The real math behind Eaton Ranch | VailDaily.com
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The real math behind Eaton Ranch

Tom Boyd

I’d rather not have to write columns like this. However, mine is the valley’s sole remaining editorial voice outside the Vail Daily. Therefore, I feel obligated (yet again) to repair a bit of the damage done by Don Rogers and Steve Pope in recent weeks.First off, I think everybody got a good laugh this past week when Rogers (who continually defends the morally-suspect “Tipsline”) called the Vail Valley Foundation “unethical,” for reprinting his own words in one of their advertisements.Thanks for the entertainment, Don.As for Mr. Pope, the research in his March 15 column on Eaton Ranch was severely lacking, and the column in general was misleading. I believe most readers are intelligent, and aware of Mr. Pope’s glaring omissions. However, just for the record, I thought I’d clear things up.The comparisons Mr. Pope made between Eaton Ranch and other land purchases are largely irrelevant. It’s a classic case of apples and oranges.Every deal is different, but all the examples he used were various kinds of CONSERVATION EASEMENTS, not outright purchases of land for a public trust. For example: the Bair Ranch conservation easement, at $1,056 per acre, is still privately owned by the Bair family. It has almost no public access and it wasn’t purchased outright. There is a HUGE difference between a conservation easement and an outright purchase. I could go on to lambaste each of Mr. Pope’s examples one-by-one, but I don’t have much space today (as you can see).Quickly, though: When it comes to the Westermann ranch, I encourage Mr. Pope to go visit Marjorie up there on Tennessee Pass (In fact, I’d LOVE to see those two hanging out). Marjorie and Bruce Eaton are two very different people, and Marjorie was willing to do things with her land that Mr. Eaton and his family are not.Furthermore, as Mr. Pope is aware, riverside land in the valley is far more expensive than land up high in the mountains.I was stunned to read that Mr. Pope doesn’t think the Eaton parcel has any environmental value. I encourage Mr. Pope to hop on my cataraft with me and do a little fishing down on the Eagle. We could take a look at the effects of riverside development on our river. I think things would become very clear that is, IF I could get him onto a raft (we’ll skip Dowd Chute, Mr. Pope, I promise).And now my last, and strongest, point: There IS a land deal that compares well to the Eaton Ranch deal. We now know it as Ford Park. It was once called the Anholz property. It created a bit of a stir in 1973 because people thought the cost of the land was too high.Unlike any of the other land deals Mr. Pope used for comparison, Ford Park was an outright purchase, it is owned entirely by the Town of Vail, it is in the center of a community, it is riverside property, it was purchased during that community’s fast-growth period, and it was purchased on behalf of the public.Here’s some legitimate numbers, pulled from the invaluable Vail Trail archives, that Mr. Pope should have included in his column: The Town of Vail bought Ford Park in 1973 for about $3.1 million. At 36 acres that comes out to about $88,000 an acre. In today’s dollars that comes out to be around $325,000 per acre, minimum. Eaton Ranch, on the other hand, will cost $166,000 an acre. Finish your homework, Mr. Pope: Eaton Ranch is a steal.The best way to quiet Don Rogers and Mr. Pope is to raise the remaining money and get the deal done.To contribute, call the Vail Valley Foundation at (970) 949-1999. VTTom Boyd can be reached at tboyd@vailtrail.com.


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