Local open space ballot measure fails on trails
November 8, 2016
WOLCOTT — Gov. John Hickenlooper wasn't on the ballot Tuesday, but one of his projects was. Ballot measure 1B, which failed to get approval from Eagle County voters, sought to complete the Eagle Valley Trail, identified in Hickenlooper's Colorado the Beautiful initiative as one of the 16 most important trails in need of completion in the state.
The trail itself wasn't what voters disapproved of, however, said county commissioner candidate Rick Beveridge, who was against the measure. Beveridge said the open space component of the ballot measure was the sticking point, not the trails. In addition to completing the Eagle Valley Trail, Measure 1B would have extended the existing 1.5-mill property tax for another 15 years, until 2040.
About $4 million per year, or 20 percent of the open space tax, would have gone toward completing the Eagle Valley Trail, with another 5 percent going for soft trails. The remaining 75 percent would have gone to more open space purchases. The original open space tax was passed in 2002 by fewer than 50 votes.
"The county commissioners asked to extend the open space tax, and they threw trails in that as a way to get it passed," Beveridge said. "I think our valley is so active and trails are needed so much if you said 'Hey, we need to raise some money for trails,' I think it would pass on its own."
Re-elected on Tuesday, county commissioner Jill Ryan said the trail component of 1B was the most important part of the measure in her view. Ryan was disappointed to see Measure 1B defeated but said it could come back in a different form.
"The trail piece was very appealing to the Board of County Commissioners; it was the piece that was on our strategic plan from the beginning," Ryan said. "So I could see it being a possibility that (the Eagle Valley Trail component of the plan) could be floated by itself as a tax or a bond."
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That's a tax even Beveridge, an outspoken conservative, could get behind.
"I'm a Republican, and I would support a tax increase (for the trails mentioned in 1B), if you called it that," Beveridge said. "And I might let the open space sunset in 10 years."