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Protecting for perpetuity

Geraldine Haldner

The Town of Vail’s three-member Open Space Board of Trustees meets Thursday for the first time in two years to review lands for potential open space designation.

Since voters approved an amendment to the Vail Town Charter in 1995, the board has given 18 parcels of town-owned land the highest and most restrictive open-space classification. The designation process so far has protected close to 400 acres of land from potential development, unless voters decide otherwise.

The most notable parcels designated open space include Bighorn Park, Buffehr Creek Park, Katsos Ranch, the stream tract in the Vail Village, Stephens Park and the highest bench of Donovan Park.



The trustees will consider the following three parcels:

? Vail Meadows Filing 2, Lots 1 and 2, in East Vail, just east of the Heaters Condominium Complex. This parcel is just over an acre in size and consisting of a mixture of wetlands and floodplains at the confluence of Black Core Creek and Gore Creek.



? Bighorn Subdivision Second Addition, Lots 15 and 16, located on Lupine Drive near the East Vail waterfall. The three-acre parcel was purchased by the town with the help of the Eagle Valley Land Trust for $600,000 two years ago.

? The Middle Bench of Donovan Park. A three-acre parcel, the site of developments proposals ranging from parks to employee housing, is currently designated agricultural/open space.

The Donovan Park parcel is bound to be the most controversial of the trio. 3Talking about the middle bench will bring a few people out,² says Russell Forrest, director of community development for the town of Vail. 3There could be a debate as to whether it meets all the requirements. There is essentially a park within a quarter mile of it on the lower bench, but it is on the other side of the creek. Some could say it has no scenic or recreational value on the surface,² Forrest says. 3But others will say that elk and deer can be seen on it frequently and that it is the only access to the creek in that area.²



The three-acre parcel was the subject of furious debates and a flurry of lawsuits when the town considered it for employee housing during the infamous Common Ground initiative of 1997. Most recently neighbors have proposed to use the parcel for a neighborhood park, despite its proximity to Donovan Park on the lowest bench, which is slated to be completed late this summer.

In addition to the 400 acres designated open space, the town has approximately 1,200 acres of town-owned land left in zoning designations that are less restrictive. The 1,200 acres, however, include a number of parks and does not take into account parcels the town could still try to acquire in the future.

Nevertheless, placing parcels in the open space designation 3is a very serious freezing of assets and needs to be considered carefully,² Russell says, adding that once a parcel is placed in the restricted open space designation,it can only be considered for development, if a majority of Vail1s voters approves it.

The three trustees of the board are Vail Town Councilman Dick Cleveland, Town of Vail Planning and Environmental Commissioner Galen Aasland and Vail Town Manager Bob McLaurin.

The hour-long meeting will begin at 4:30 p.m. at the Vail Community Development Office. The meeting is open to the public and the trustees will consider the proposed as well as any additional parcels community members may suggest. Selected parcels will be recommend to the council for open space classification at a later time. A designation requires a majority vote by the council.

The Open Space Board of Trustees has been meeting on an annual basis since it was inaugurated in 1995. Comments regarding proposed open space parcels may be directed to Vail Community Development Director, Russell Forrest at (970) 479-2146.

Geraldine Haldner covers Vail, Minturn and Red Cliff. She can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 602 or at ghaldner@vaildaily.com


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