Save an Eagle. Break a Rib: Rosie Shearwood honored for 45-year fight against Adam’s Rib

Rosie Shearwood receives a standing ovation from friends and admirers for winning this year's Eagle Community Impact Award. Shearwood helped lead the 46-year fight against Adam's Rib, proposed for the Brush Creek Valley south of Eagle.
Randy Wyrick| |

Brush Creek

This is the text for a plaque is dedicated to Rosie Shearwood, a protector of Brush Creek and the 2017 winner of Eagle’s Community Impact Award.

The scenic Brush Creek Valley has been the heart of the Eagle community since rancher John Love and cowboys Webb Frost and George Wilkinson brought in the first herd of cattle in 1880. Early day settlers, initially drawn to the Eagle Valley by the promise of gold and silver ore in nearby mining districts, quickly recognized the agricultural values of Brush Creek’s high altitude meadows, rich soils and mountain streams.

Early settlers cleared fields, dug irrigation ditches and built homestead cabins. They established an agricultural district that remained a driving economic force in the county for most of a century.

The wide valley on lower Brush Creek and high mountain meadows above the forks of the stream produced enough crops for a rancher to make a living. Key crops included Timothy hay, alfalfa, wheat, oats, potatoes and head lettuce. Ranchers could raise two crops of hay in a season.

In the late 1960s, Eagle County’s economy shifted from agriculture to recreation. As decades passed, most of the ranches in the valley were replaced by hundreds of homes, a golf course, a new commercial center, and related development.

Credit the foresight and political stamina of Brush Creek-loving citizen activists and forward-thinking community leaders from the 1970s through today for protecting Brush Creek from some of the most aggressive development proposals. Today, visitors can enjoy the Town of Eagle Open Space along the Brush Creek corridor. Farther up the creek, Eagle County Open Space land and Sylvan Lake State Park ensure that Brush Creek will remain a community treasure for future generations.

“Brush Creek is the most beautiful place in the world to me. The sky is bluer, the sun brighter, the trees are greener, and the snow in the wintertime is whiter than any other place in the Rockies. There is softness in the air, a serenity that is not found anywhere else. I love that place so.”

Helen Dice, from the book “A Cup of Clear, Cold Water, Life on Brush Creek”

EAGLE — Rosie Shearwood was positively resplendent in her T-shirt that said, “Save an Eagle. Break a Rib.”

Shearwood and so many others were honored for their 46-year fight to save the Brush Creek Valley from development. Shearwood won Eagle’s Community Impact Award, which was news to her.

“One thing successful communities do is celebrate their champions,” said Jon Stavney, former Eagle mayor who nominated Shearwood. “No one was more instrumental in that 46-year effort than Rosie Shearwood. She fought for Eagle to be more than a gimmicky place to visit.”

Her summer of love

Shearwood moved into the Brush Creek Valley in 1969, two years after the Summer of Love.

Support Local Journalism

“I was a young, strapping 20-something building fence and growing a garden,” she said.

The Adam’s Rib ski idea popped up in 1972. A small Sunlight-type ski area wouldn’t be bad, but this was going to replace Vail, or at least compete with it, Shearwood said.

A man working for Adam’s at the time knocked on the Shearwood’s door one evening, asking Shearwood to support the project.

We’ll just say the Shearwoods were non-plussed.

“That’s when they earned an objector,” Shearwood said.

Concerned Citizens

Shearwood helped launch Concerned Citizens of Eagle County, a grassroots group that changed the way Eagle and other communities deal with development.

When they organized four and a half decades ago, the focus was Adam’s Rib, a massive ski area and golf course development that would have devoured the Brush Creek Valley south of Eagle.

It didn’t, thanks largely to Shearwood and a group of like-minded fighters.

More than 80 people signed up at the first meeting, either in Gene Lorig’s living room or Roxie Deane’s basement. She couldn’t remember which.

They published the monthly “Rib Report” newsletter. That first Rib Report made the Concerned Citizens’ mission crystal clear, “to present the potential social, economic and environmental problems that the approval of the proposed Adam’s Rib ski area could create.”

They were not anti-growth, Shearwood said. They meant to be heard, and they were.

Wedge for decades

The fight over Adam’s Rib was a wedge in Eagle for decades.

“Whole town boards were elected, depending on where they stood on Adam’s Rib,” said Kathy Heicher, who worked alongside Shearwood for decades and now runs the Eagle County Historical Society.

Stavney said he is still sometimes amazed that the Brush Creek Valley is not full of gated neighborhoods.

“You look at the people who made that happen. Sure you have a few town board members, but it was the citizens.,” Stavney said.

Meetings, memories

So many meetings in so many places. So many memories.

Many meetings got heated. Fistfights sometimes followed adjournment.

A meeting with the Army Corps of Engineers had to be held at Eagle Valley High School because the crowds were too big for Eagle Town Hall. Two-star Army generals were on the stage.

Shearwood said Adam’s Rib developer Fred Kummer landed in hot water with the Corps of Engineers for reportedly trying to drain Yeoman Park by sending some of his guys up there to help dry it up with a bulldozer. The soil was too wet to build a base village, Shearwood recalled.

Kummer’s jet was parked at the Eagle County airport during an Adam’s Rib meeting. Someone wrapped it in toilet paper.

Some Adam’s Rib supporters tried to recall an Eagle town board that opposed it. The recall failed.

A townwide referendum on Adam’s Rib saw it soundly thrashed. Someone rang the church bell when the town voted it down.

They wore those T-shirts. They brandished campaign-style buttons emblazoned with “AR” and a red null sign through it.

Those early Concerned Citizens walked their talk, Heicher said.

Jean Johnson created the area’s first conservation easement, a wetlands now named in her honor.

Stavney said Eagle is sometimes improperly branded as having a culture of “no,” or “unfriendly to business.” It’s not true, he said. Stavney served eight years on the town council, then as mayor, then town manager. Shearwood was in most of those meetings.

“Shearwoods’ input … helped raise the bar of expectations for any development that had to pass through considerable public input and well-defined community expectations. She, more than any other single person, empowered public participation in Eagle’s future.”

Broken Rib Ranch?

At the Eagle town board meeting where she was honored, Shearwood wore one of the last surviving “Save an Eagle. Break a Rib” T-shirts. She gave her last no-Adam’s-Rib button to Toby Sprunk, Eagle County’s former open space director who put together the 1,540-acre Hardscrabble Ranch open space deal.

Shearwood spoke to a packed room, thanking those who helped the fight that brought us Brush Creek State Park a few years ago, and Hardscrabble Ranch this summer — almost 4,000 acres total — that secured the future of the Brush Creek Valley.

“It was such a wonderful success. There have been so many people who have been part of this,” Shearwood said.

You won’t be surprised to learn the Shearwood has another suggestion for her beloved Brush Creek Valley. Some want to change the name of Hardscrabble Ranch. She has an idea.

“Maybe Broken Rib Ranch?” she said, smiling.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and

Support Local Journalism