Vail takes heat over hit-and-run case
VAIL, Colorado – While the town of Vail and the Vail ski resort had nothing to do with a controversial hit-and-run case over the summer that happened 10 miles downvalley in Edwards, the town and mountain could suffer consequences from the outcome of the case.District Attorney Mark Hurlbert, who represents the 5th Judicial District covering Summit, Eagle, Lake and Clear Creek counties, has taken a lot of heat for his decision to offer the driver in the case, Marty Erzinger, two misdemeanor charges in a plea bargain. District Court Judge Frederick Gannett accepted the plea bargain in court Thursday, and Erzinger pleaded guilty to the two misdemeanors and escaped a felony charge in the July 3 incident in which he ran down cyclist Dr. Steven Milo and fled the scene.The cycling community is outraged at the way Hurlbert handled the case, as evidenced by national cycling blogs, news sites and Facebook pages.One Facebook page, “Move stage 3 TT out of Vail,” calls for a re-routing of the Quiznos Pro Challenge professional cycling race coming through Vail next August.”Boycott Vail! Move stage 3 to Boulder,” wrote Joe Lekovish.Rich tenBraak, executive director of the Vail Chamber & Business Association, has been getting phone calls and e-mails from cyclists expressing anger about the case. He’s been telling anyone who calls that Vail is committed to cycling, as evidenced by hundreds of thousands of dollars in investments to expand shoulders on the roads and recreation paths in Vail and throughout Eagle County.”Vail’s being labeled as a place unfriendly to cyclists, and that’s not true,” tenBraak said. The hit-and-run happened in Edwards, and Hurlbert’s district covers several other ski towns, yet Vail is receiving all of the backlash.The town of Avon, which is much closer to where the incident occurred and also hosts a stage of the Quizno’s Pro Challenge, appears to be escaping the backlash, as is the Quizno’s Pro Challenge host city of Breckenridge, which is also in Hurlbert’s district and it’s the town he calls home.Town of Vail spokeswoman Suzanne Silverthorn said the town’s response to the backlash has been focused on communicating the community’s passion for cycling and the ongoing efforts to improve cycling safety throughout the town and the county.Neither Silverthorn or tenBraak take a position on Hurlbert’s handling of the case.”We tell them it wouldn’t be appropriate for our town government to offer an opinion on the (District Attorney’s) handling of the matter,” Silverthorn said. “We encourage them to come to Vail to see first-hand what we mean when we talk about our enthusiasm for cycling and other recreational pursuits.”Charles Pelkey, the senior online editor of the Journal of Competitive Cycling, or Velonews.com, has seen a lot of comments talking about boycotting Vail and he said he doesn’t agree. “I don’t think the way the district attorney handled the case reflects the attitude of the community on cycling,” Pelkey said. Pelkey remembers when the Coors Classic, a stage bike race in Colorado, was in Vail and he said he has fond memories of how the community embraced the event and hosted it.”My experiences in Vail have always been positive as an ice climber, cyclist, skier,” Pelkey said. Much of the outcry has already made its way to Hurlbert. In a letter to the Vail Daily last month, Hurlbert said he received more than 1,000 e-mails from all over the country in just one weekend.Pelkey said he thinks Hurlbert mishandled the case from the very beginning, but that doesn’t mean the area should be boycotted.”I frankly don’t think he’s all that great of a prosecutor, but I don’t think that means Vail is a crappy town,” Pelkey said. Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at email@example.com.
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