Vail Daily column: Partnerships key to Vail’s success
After spending two terms, or eight years, as a member of the Vail Town Council and the last four years as mayor, it will soon be time to step aside and welcome a new mayor and newly elected members of the Town Council. Our Town Charter limits terms of office to allow no more than eight consecutive years of service, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. As such, I’ll be presiding over my last meeting on Election Day, Nov. 3.
It has been an honor and a pleasure to serve this community, and I can’t help but reflect on the many accomplishments that have been achieved while laying the groundwork for the next Town Council.
One of the great successes we’ve had over the past eight years is strengthening our relationships with our partners with the result, in many cases, being new investment to upgrade or add new facilities which will benefit our community for decades to come. It has also resulted in better, more productive working relationships.
In 2008, for example, the Vail Recreation District and the town of Vail were in a contentious relationship leaving many of the facilities that the town owns and the district manages, such as Ford Park and the golf course, in poor condition. Today, the Recreation Subcommittee is in place, and as a part of it, members of both organizations meet regularly and have developed and implemented an aggressive plan to successfully rebuild the Ford Park fields and to build a new recreation facility in the Lionshead Welcome Center for children and adults. Improvements to the golf course have also been completed and construction of a new clubhouse is underway. A carefully developed list of future improvements will address deficiencies at the Golden Peak tennis courts, the Vail Nature Center and Dobson Ice Arena.
In the last five years, the Town Council has also reached out to Vail Valley Medical Center to offer its support, and even adjacent town land, to keep this vital facility in Vail through important upgrades to the VVMC campus. We’re delighted that just a few months ago, VVMC initiated a $200 million two-phase redevelopment plan that not only ensures that the hospital stays in Vail but also includes first-class facilities for patients and dramatic new space for world-class orthopaedics as well as other specialties. This is a great step forward for our community.
By encouraging greater dialogue and interaction between the Commission on Special Events, the Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Council and the Town Council, a coordinated data-driven effort has been established to market Vail under a common branding strategy carefully coordinated with Vail Resorts, another significant partner. The results have been impressive as our summer events have improved in quality, overnight visitation is growing strongly and we’re experiencing our fourth year of record sales tax growth coming out of the Great Recession.
Also memorable is the opening this summer of the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens Education Center, an impressive facility located on the lower bench of Ford Park. Working closely with the park’s stakeholders to identify an appropriate location for the education center, the Town Council directed and approved an amendment to the Ford Park Master Plan to help make it happen. In so doing, we recognized the alpine gardens as a tremendous asset to the overall Vail experience and committed a substantial contribution to help make this permanent new home for the Gardens a success.
Another proud moment occurred this past February when our community experienced the largest, most impressive multi-day event that Vail has chosen to host, the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships. We worked closely supporting our partner, the Vail Valley Foundation, to ensure that the Opening Ceremonies, nightly awards and related entertainment as well as the Nations Cup dual slalom at Golden Peak were all a smashing success. After the crowds returned from watching the races in Beaver Creek, they experienced outstanding hospitality and entertainment in Vail. The event generated extensive national and international television and media coverage which should drive growth in international visitation to Vail for years to come.
Several years earlier, in a joint venture with the Vail Valley Foundation, the Town Council approved and helped fund the refurbishment of the Ford Amphitheater and related infrastructure using a portion of redirected Conference Center funds authorized by voters along with private donations raised by the VVF. Today, our partnership with the VVF is stronger than ever and is an important component of our summer success with events, including the popular GoPro Mountain Games, the explosive kick-off to our summer season produced by the VVF with significant town sponsorship.
Throughout these years, our commitment to upgrading Vail’s public facilities to complement the millions of dollars in private sector improvements has been an important focus for the Town Council as we’ve looked to enhance our guest services. These projects include new and remodeled Welcome Centers, the Lionshead Transit Center, new portal entries and wayfinding, remodel of the Vail Public Library, construction of a new skate park in Lionshead and a vastly improved cellular and wi-fi network as Vail works towards its goal of being the most connected resort in North America.
Public safety has also taken priority with construction of the West Vail Fire Station, a remodel of the Main Vail Fire Station and the addition of a seasonal wildfire crew. Other goals established by the Town Council are also being realized with planning for the Chamonix housing project and construction of the new Lion’s Ridge Apartments, which will provide rental housing for year-round employees, plus construction of the Interstate 70 Vail underpass in partnership with Colorado Department of Transportation.
Our environmental initiatives are well underway with continued progress on the Gore Creek Water Quality Plan, community wide recycling, the transition from plastic bags to reusable bags and an 18 percent reduction in the town’s energy use resulting from various lighting and building envelope retrofits and solar energy projects.
Finally, as I step down at the end of my last term, I’m proud to leave the town of Vail in the best financial shape it has ever been in with excellent reserves and no direct debt, which gives the town tremendous flexibility to finance future projects including affordable housing, parking, a continuing education or cultural center, a remodel of Town Hall and maybe even a joint venture with the town of Minturn for the Forest Service site at Dowd Junction, should the property become available.
To continue this progress, Vail has an enormously capable and dedicated staff under the leadership of Stan Zemler, one of the most respected town managers at any resort community in the western U.S. It has been a wonderful honor to serve the Vail community for the past eight years. Thank you to my Town Council colleagues, as well as the numerous board and commission members and the town staff for their dedicated service.
Serving your community is extremely rewarding, and I urge others to get involved to continue to improve the quality and success of our community.
Let it snow!
Andy Daly is the mayor of Vail.