Vail Daily column: Land trust preserves character of our valley | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Land trust preserves character of our valley

Character. I want to express some of my thoughts about the character of the Vail Valley (Eagle Valley) and what we can do to maintain that character for ourselves and for our children and their children and beyond.

As we grow as communities and a county, we are gaining needed and desired amenities, but we generally take a little more land each time we gain an amenity. Does this result in the loss of a little of the character that we moved here to enjoy?

Our DNA started with ranching and mining and progressed to skiing and then to amenities like shopping, dining, health care, mountain biking, rafting and fishing to mention a few. Much of the attraction of this area was the "wide open spaces" and the mountain character. I think this still represents much of the attraction the valley holds today.

When I moved to Gypsum in 1995, the population was less than half of what it is today. There wasn't a market, there were few shops and only a couple of places to get a bite to eat. Gypsum has added amenities and housing variety and increased the population, just as virtually every other place in the valley. Each time we added something we lost a ranch, an open space, maybe a scenic view and provided amenities that made the town a more attractive place for people to call home, thus increasing the population.

As Gypsum approved developments since 1995, the town was able to provide public access along Gypsum Creek and now is planning for public access along the Eagle River. In helping to achieve the town's goals, the Eagle Valley Land Trust worked with the town to provide 95 acres of conservation easement on the Brightwater lands, thus allowing open space and public fishing access to Brightwater land adjacent to Gypsum Creek. As appropriate land is annexed by Gypsum in the future, the Eagle Valley Land Trust will be one of the sources of ensuring that valuable open space and river corridors are preserved.

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This is what I think the Eagle Valley Land Trust is here to do. It is not here to stop development, as we all see the need for economic development, but rather to help with a balance and to preserve the open spaces and recreational activities that we all desire in our communities. The Land Trust, by its nature, helps to preserve things as much as they are and strictly enforces the restrictions on land it holds in trust because its job is to keep the character of the conserved parcels as open space to benefit the community, forever (and that's a long time).

There are many developers in the valley, and the amenities they provide are appreciated by all and are a necessary part of a vital community. There is only one Eagle Valley Land Trust and it is the hope of the land trust that it will conserve the special character of Eagle County that makes this a great place to live.

Eagle Valley Land Trust was founded in 1981 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit environmental conservation organization and is state certified and nationally accredited. The mission of the land trust is to protect forever our scenic vistas, open spaces, historic lands, waterways and wildlife habitats that represent the uniqueness of Eagle County, Colorado and the Central Rocky Mountains for the education, enjoyment and benefit of people who experience this special place.

The land trust permanently protects 32 parcels (over 7,700 acres) of land for the benefit of the public. These properties stretch from East Vail to the entrance of Glenwood Canyon and from Tennessee Pass near Leadville to Yarmony Mountain near the Routt County border. For more information about the Eagle Valley Land Trust, please visit http://www.evlt.org.

Tom Edwards is a director emeritus of the Eagle Valley Land Trust.