Open-space backers buy Eaton Ranch |

Open-space backers buy Eaton Ranch

Scott N. Miller
Preston Utley/

EAGLE COUNTY – It was toward the end of June when Ceil Folz had the feeling. For Cindy Cohagen, the feeling came in January.Tuesday, those feelings were made real, when the Vail Valley Foundation handed a $12 million check to Bruce Eaton to buy 72 acres of Edwards now known as the Eagle River Preserve. That property, much of which is the old B&B gravel pit at Edwards, is now open space owned by Eagle County.

Folz, director of the Foundation, started working on the deal about a year ago, when a group of local residents launched an attempt to buy the property, which was, for a time, under contract to a group led by local developer Rick Hermes. The prospect of buildings on the property spurred numerous locals into action, and check-writing.While donations of as little as $1 rolled into the foundation’s office in Avon, the effort got its biggest single donation in January, when the Eagle County Commissioners agreed to give $6 million to the effort. About $4 million came from the county’s open space accounts, with the remaining money coming from the county’s general fund.It was that moment in January when Cohagen felt in her heart that the fund-raising drive would succeed.”There was so much passion, so much energy in the room that day, I knew we’d make it,” she said.But Folz was watching the checks roll in. “There was never a time I didn’t think we were doing the right thing,” she said. “But there were days I wondered if we’d make it.”On days when the mail didn’t have checks in it, she wondered. Then, toward the end of June, she looked at the balance sheets.

“We’d just had a really good month,” she said. “That’s when I thought, ‘From here, we can make it.'”Now that the deal is done, Eagle County owns the property. But the local land trust is in charge of watching the land and enforcing the legal agreement that demands only very limited building on it.That contract “specifies the amount of facilities that can be there, like restrooms, an interpretive center and picnic areas,” Cohagen said. “It even dictates how many square feet of asphalt can be there.”While the deal is signed, the foundation’s fund-raising isn’t done yet. Folz said more checks are needed to build trails and restrooms, and to help restore and maintain the property.And Cohagen said there’s a pretty long to-do list in her in-box now the ranch has been preserved. “We have two or three potentially remarkable projects that I’m going to talk to my board about next week,” she said.

Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or Daily, Vail Colorado

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