Open space in perspective
Eagle County government has been asked to contribute twice the annual sales tax for open space to preserve 72 acres of ranchland in Edwards, now used in large part as a gravel pit. By the way, the adjoining 105 acres is nearly all wetlands that will remain open regardless.
The county’s leaders should think harder about this before going for it. This is the land owned by Earl Eaton, part of an original homestead, that the Vail Valley Foundation has committed to raising $12 million to purchase. The county spent less than a quarter of that amount in 1999 to buy the Berry Creek 5th.
Granted, there are lots of ways for the county to spend money, including for open space. But the open space tax that the county’s voters approved by 50 votes or so in 2002 raises over $3 million a year just for this purpose. Isn’t that enough, considering the county’s other needs?
Sure, the open space committee might be expected to think doubling that amount just for the Edwards ranchland is a grand idea, and the county should dip into its general fund. The county commissioners should think more carefully about this idea.
Greenbelts are certainly nice, but a substantial portion of the Eaton acreage can only be open space, and the land is surrounded by highway. It might be wiser to allow some development along Route 6 to defray the expense of the land offered at premium price. Nothing wrong with that; we’d want fair return if we owned the land, for sure. That doesn’t mean the county should empty its wallet in Edwards, however.
Eagle County’s voters by a razor-thin margin approved of a dedicated open space fund. Here, as elsewhere, the county needs to pursue this goal within its means.
Surely $3 million a year is enough for this job.