Vail Daily editorial: You can’t find what? | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily editorial: You can’t find what?

the Vail Daily Editorial Board

It was a bit of shock when the Colorado Department of Health and Environment a couple of years ago put Gore Creek — among several others — on its list of “impaired” streams. Since then, there’s been a lot of time, effort and money put into ways to clean up the creek.

The job won’t be easy. There’s no one thing degrading insect life in the creek, and causes run a gamut ranging from road sand to parking lot storm runoff to landscaping chemicals and practices. But there seems to be sincere, long-term dedication solving the creek’s problem.

Part of solving the problem is finding out just what’s going into the creek and where those substances come from. To aid in that effort, the town of Vail recently hired SGM, a Glenwood Springs-based engineering and consulting company to create a new, comprehensive map of the town’s stormwater drainage system.

That data is a good thing. A good map will help town officials set up a schedule to clean the vaults that separate out oil and sand from street and parking lot runoff. That will help keep that material out of the creek.

But why isn’t there already a comprehensive map? Town officials say they’re uncertain of the precise location of no more than 70 percent of the storm drainage system. Why?

Aspen and Telluride — other mountain communities facing cleanup projects on the streams running through town — are more than 100 years old. Those towns have gone from pen-and-ink records to computers, usually with a record-destroying fire or two in the mix somewhere. We can understand why infrastructure records in those places might be sketchy.

And, given that our mountains move, it’s understandable that something once recorded in one spot may not be there any more. After all, the “official” survey monuments in Minturn have shifted over the decades, which can foul up efforts to locate property lines recorded in the early 1900s.

But Vail? The oldest parts of town are just more than 50 years old.

Sure, there was a build-now ethos at work in the town’s early years. The Vail Village streetscape projects revealed some surprises under the town’s first streets, which dated back to the days they were built by Vail Associates.

But there haven’t been any major fires at town hall, and the town itself didn’t incorporate until 1966. Why, then, are the records so incomplete?

This isn’t the fault of the people at town hall today. But c’mon. What are the people running the town in 2066 going to have to spend money on to discover?