Town of Vail celebrates 2016 accomplishments
VAIL — With a glance around the room on Tuesday, Vi Brown said she was happy to see a lot of folks her age in the audience.
The annual Vail Community Meeting brought a standing-room-only crowd to Donovan Pavilion, with leaders recognizing Vi and Byron Brown for their contributions of time and talent to the town. The Browns received the Vail Trailblazer Award for their service to Vail throughout the past 52 years.
“Vail and Byron arrived to Vail in 1964 when there were barely 100 people living in town,” council member Kim Langmaid told the crowd. “I grew up among Vi and Byron’s three kids — Mike, Todd and Cindy — and I have always looked up to them.”
Vi Brown said raising kids in Vail was a delight.
“When we started, we didn’t have any schools,” she said. “And now all the schools in Eagle County are so good, and we’re so thankful we have good teachers and good principals.”
The Browns said in addition to schools, adding a church and a library to town were the most meaningful of the early accomplishments of Vail pioneers such as themselves.
“Many of you were participants in getting us this far,” Byron Brown told the crowd. “A lot of things had to take place to get to where we are today, and I want to thank all of you out here.”
These days, Vi Brown says creating an environment where seniors like her and Byron Brown can live out their later years has been most important to her.
“I’m so happy to see so many seniors here,” she said following the recognition. “It’s easier in Vail now for seniors because we have transportation, we have social functions, and on the mountain we have slow skiing zones.”
Vi Brown’s friend Maria Erb arrived in Vail from New York City in 1968. The two help put on regular lunches for seniors in Minturn.
“We do yoga, we play cards and we celebrate everybody’s birthday,” said Erb, who attended the Browns’ recognition on Tuesday. “We have people from Vail, from Avon and down alley and some are being picked up by van.”
‘THEY CAME FOR THE EXPERIENCE’
Also in attendance on Tuesday was Rod Slifer, Vail’s first Realtor, who arrived in Vail on May 1, 1962. Slifer said people like the Browns, upon arriving in Vail in those days, were not here to make money.
“In the old days they came for the experience, to be involved in a new resort and to ski,” he said. “And that was it.”
Slifer said as Vail moves forward, he thinks it will get better.
“It will be different,” he said. “More and more pressure from Denver has crowded the point of access, and that will be a challenge. We have day skiers on the weekends, but maybe in a few years they will be here every day, so we will have to, through pricing or something, keep it still a good experience.”
In addition to the Trail Blazer Award ceremony, Tuesday’s meeting was also a state of the town address. Mayor Dave Chapin brought up the possibility of charging for summer parking in the future.
“Nobody wants to pay to park, I get that,” Chapin said. “But when our guests can’t get in to access Vail, that’s a problem.”
Last year, the parking structures filled and overflow parking spilled onto the South Frontage Road 51 times, Chapin said.
“That’s a lot,” he said. “That’s actually over what we’re supposed to be allowed.”
While parking will remain free in summer 2017, a study will take place at some point where the gates will be closed and parking stamps will be issued just like during the winter. Those stamps will be required to leave the structure, but no fee will be charged. This will give officials a better idea of people’s summer parking habits, Chapin said.
“This is something we have to look at and something we have to address,” Chapin said.
STATE OF THE TOWN
Chapin offered quotes on several other themes, including:
• The financial health of the town: “In 2016, we had a record sales tax year.”
• Affordable housing efforts: “If it doesn’t work, we’ll go back to the drawing board, but not trying is not acceptable.”
• Environmental sustainability: ‘We can’t have this stuff flowing into our creek.”
• Capital improvement projects: “We generally don’t have to borrow money to do these things.”
And in a classic know-your-audience moment, Chapin took special consideration to mention the six new pickleball courts at Golden Peak.
“Pickleball has just taken off, it’s crazy,” he said. “Everybody’s playing pickleball.”
Town manager Stan Zemler was also honored at the event for the 13 years of service he gave the town as town manager. Zemler will soon vacate the position.
“Thanks to the leadership of council and Stan, we’re debt free since 2013,” Chapin said. “That’s an amazing accomplishment.”
Keep reading the Vail Daily for more about Zemler and his accomplishments in Vail.