Proposals for Vail’s Ford Park may conflict
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado – When Vail visitors answer survey questions in the summertime about why they come to Vail, one of the biggest reasons is the flowers.
That’s right, flowers.
The answer has helped shape the thinking behind the proposed improvements at Vail’s Ford Park. The Vail Valley Foundation’s Harry Frampton and Ceil Folz have presented a $10 million proposal to the town of Vail that would make Vail flowers “even better” and make the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater a better economic generator, Frampton told the town last month.
The proposal, called Ford Park Gardens, includes upgrades at the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, Ford Amphitheater and the addition of a Vail Art Sculpture Garden, creekside park and strolling path and an open air event pavilion.
“We think this is an exciting project,” Frampton said.
So do many of the groups who would be using the new and improved facilities, but many also recognize the process is a delicate one because it presents conflicts with other proposals in the works as well as the closest thing to a master plan the town has ever adopted for the park.
The town adopted a Ford Park Management Plan in 1997, which prohibits building any new above-ground structures there.
The town of Vail is scheduled to talk about amending the 1997 plan at the Vail Town Council’s Jan. 18 meeting, when talks about proposed parking and Ford Park recreation field improvements are also scheduled.
The subject of what to do with the town’s $9.3 million in conference center funds is also still up for debate, as Frampton and Folz have said they would need a $5 million commitment from the town of Vail in order to move forward with the project.
Formal Vail Town Councilman Kent Logan presented plans to the town last fall that outline several improvement projects in which the town should consider as uses for the conference center money, including a Vail Golf Clubhouse renovation, a remodel and expansion of the Vail Village Welcome Center, upgraded technology throughout town to enhance guest experiences, a Ford Park expansion and a Dobson Ice Arena renovation.
The town of Vail rejected the Dobson expansion part of Logan’s proposal, which amounts to about $2 million of the total $9.3 million fund.
Vail Village Homeowners Association Executive Director Jim Lamont said he thinks the Vail Valley Foundation request for $5 million is being made in the context of using those conference center funds, too, which means the town now needs to weigh whether the value in the proposal meets the conference center funds criterion, which is to drive the local economy.
“It’s a serious proposal and has to be taken seriously, and it’s a valid consideration for one of the items under the conference center funds,” Lamont said.
The Vail Town Council plans to bring a question to the voters this spring about what to do with the funds, which have to have voter approval before the town can spend the money on anything.
Those who would see the effects of the new Ford Park Gardens are excited about the project and think it could absolutely help drive Vail’s summer economy.
Ann Kurronen, the executive director at the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, said her organization is in favor of making improvements at Ford Park, but everyone agrees the improvements have to be part of the big picture or master plan.
“We’re happy about this, but let’s do it in a smart way,” she said. “We agree the time has come for enhancements at the park.”
Vail Recreation District Executive Director Mike Ortiz said all of the improvements on the table, including the field and parking improvements and the Ford Park Gardens proposal, would provide a better experience for everyone using the park.
“I think there’s a lot of good things I hope will come out of this,” Ortiz said. “I’m looking forward to working with the foundation.”
Ortiz said it’s an exciting time for Ford Park because it’s been so long since the Management Plan was approved and there are now so many new enhancements being proposed.
The proposals could help bring the venues up to the same level as the performances that take place there, said Alan Kosloff, chairman of the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival.
“One of the things about the Ford Amphitheater is that the entertainment there is world class, but the experience is not necessarily so,” Kosloff said. “I think there’s a lot of work to be done on the proposal, but I think it’s all very well conceived and there’s no question that Ford Park and the Amphitheater particularly, really need some upgrading.”
The town can’t lose sight of the master plan, however, Lamont said.
Assistant Town Manager Pam Brandmeyer said the town staff is working on bringing several amendments to the Ford Park Management Plan to the Town Council for discussion Jan. 18.
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or email@example.com.