Letters to the editor
Don’t quit path
Recently, I learned some very good news concerning the ski bridge in Lionshead. Vail Resorts plans to replace the existing bridge with one which accommodates both skiers and pedestrians. No longer will walking across the bridge during the ski day be such a frightening adventure. Unfortunately, at the same time VR will be taking away safe access to the bridge. They are planning development of the tennis court lots, the tennis lots just south and west of the ski bridge, into four primary-secondary building sites.
They feel to make the lots more valuable the existing bike-pedestrian path should be eliminated. If this path is eliminated, then the only access from the west to the ski bridge will be down the ski run from the top of west Forest Road to the ski bridge.
This completely negates the advantage of separation of skiers and pedestrians on the bridge itself. To get to the bridge skiers and pedestrians are mixed and only separated upon reaching the bridge. Bear in mind that there are a lot of people from west of the run walking across that bridge every day, and there will be even more with the new bridge in place.
The existing pedestrian path is the best way to provide complete separation of skiers and pedestrians all the way through to Lionshead. If that is not the solution, what is? If there is another solution I would like to know what it is. If the problem is ignored, it will not be long before demands are made to find some way to separate skiers and pedestrians. It will only take one serious accident to bring on such demands, and serious accidents there will be. Then pressure will be on either VR or the town of Vail to do something.
Some have suggested that one such fix might be to build a tunnel under the ski run so that those to the west of the ski run could access the route used by those east of the ski run. I suppose that might be a solution, provided a path for pedestrians is provided for those to the east of the run. However, that and any other suggestions I have heard of would be very expensive. The reasonable solution is to keep the existing path. It would need to be fixed up a bit, as it has been in disrepair since the tennis courts were closed. It would be an easy fix-up and could be landscaped to be very attractive. Something along the lines of the little paths wandering through the residential areas of the ski resorts in Switzerland.
Who would be damaged by this plan? The four property owners who buy the proposed tennis court lots would not receive quite as much land. If the extra land were never offered, they would have no reason to be upset. Even with the land dedicated to a pedestrian path not included, the lots would be in excess of one-half acre each, which is more than the other lots to the west of them.
VR might feel they are losing out on some immediate income. The amount might be very little in that, no matter what, these will be very valuable properties. Figure in what it is likely to cost down the road when demands are made to do something about the mix of skiers and pedestrians and it could easily be a wash.
My wife and I live west of the ski run in a house we built in 1966. Access to Lionshead via the ski bridge along the path in question has been available to us, and its use encouraged, since the day the first gondola opened. We are well aware of how important pedestrian access to Lionshead, at all times of the day, is to those of us living in this little enclave. There are more of us than VR seems to think.
VR has agreed to make a count this winter of usage of the bridge from our side and we appreciate that offer. However if the lots are sold, as now planned, it would be too late to do any good. The count should be made before deciding to close down the existing pedestrian access.
We have many letters from our neighbors supporting our position and only one who is not. The one who is opposed has the path going along the east side of his property, not on the property, and he sees this as a chance to get rid of the path. Never mind that he knew it was there when he bought it and that it has been there for more than 30 years. If care were taken the path could be discretely landscaped so that one would hardly know it was there.
I would like to invite those of you who are interested to take a walk along the path and see for yourselves the issue involved. You should note, if you do, how far the proposed lots encroach on Gore Creek. Flags are up showing the corners and you will see how close the boundary is to the creek. Compare these boundaries to the lots to the west that the rest of us have. If you think access to the creek is important, you will be shocked to see where these boundaries are. Also think about what the attempt to placate four property owners, who are not even identified yet, would be doing to the rest of us.
In no way am I trying to make light of the efforts by the town planning staff, the Planning and Environmental Commission, and VR. It is probably very difficult for those who do not live west of the ski run to understand our passion concerning a safe walking path over the ski bridge to Lionshead.
The Planning and Environmental Commission has approved the rezoning of the tennis court lots from an open space district to two-family primary-secondary district. They also approve of eliminating the pedestrian path in question. The proposal now goes to the Vail Town Council. The question will be debated at that time before the council.
The above sets forth my opinion that a terrible mistake will be made if the only truly safe pedestrian access, across the ski bridge, to Lionshead is eliminated. I hope others concur.
Fred Rumford Sr.