revised county system for spending money from a property tax that can only be spent on open space.

Under that system, applications are heard twice a year by a volunteer board, which then makes recommendations to the commissioners. The commissioners have the ultimate authority to write checks from the fund.

“They asked good, solid questions,” Zopf said of working with the committee. “It was a really positive experience.”

And in the end, the neighbors who came to Eagle Tuesday, were thrilled to know the land next to Stephens Park would be preserved.

“That should be open,” neighbor Dona Stever said. “It’s great for the neighborhood. It gives us contiguous space from Stephens Park to the forest, and, ultimately, to the ski area.”

In the summer, kids often wander out of Stephens Park to the land, and some local snowboarders have built a makeshift rail for the winter, neighbor Jim Doyle said.

“I was happy to do it,” said Jim Murray, one of the two dozen people who wrote checks. “But writing checks was easy.” Waving toward Zopf, Stever and neighbor Jan Schoor, he added, “The hard part was the work they did.”

Vail Daily Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14624, or at smiller@vaildaily.com

Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado


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