Vail looks to protect Donovan bench |

Vail looks to protect Donovan bench

Scott N. Miller
Special to the Daily It was easy for the committee to recommend permanent protection for this East Vail parcel at the confluence of Gore Creek and Black Gore Creek.

VAIL – The so-called “middle bench” of Donovan Park has caused some heated debates over the years. That era may be ending.The Vail Open Space Committee recently voted to ask the Town Council to designate the part of the parcel between the developed park and the north-facing hillside as an actual park. If the council agrees, the three-person open space board can then take another look at the parcel, with an eye toward permanent protection as open space.That decision came as good news to Matterhorn resident Wolf Mueller.Neighbors in that area have fought more than one proposal to put employee housing on the “middle bench” parcel, Mueller said. Permanent protection would be a good thing, especially since the property was purchased with money from the town’s real estate transfer tax, or RETT, accounts.Use of land bought with that money is tightly restricted, and limited to parks, recreation and open space.

The town, though, has developed land bought with real estate transfer tax money by re-paying the account with money from the general fund. That was one way the town could have used Donovan Park property for housing.That time seems to have passed.”There are just some battles we don’t need to fight any more,” committee member and councilman Dick Cleveland said.That, and the final vote, was music to Mueller’s ears. “That was the first parcel purchased with RETT money,” Mueller said. “It should stay a park.”

Other land preservedWhile three more official steps are needed to essentially lock up the Donovan Park land, the town council will soon review a package that recommends open space designation for 17 pieces of land already owned by the town.The parcels range from small streamside tracts along Gore Creek to a town-owned building lot in East Vail that sits at the bottom of an avalanche chute. The committee also included a piece of property at the confluence of Gore Creek and Black Gore Creek in East Vail.”That parcel is spectacular,” said Russell Forrest, the town’s community development director. “It’s pristine.”Most of the parcels the committee recommended for preservation aren’t exactly pristine. Some, like Pirate Ship Park, or the open space around the new Middle Creek apartments, are surrounded by or in the middle of developed areas. And some parcels on the list didn’t make the committee’s final cut.On that list is a small park just west of Checkpoint Charlie in Vail Village.

Forrest said the small park doesn’t get a lot of public use. But it is a nice natural area in a highly developed area. The reason the committee didn’t recommend it for preservation is simply the parcel’s value.Another valuable piece is a home lot on Beaver Dam Road. While the parcel would be difficult to build on, it, too, is worth a lot of money.Cleveland and fellow committee members Stan Zemler , the town manager, and David Viele briefly discussed the prospect of selling that parcel to the adjacent property owners, perhaps in exchange for some home-size bonuses.Also on the “do not preserve” list was the tennis court between Golden Peak and Manor Vail. The site is already developed, Cleveland said, adding, “I think there’s a higher and better use for that property than open space.”Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or Daily, Vail Colorado

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