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Letters to the editor

Roger C. Brown

I would like to announce my candidacy for the Eagle County 3rd District commissioner seat. I am a 44-year resident of Eagle County. In 1962, I traded Vail Associates my labor on a promotional film for the resort in return for a piece of land in the about-to-be- built village at the foot of Vail Mountain. I built a home there and have been in the county ever since. I have raised (and still am raising) five sons here. I have experienced all of the changes. I have seen the land along the Interstate 70 corridor from East Vail to Glenwood Canyon turn from ranches into urban sprawl. The same thing has happened along Highway 82 from Glenwood Springs to Aspen. The urbanization has occurred mostly in the valleys on private lands and in small villages that are now sprawling towns. While many of the individual developments are well planned and executed, the overall impact is more than a little disappointing. We need to address what is optimum, not maximum, use of our remaining open lands, or we will destroy the very reasons why people come here. The vast federal lands are still undeveloped but not without pressure to be opened up and used in many different ways that threaten their integrity . Growing populations and mining interests are putting increasing pressure on our streams, rivers, lakes, semi-arid BLM lands, national forests and wilderness areas. Everyone wants a piece of the pie. Some want to punch more roads through the forest lands. Others want more dams for water storage. The Air National Guard wants more landing areas in remote semi-wilderness locations. ATVs and dirt bikes want more trails everywhere. Hunters are bringing more and more RVs and other camping paraphernalia into once pristine meadows. Fishermen, rafters, and kayakers vie for elbow room on the rivers. Guides bring clients into the last havens for blue grouse. It has been a profitable ride for developers, real estate companies, and the ski resorts, a huge success story. The question is how long can it last? How long before the quality of the recreational experience diminishes to the point where no one wants to visit us anymore? We need to put the brakes on before we kill the goose that lays the golden egg, and we have to think through more carefully how we want our urban areas to function. As a commissioner candidate I am in no one’s pocket, not Vail Resorts, not the real estate folks, or the construction industry. On the other hand, I understand very well what makes the county viable economically. Obviously real estate and construction, along with skiing, are the major players. I have no intention of hurting these businesses, nor could I if I wanted to. There are enough building approvals on the books for a decade of construction, and the towns are not within the jurisdiction of the county government. They do not need county approval to build. I have been a critic of the Eagle County Airport in the past for reasons I won’t get into now except to say that it’s a necessary and important part of the county’s business and it has my full support now. What I would like to have is an influence on where and how some of the new construction takes place in the county. I think energy efficiency, and the use of alternative energy resources should be a top priority. I built a solar heated home in the Gypsum Creek Valley in 1978 that operated without fossil fuel heat for 10 years before design flaws shut down the active part of the system. The passive solar heat collection features still work very well. Now, 26 years later, I see almost no solar collection, active or passive, on homes in Eagle County. This is amazing to me, since the passive collection features cost very little more than conventional construction and can reduce heating bills and pollution substantially. I favor cluster developments where driving is minimized. I have serious doubts about “big boxes,” which force smaller shops to close, but shopping centers make sense, particularly within residential areas so that driving is minimized. I think there is a big business in retrofitting buildings so that they become more energy efficient and take advantage of our abundant renewable energy resources. I think my real strength as a county commissioner will lie in addressing issues concerning water, federal lands and recreation. Water is our Achilles’ heal. There are probably more approvals in Eagle Country than there is water to supply them in dry years. The Wolcott Reservoir is one temporary answer, but the trade offs are serious. The Eagle River fishery, and the high water rafting and kayaking which occurs in the Spring, are under serious threat. This is an area where some hard choices will have to be made between development and recreation. I stand on my record when it comes to fighting for Eagle County’s water. The big problem with federal lands is the federal government. They do not provide the necessary management to deal with the ever-increasing and often-abusive uses that are taking place. If elected commissioner I will put pressure on the BLM and the Forest Service to add personnel. We are surrounded by some wonderful wilderness areas and national forests that are near wilderness. It all has to be carefully protected. I have been fighting for the protection of these lands since I came here in the 1960s. I stand on my record here, as well. I have been and will continue to be a champion of the cowboy culture. I understand why we have lost most of our ranches and the open space they provide, but I do not accept that it is inevitable that we have to lose what’s left. Again I stand on my record for helping the ranching community. Shale oil and natural gas extraction are impacting us now and could have devastating impacts in the future if we don’t keep our guards up. I understand these issues and know how to deal with them. I think there is room for improvement in our schools, although I have no quarrel with our teachers and administrators. Unfortunately, however, too much direction is imposed on the schools from outside the county, teacher pay scales are too low, and I think more imagination is needed to design a curriculum that will address this rapidly changing world of ours. I would like to see more Eagle County students getting into the nation’s top collages. There is obviously a problem with illegal immigration but not legal immigration. I have thoughts about this which are too complicated to address in this letter. I look forward to discussions on these matters. Much of the county’s work force is involved in the care and feeding of the very wealthy. This is mostly good, but it doesn’t mean we have to compromise our own dreams and aspirations to theirs. Through all of the pressures that have to be addressed there needs to be a vision of the future that will work for our children and our children’s children. It has to be an energy-efficient vision, a vision of a diversified economy that won’t depend entirely on skiing yet a place always recognized for the beauty of its landscapes and the quality of its recreation. You all have a right to be here, to be gainfully employed, to raise families, to enjoy our fantastic environment, and to be happy, I promise you, if elected, I will stand up for these goals and many other values you most cherish. Roger C. BrownGypsumVail, Colorado


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