The value of Eagle’s parks
No matter how densely we live in the town of Eagle, we are surrounded by inspiring and increasingly accessible public lands, which our vigorous residents appreciate. This backdrop stands as a challenge for us to create, as Wallace Stegner said, “a society to match our mountains.” Though surrounded by ruggedness, it is the tended green-spaces within walking distance thqat most affect our quality of life and are most telling of our society. Much has been made of the need for open space, and many jurisdictions have institutionalized open space in their land-use codes. Still, it is through our parks that we most regularly engage nature. This is especially true for children. The town of Eagle, through a historically proactive town board, has recognized that distant vistas are no substitute for parks, and this is a deep part of Eagle’s nostalgic attraction. The Eagle Ranch marketing department effectively connected with this aspect of the existing town, and consciously furthered this thinking in Brush Creek Park and a profusion of pocket parks.When my wife and I arrived in Eagle, the hallmarks of what the community valued were the parks, one adjacent to the county building, two others enclosed by the Bull Pasture, and a fourth in the Terrace subdivision. The Town Park has recently suffered. Further upgrades next summer concurrent with the Broadway Streetscape enhancement project should bring new life to this favorite of many. This district remains the core of our community’s deepest traditions: Flight Days, Twelfth Night, Christmas on Broadway, and now the Summer Concert Series.In retrospect, the value of the Terrace neighborhood park, within walking distance of more than 500 residents, is of obvious value. How easy to forget that it was negotiated out of a reluctant developer who preferred filling that space with more homes. The debate over whether this soccer field and playground was more valuable than another cluster of homes has long passed, but similar debates continue with each development review. Long before the word “sprawl” entered the lexicon, The City Beautiful Movement set forth a compelling vision for livable places where parks were the lungs of a community, and portals for city folks to enter nature. Parks, in this old sense, were thoughtfully designed places tended as lovingly as we now expect a golf course to be tended. Think of Olmstead’s Central Park in Manhattan. But a golf course is a money-making venture, and all that grooming of public space comes at a cost that the me-culture would rather dedicate to larger SUVs. Cynicism aside, I think we in Eagle still understand the value of a good park. In my opinion, one of the challenges of the current update of the Eagle Area Community Plan is to envision some parks in this old sense – as places thoughtfully designed by humans for other humans (no offense to God or Mother Nature). We do a great job at making ball fields, and a decent job of protecting open spaces from ourselves. What we no longer do amid the built environment is envision and cultivate beautiful new public parklands. A couple suggestions: Once home to cows, a mobile home and drainage ditches, Brush Creek Park to the south of the pavilion could become a finely landscaped destination park. The fairgrounds river frontage is begging for attention as something of a riverfront promenade. Thirdly, the already withering soft path along the fringe of Brush Creek in Eagle Ranch from Sylvan Lake Road to the golf maintenance facility could become a fine interpretive nature trail (or it could whither back into obscurity and become de facto private property that nearby homeowners would prefer). This ribbon of open space is yet another place that with some vision could emerge from the weeds to become a place we would take our children to show what kind of care we can make when our society intersects with the natural world. In times when faith and optimism flourished, they used to call such places parks.Jon Stavney is the mayor of Eagle.