Picnics, but no baseball | VailDaily.com

Picnics, but no baseball

Tamara Miller
A park where people could have picnics along the Eagle River is envisioned for 72 acres of Edwards ranch land local groups want to buy for $12 million.

EDWARDS Where some people see only a gravel pit, the Vail Valley Foundation sees something more.The nonprofit groups plans for the 72-acre parcel in Edwards known as Eaton Ranch include walking paths, a fishing area, and an outdoor shelter, all in a green, grassy meadow. But the way the group wants to protect that land from major development will limit what they can do if, and when, it is purchased. Supporters of the foundations cause want the property to be open space. To get that distinction, the land must remain primarily undeveloped, according to Eagle County regulations. Hiking, biking and fishing are OK, said Cliff Simonton, senior planner in the countys community development office. Athletic fields and golf courses are not. A few picnic tables and a small restroom facility will likely be allowed, he said Basically you are looking at a place where people can spread out and do whatever they want, he said. To ensure the land never turns into a commercial center, or luxury home neighborhood, the foundation is pursuing a legal tool known as a conservation easement. Conservation easements are voluntary agreements that allow private landowners to sell the right to develop their land in exchange for lower property taxes.

This also prevents the property from being developed, even if the property is sold. The group has been negotiating the terms of the conservation easement with the Eagle Valley Land Trust, a local nonprofit preservation group that monitors and enforces the such deals. The land trusts primary concern is preserving the Eaton Ranch property as a scenic piece of open space, said Cindy Cohagen, director of the land trust. The property is worth conserving because of the scenery and because 16 acres of it lies along a river. Because of that, the land trust is less likely to support any buildings being placed near the river, Cohagen said. The land trust holds conservation easements for three properties in Vail. All of them allow recreation like hiking or biking, but fishing and hunting are not permitted.Some parking likely will be allowed. The land trust will allow the foundation to build some small structures, such as an open-air picnic area or an information kiosk. The foundation has created a committee to come up with a final plan for the property, said Ceil Folz, president of the group. It will likely resemble the drawing the group has already made, which includes bike paths near the river and a few ponds, Folz said.The plan will be complete by Sept. 1, when the foundation expects to have raised the full $12 million to purchase the property and close on the deal. The terms of the conservation easement must be finalized before the property is purchased, Cohagen said. B & B Excavation has until July 2006 to restore the gravel pit to its original condition.Staff Writer Tamara Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607, or tmiller@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado

Support Local Journalism