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Vail Daily column: Land swap not such a dumb idea

Don Rogers
My View
Don Rogers
Laura Mahaffy/lmahaffy@theunion.com | The Union

Yes, I knew I was poking the bear by suggesting a land swap between Battle Mountain and Meadow Mountain made sense.

Which it does.

My reward was some reasoned agreement and some reasoned disagreement, along with, well, not so much. We’d be a wiser populace if we paid a little more attention to what we care about. I don’t say agree with me. Don’t even care about that. Just be a hair thoughtful about your take.

Thoughtful feedback included observations that Battle Mountain runs high, at around 11,000 feet. The very people who would be most interested and able to afford largely second homes up there tend to struggle the most health wise with higher altitudes.

What of wildlife migration, particularly elk, and Meadow Mountain’s place near one of the few places where animals can cross the I-70 ribbon?

And, of course, people’s hearts for Meadow Mountain may not necessarily be rational, but it is important. I’d say that’s easily the biggest obstacle, the deal-killer even, to such a land trade.

In the “not so much” category of response came pure rage. I’m the dumbest thing on Earth for the mere suggestion that privately held, comparatively pristine Battle Mountain makes more sense as national forest than well-trammeled Meadow Mountain, which has been logged over, farmed, built on, and served as a ski resort before being discarded to the public in favor of Beaver Creek.

Only, the righteous, kneejerk indignation came from folks who hadn’t bothered to understand the idea, which isn’t dumb at all. Unpopular, oh yeah. Chances of it happening run around zero. But it’s far from dumb.

Consider:

• Three-quarters of Meadow Mountain would stay open land.

• The trails would remain open to the public, and new ones built.

• Far fewer homes, which would range across the income strata, would be built at Meadow Mountain than what is planned for Battle Mountain.

• Traffic studies show no gridlock for Minturn with the far larger Battle Mountain development plans at peak. This is a non-issue with far fewer homes at Meadow Mountain, which would keep Minturn’s footprint much, much tighter than with Battle Mountain. Geography alone in our valley precludes gridlock, if not occasional annoyance.

• Battle Mountain remains pristine enough to be considered Canada lynx habitat.

• Meadow Mountain backs up current downtown Minturn and runs to busy Dowd Junction.

• Battle Mountain’s developers have secured their approvals, water rights and so on. They can build when they deem the timing right.

• The net effect on development of swapping the land is much less than otherwise. That’s assuming the developers proceed with their plans for Battle Mountain absent a land trade — a rather large if, of course.

If your interest lies in less development, more trails and other recreational use of land open to the public, well, the land swap idea might be the best means of ensuring this.

Unless, of course, you don’t believe Battle Mountain ever will be developed, no matter what. That’s a bet — maybe a good one, and maybe not.

As for any lack of trails within minutes of main roads throughout the valley, well, that’s pure nonsense. Besides, none of Meadow Mountain’s trails would close anyway.

Yes, I prefer more secluded trails, and the good thing is they are everywhere. Vail and Meadow Mountain are great, and I’m glad their many fans enjoy them. My own checklist of trails I like to run includes Two Elk, Buck Creek, East Lake Creek, Squaw Creek, nearly everything just west of Eagle Ranch. Even Cross Creek and Whisky Hill, which get a little more regular use than some others. Piney, Sylvan, Yeoman, Camp Hale and around Crooked Creek Pass require some driving, sure, but are always worth it.

We’re not lacking for beautiful trails either near or near-ish. And we wouldn’t lose Meadow Mountain’s trails with this idea.

However, we may well lose a 5,000-acre chunk of what we’ve considered forest in an area where such land matters a little more to the ecosystem in its current condition.

We can debate the odds of that ever happening. I just hope I’m not in position someday to say I told you so.

Hate the very idea if you wish. But at least be smart enough to understand it. If you don’t, well, don’t call me the dumb one.

Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at drogers@vaildaily.com and 970-748-2920.


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