Open space, not open season in Eagle
EAGLE ” People love open space, but sometimes they love it too much.
“My biggest challenge is people who think they can do anything they want on public open space,” said Bill Heicher, open space coordinator for the town of Eagle.
Not all open space is created alike. Some tracts in Eagle County feature developed recreation amenities, while others simplya have paths or stream access. Still others protect wildlife habitat or geographically sensitive areas. Conflict happens when open-space users violate seasonal wildlife closures or use motorized vehicles along hiking or equestrian paths.
“If it’s public open space, people often see it as a place where there should be unlimited public use,” Heicher said. But if that laissez-faire attitude is allowed, many of the values that prompted protection in the first place are lost.
But even more disturbing, according to Heicher, are people who view public open space as their personal amenity. “Recently, we’ve had a rash of problems with people using open space to access their property with heavy equipment,” he says. “That’s basically trespassing.”
Other people have gone so far as to erect fences on public open space. Heicher said neighbors wouldn’t be so audacious if the land next door was owned by another person instead of being preserved as open space. And, he adds, the violator is often astounded to learn that his or her actions are illegal.
Eagle has a comprehensive education program aimed at letting people know the proper uses of nearby open space. Additionally, people who see violations are urged to contact the town. Heicher hopes that people who value open space can understand the need to preserve lands for varied reasons.
“The reason why you have open space isn’t just so people can use it,” he concludes.
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