Vail Daily column: Eagle-Vail addresses its aging assets
“Eagle-Vail already possesses all of the attributes of a great community: Its natural setting is astonishing, it has a genuine family atmosphere, it offers unparalleled recreational amenities, it has dedicated leadership and it is located in a world-class resort area. Great communities are constantly evolving and changing, and today, Eagle-Vail faces a new set of challenges related to this process. The panel found that, with just a few refinements, decline is not inevitable. In fact, Eagle-Vail could become a truly stellar community.” — Urban Land Institute 2008 Advisory Services Panel report.
The ULI panel’s report was positive and aspirational. Despite the language used in the paragraph above, there was nothing simple about the recommendations it made in 2008. The main challenge faced by Eagle-Vail in 2008 was its lack of momentum. In order to build momentum and credibility, the governing boards of Eagle-Vail began by picking low-hanging fruit. Rather than having two separate boards operating completely independent of each other, the Metro District and the Property Owners Association boards began meeting in combined sessions as the Eagle-Vail board of governors. While the two boards still have unique responsibilities and authority, most community issues are discussed among a larger board of 10 individuals.
The first major act of the new combined board was to develop and adopt a mission statement. After considerable discussion, the board members narrowed their mission down to 13 words: “To make Eagle-Vail the best community in which to live, work and play.” The second major step was creating the full-time position of community manager to oversee the daily management of district and Property Owners Association operations and staff, allowing the board to focus on long-term strategic planning and delivering on its newly defined objective.
The joint board then worked to recruit active participation from members of the community. Several committees were organized to begin working on the most significant issues and opportunities within Eagle-Vail. These committees specifically addressed community finance, development, golf operations, swimming operations, parks and playgrounds, social events and aesthetic improvements. The roster of committee members included retired or active bankers, contractors, Realtors, architects, accountants, public safety professionals, stay-home parents and resort planners, among many others.
Several projects were quickly identified by these working committees. Constructing a new swimming pool, redesigning several golf holes and cart paths, constructing a new mountain trail, burying power lines along U.S. Highway 6 and redesigning signage and entryways throughout the community were given the highest priority. These projects required funding, and in 2009 the community had to ask its members through a ballot question whether to fund them. There was healthy and constructive debate over the merits of the individual projects and the overall vision. Throughout the process, plans were revised and finally it seemed the majority of the voters in Eagle-Vail agreed that after 35 years, it was time to begin reinvesting in Eagle-Vail’s assets and amenities.
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For many in the community, however, the question remained whether Eagle-Vail could actually pull it all off and deliver the completed projects on time and on budget while using, wherever possible, local contractors, consultants and suppliers. Each of the committees worked diligently to develop their projects by providing hundreds of hours of volunteer services to each project. Wherever funds could be requested from other governmental agencies to help offset project costs, Eagle-Vail asked for them. Eagle-Vail partnered with Holy Cross Energy, which picked up the largest share of the power line burial project. As the projects moved from design through construction and completion, the boards diligently monitored progress and project costs. In the end, the projects were delivered as promised with the exception of significant repairs to the tennis courts, which could not be economically repaired as hoped and required complete replacement at a cost exceeding what was available from the issuance of those bonds.
As Eagle-Vail moves forward in addressing its aging assets, its members will again be asked whether they support the next phase of improvements including extension of trails, completion of new playgrounds, construction of a relocated and repurposed clubhouse, and construction of new, properly constructed tennis courts. Be informed and participate. The outcome is always better that way.
Tracy Walters is vice president of the Eagle-Vail Metro District board of directors.