Vail Daily column: With partnerships, everyone wins | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: With partnerships, everyone wins

Jason Denhart
Trust Our Land
Vail, CO Colorado

When organizations and individuals collaborate and form partnerships for the benefit of their community, great things happen. The Eagle Valley Land Exchange project is a current example of great things happening for Eagle County. After many years of partnership and collaboration involving the U.S. Forest Service, Colorado State Land Board, Eagle County commissioners and Open Space Department, town of Avon, Eagle River Water and Sanitation District and the Eagle Valley Land Trust, along with local conservationists, trail users and water advocates, 1,571 acres of land may soon be conserved and protected for the people of our community. In addition, these partnerships would create important new water storage locations to aid our local water needs now and in the future, while also providing necessary funding for the education of our kids.

A collaborative effort since 2004, the Eagle Valley Land Exchange project is a complex transaction involving 11 parcels of land and numerous individuals, agencies and organizations. When complete, this partnership would provide a plethora of benefits to our citizens and guests. These benefits include expanded outdoor recreation opportunities and publicly accessible trails, permanent conservation protections for critical landscapes and view-sheds, funding for K-12 education programs, more open space buffers between towns and neighborhoods, and increased water storage capabilities for our community. While the Eagle Valley Land Exchange is clearly a “win-win” for the people of Eagle County, it is much more; this project would achieve multiple wins on multiple levels for our entire community.

How do we win? The neighborhoods of Singletree and Wildridge would have a 478-acre community buffer permanently protected by a conservation easement. The land would be owned and managed by the town of Avon and open for public access on trail systems maintained by locals like Lee Rimel and Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association. This land includes the popular Avon to Singletree Trail and “Beaver Creek Point,” a perfect location to experience breathtaking views of our beautiful valley, not to mention a great spot for the Avon fireworks. This land is also in the view corridor of the neighborhoods of Beaver Creek and Bachelor Gulch as they gaze to the north from their homes. This land is highly utilized by hikers, bikers and nature lovers. We all win by preserving open space buffers between communities and neighborhoods, while providing publicly accessible trails and outdoor recreation opportunities for our citizens and guests.

How do we win? The Eagle River Water and Sanitation District would receive four parcels of land for important water storage tank locations throughout the county. These new water tanks would allow the water district to continue to provide current service levels to our citizens, even in drought years. The locations would also provide expanded water capabilities for our continued growth, and allow for better water planning and wildfire protection. We all win by providing land for the expansion of local water resources in our community.

How do we win? A critical view shed and landscape visible from the valley floor and from I-70 would be saved forever for people to enjoy. The Eagle Valley Land Exchange includes 167 acres high above Lake Creek and the Edwards trailer park on the ridgeline adjacent to Cordillera. This lovely alpine landscape is gazed upon daily by a multitude of residents and guests. From neighbors in Homestead, Creamery Ranch and Lake Creek, to those in the Edwards trailer park, Brett Ranch and Eagle River Village; from residents of Cordillera and Singletree, to travelers on the interstate, this parcel of land is viewed by them all. We all win by protecting critical mountain landscapes and desirable alpine view sheds which are visible from our local neighborhoods.

How do we win? The Eagle Valley Land Exchange project would provide needed funding to the Colorado State Land Board. The State Land Board was created in 1876 to manage, acquire and sell land to generate funds for kindergarten through 12th-grade education programs in communities throughout Colorado. By participating as partners in this land exchange, the Colorado State Land Board and our local community would yield necessary funds for our children’s education. We all win by providing alternative funding sources for the education of Colorado’s kids.

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How do we win? Eight hundred acres of land would be added to our beloved National Forest. A 640-acre parcel of land on Red and White Mountain that is surrounded on all sides by the National Forest would become part of the forest for public enjoyment and outdoor recreation. And, 200 acres in the Piney Valley adjacent to the Eagles Nest Wilderness would become new National Forest land as well, further expanding our forest treasures and creating new access to our designated wilderness areas. We all win by expanding the White River National Forest within our community.

It is the people of Eagle County who will win from this momentous land exchange – full-time locals, part-time locals, business owners, workers, children, students, tourists, outdoor enthusiasts, landscape lovers, hikers, bikers, conservationists, water watchers. All of us. Our entire community wins with the successful completion of the Eagle Valley Land Exchange project.

Jason Denhart is the director of communications and development for the Eagle Valley Land Trust. The land trust is dedicated to saving land for the people of Eagle County and preserving the character of our community, one acre at a time. For more information, visit http://www.evlt.org or email jdenhart@evlt.org.