Pyrrhic victory at Eaton Ranch
Congratulations to the Vail Valley Foundation raising that $12 million to buy Eaton Ranch as open space.This is a notable achievement for the foundation, even if $6 million of taxpayers’ dollars have been squandered in the greater effort to preserve as much undeveloped land as possible.Why do we say this? Take a look at the map. Notice those large blocks of yellow? That’s largely the open space that we ought to be saving. Not tiny, 72-acre flecks of gravel pit in a development zone. Harry Frampton and the Vail Valley Foundation may not know better. But the county commissioners who committed so much of our money to this sure should.That yellow blob between Minturn and Red Cliff is about to change color to “approved for development” purple. On the ground, that’s some of the prettiest country in Eagle County. Gone, basically.What’s next? Wolcott? That yellow acreage south and north of Edwards? Cottonwood Pass? Bond-McCoy? What one day might be prime land around a Lake Wolcott? Off the Colorado River Road? This list could go on and on.Eaton Ranch, with its high cost, will likely prove to be a Pyrrhic victory. That is, a great battlefield win whose costs contribute to ultimately losing the war.So pardon us if we don’t do cartwheels over this. Let’s see if the county’s voters approve of borrowing against the open space tax fund that the commissioners emptied before taking $2.2 million more from the county’s general funds for Eaton.Let’s see how much of what could have been preserved gets developed because the funds are just not available to keep the land undeveloped. Let’s see where the development kept from downtown Edwards winds up. Would-be moratoriums or not, the pressure remains.What on earth is there to celebrate, really? The real work of open space preservation just got a lot harder. Vail, Colorado
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