Vail Open Lands Plan update to have one more hearing with town planning board | VailDaily.com

Vail Open Lands Plan update to have one more hearing with town planning board

From bighorn sheep to elk to peregrine falcons, wildlife is playing a major role in a revision of the town of Vail's Open Lands Plan. The plan dates to 1994.

VAIL — The controversy that started a re-do of Vail's 1994 Open Lands Plan continues to loom large over that plan's revisions.

The Vail Planning and Environmental Commission was set to vote at its Monday, March 26, meeting whether or not to recommend a draft of the plan to the Vail Town Council.

The council will give final approval to the plan.

But instead of a recommendation on which direction to move, a split commission voted 4-3 to delay a vote and scheduled another hearing for Monday, April 23.

Commission members Brian Stockmar, Karen Perez, Pam Hopkins and John-Ryan Lockman voted for the delay.

Members Brian Gillette, John Rediker and Ludwig Kurz voted against the motion, saying they'd prefer a vote to forward the plan to the council.

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The plan's revision was set off in 2016, following public opposition to a plan to modify the Vail Trail, a primitive path that runs from just east of Golden Peak to, roughly, the Vail Golf Club.

No firm plans

The draft of the open lands plan still holds out the option of an extension of that trail. While there are no firm plans, the idea would be to extend a soft-surface trail roughly parallel to an existing, paved trail from the golf course to East Vail.

The only public comment at the meeting came from residents who oppose any improvements to, or extension of, that trail.

Anne Essen complimented the commission and staff on work that's been done so far on the draft plan, but still urged commission members to drop the trail extension idea.

Essen was joined by Tom and Blondie Vucich and Diana Donovan, who also urged the commission to move the extension idea to a list of "dropped" trails in the draft plan.

All cited possible effects on wildlife.

Wildlife impacts

Colorado Parks and Wildlife officer Bill Andree told commission members that a couple of trail ideas could adversely affect wildlife in the area.

Toward East Vail in particular, a nesting pair of peregrine falcons could be affected by more human activity in the area.

If those birds leave the area, "I don't know how you get them back," Andree said.

Still, Andree added, existing or new trails have to strike a balance between habitat preservation and human recreation.

While there's no firm plan for a Vail Trail extension, commission members were split about whether to leave it on the list of trails to consider.

Stockmar said he'd vote to forward the plan if it moved the Vail Trail extension to the "dropped" list.

But, Lockman said, he'd support the full process of the Vail Town Council proposing a plan, subjecting it to input from staff and wildlife experts and holding public hearings.

Hopkins said her thinking on the plan had been profoundly affected by a January wildlife forum in which experts from the state, the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies talked about the steep decline in area wildlife populations since roughly the year 2000.

"I'm sorry (the forum) came so late," Hopkins said, adding she believes that could have had an impact on the public's opinions on the need for more trails.

Definitions and language

Aside from trails, commission members struggled with definitions and other subjects, and Perez and Stockmar in particular both wanted to see a final copy of the draft plan before sending it to the council.

Stockmar said he's confident town staff and consultant Tom Braun will make the adjustments and changes commission members requested, "but I'd be more comfortable having one more chance to read it one more time."

That sentiment ultimately carried the day. The commission will take that next look April 23.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, smiller@vaildaily.com and @scottnmiller.

Four facts

What it is: The Vail Open Lands Plan.

What it does: Guides, but does not mandate, the uses of undeveloped property throughout town.

What’s happening now? Town staff and the Vail Planning and Environmental Commission are working on a draft of the plan update.

What’s next: The commission could pass the plan on Monday, April 23, after which it will be evaluated by the Vail Town Council.