Our View: Let’s talk about an economic driver for Eagle
The Eagle River Park celebrated its grand opening over the weekend.
The $6.2 million project will provide an exceptionally beautiful entrance to the town. It will, no doubt, become a well-loved amenity for river recreationists as well as for locals and travelers who want to dip their toes in the Eagle River. It will be a wonderful addition to the town’s outdoor recreation offerings.
But we have a hard time buying the narrative that the river park will be the major economic driver Eagle needs. Even if it increases the number of visitors to town during high water and special events, can this park really make a big impact on the community’s coffers?
The reason why it can’t is simple — to really increase the town’s sales tax revenue, you need places for people to buy stuff. Eagle’s retail opportunities are limited. When the river park opens, Eagle’s existing stores, restaurants and bars may see an uptick, but it’s a big stretch to think the park will bring substantially more money to the town’s budget.
The biggest problem Eagle — and many other communities — face is leakage. People can’t buy everything they need in town so they travel to larger cities or purchase things online. You address leakage by bringing in more retail options, but that solution brings its own issues. The Eagle River Station debate in Eagle about a decade ago is a great example.
There is potential out there for Eagle to meaningfully increase sales tax, but it may not be politically attractive. Eagle officials could reach out to their counterparts in Gypsum to see if they would be willing to re-examine a revenue-sharing agreement. The towns negotiated such a deal shortly after Costco committed to building in Gypsum and Eagle was contemplating Eagle River Station. The deal died when Eagle voters approved the Eagle River Station plan in 2012 and Gypsum pulled out of the agreement.
A lot has changed in the past seven years. The retail landscape of America doesn’t include a lot of brick-and-mortar development. As time goes on the possibility of extensive commercial construction in east Eagle seems increasingly unlikely. Many of the principal players who negotiated the original deal between Eagle and Gypsum are no longer with the towns, and while institutional memory is vital, it can also be focused on past actions instead of future possibilities.
Negotiating a revenue-sharing plan — which sends the majority of the sales tax to the town where it is collected but gives a percentage to the neighboring community — would provide better services to residents of both towns. The idea is that both communities benefit from the successes of their neighbor.
While a lot has changed during the past decade, the interconnectedness of Eagle and Gypsum is constant. New homeowners from the Haymeadow development will shop at Costco. Residents from Buckhorn Valley drive through Eagle to get to Interstate 70. Kids from Gypsum skate at the Eagle Pool and Ice Rink and kids from Eagle enjoy the indoor pool and climbing walls at the Gypsum Recreation Center.
As we prepare to enjoy the newest downvalley amenity, it’s a great time to look at ways to ensure there will be more of them in the future. Eagle and Gypsum should work together to make that happen.
The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Nate Peterson, Assistant Editor Ross Leonhart, Director of Special Projects Ed Stoner, Business Editor Scott Miller, Eagle Valley Enterprise Editor Pam Boyd and Advertising Director Holli Snyder.
Amid a challenging debut, the new whitewater park in Eagle made quite a splash during its opening season in the summer of 2019.