You can walk in the park in October |

You can walk in the park in October

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the DailyThe Eagle River Preserve will be a large public park on the west side of the Edwards Access Road and north of Highway 6.

EDWARDS – What was once a giant gravel pit will soon be part of a natural open space with walking trails, bike paths, streams and ponds in the Eagle River Preserve site.

Planners hope to open part of the preserve, which runs between the Eagle River and Highway 6 in Edwards, to the public in early October. The 24 acres will give access to the river, walking paths, and lookout points that will provide some great views, said county planner Cliff Simonton.

The 72-acre preserve, a parcel of land also known as the Eaton Ranch property, was once the site for a proposed development. Through both private and county funds, the land was bought for $12 million in 2004 to be preserved as open space.

Since then, the first phase of the project has moved along. Instead of a sheer cliff, the land has rolling contours, and what was a construction gravel pit has been filled with 600,000 yards of dirt and rocks. Hay and construction markers give an idea of where the trail system and bike paths will run.

Simonton said he is very excited to see the development of the land. “Two years ago it was a very big hole. As of this spring you could really begin to see what was going on,” he said.

The idea is to make the area as natural as possible. There will be some irrigation when plants are first introduced, but eventually the growth and the water system of ponds and streams will sustain itself.

“We’re devoted to returning it to nature. We’ll introduce some rocks and plants and let mother nature rearrange,” Simonton said.

The structure of Edwards cannot support a huge development as originally proposed, and such development would have cut off the river from the public, said Marka Moser Edwards resident and preserve committee member.

“Edwards is a huge family area. We have to have access to natural environment for the kids and the aging population, and this does that,” she said.

Some preserve planners are worried about the effect of the proposed West End development, a large building project that will border the eastern side of the preserve.

“There would be significant financial gain for a development to use this as their backyard,” said Ron Wolfe, chairman of the Eagle County Open Space Commission.

Landscape architect Tom Roberts of the Denver-based Norris Design, said there are also concerns about runoff water from the development. He said they will have to work with the developers to clean the water and perhaps incorporate it into the preserves streams and ponds.

“In Eagle County we’ve never had a preserve like this, and we’ve never had a development so adjacent to a preserve,” Simonton said. “There are a lot of things to work out.”

The remainder of the preserve land will follow a similar theme, but will also include a series of wetlands. Planners hope to have it completed sometime next year, Roberts said.

A dirt walking path will follow the river, leading people away from the noise of the busy intersection at Highway 6. Simonton called the river edge the jewel of the preserve.

“This will be a place you’ll be able to get away from it no matter how developed this valley gets,” he said.

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