Land swap may save mountain views
Vail CO, Colorado
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” More than 2,100 acres of open space and hiking terrain between Edwards and Eagle-Vail could be permanently protected from future development through a complex multi-agency land swap announced Friday.
Eight pieces of land will change hands among the town of Avon, the State Land Board, the U.S. Forest Service and Eagle County. Some of the land will be protected by conservation easements held by the land trust, and others will be protected by the Forest Service. All of this land will be open and accessible to the public.
The big idea is to preserve some of the sweeping vistas and trails that draw people to the valley, but are threatened by future development. Supporters of the swap say a land deal like this is the only way to guarantee that the view you enjoy today will still be there tomorrow.
“This land we’ve been enjoying since we’ve been here will remain open, we’ll continue to enjoy it, and our children and grandchildren can enjoy it,” said New New Wallace, development and marketing director for the Eagle Valley Land Trust.
The land exchange isn’t a done deal yet, and until appraisals are finished on all the land, the groups won’t know whether cash will be a part of the deal. Here’s how the complex swap would work:
Two parcels now owned by the State Land Board will go to the Forest Service. These include a 640-acre area on the eastern flank of the Lake Creek Valley, and a 640-acre area on the north side of I-70 on the hillside above the Shaw Cancer Center.
By giving the land by Lake Creek to the Forest Service, another 160-acre parcel in the area owned by the Forest Service would be connected to the rest of the forest, and would no longer be a candidate for sale by the federal government.
Two properties now owned by the Forest Service would go to Avon. The first is a 470-acre are between Wildridge and Singletree, which has been a target for development for a decade. The other is a 80-acre area on the north side of the Eagle River across from Eagle-Vail. Conservation easements held by the Eagle Valley Land Trust will ensure this land remains open space.
A 150-acre parcel owned by the Forest Service on the west flank of Lake Creek will be given to Eagle County. This area will be protected by a conservation easement held by the land trust.
A 40-acre parcel by Eagle-Vail owned by the Forest Service will be given to the State Land Board. This area will be adjacent to another 640-acre parcel owned by the land board in Eagle Vail, and both could be “upzoned” by the county so they could be developed, as recommended by the Urban Land Institute Study commissioned by the Eagle-Vail Metro District.
Representatives from each of the groups say this land swap is a good deal for everyone.
County Commissioner Peter Runyon said the landscape has changed a lot over the years since he’s moved to Eagle County, and a land trade like this will “save over 2,000 acres from the bulldozer.”
Community surveys commissioned by the county, including the recent “Quality of Life” survey, show that preserving open space and wildlife is a high priority in the community.
Avon Mayor Ron Wolfe said he’s excited about the land swap, and that the town has been trying to preserve this land for years. Keeping this land open and free of development is important to town residents, especially those in Wildridge, and to their neighbors in Singletree, Wolfe said.
“I have two grandchildren living in Avon, and I want them to be able to enjoy this,” Wolfe said.
This land swap will also benefit area wildlife, said Perry Will, area manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
“The large Forest Service and State land Board parcels in the Lake creek and Avon areas provide significant wildlife habitat,” Will said. “From our perspective, the result of these exchanges will be protecting these lands by eliminating threat of fragmentation. We support this plan and the public benefits it will provide.”
Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 970-748-2955 or firstname.lastname@example.org.