Preserve our local treasures: Vote ‘yes’ for 1A to continue Eagle County’s Open Space program (letter) | VailDaily.com

Preserve our local treasures: Vote ‘yes’ for 1A to continue Eagle County’s Open Space program (letter)

I am fortunate to live in the funkiest town in the valley. Minturn's rich history gives it a special character in its new context of a resort community. The town grew organically, with little in the way of building codes and design guidelines. That individually crafted character gives the town an authentic feel that drew many of us to live here and draws many more to visit.

That same organic growth came at some cost, though. As a working-class rail and mining town, and before the sport of skiing ever existed, the surrounding environment was merely an infinite and indestructible resource, rather than the treasure we consider it today.

Of the greatest of those environmental treasures are our river and our open lands. In those days, the river was merely a reliable supply of water upstream and convenient waste disposal channel downstream. There was less development, and you could easily get to the river through undeveloped lots or through someone's backyard (you knew everybody).

But now, access to, and even views of, the river are scarce. So when, several years ago, the Forest Service announced it would sell its large river parcel, called the Boneyard, the town jumped at the chance to secure one of the last remaining open river parcels … until it saw the price tag. Minturn's revenues did not rise along with its property values.

The town couldn't remotely begin to afford the land. But thankfully, the citizens of Eagle County had the foresight to provide a way to preserve the treasures of our open spaces. The Eagle County Open Space Fund, approved by voters in 2002, could provide not only the remaining money needed to secure the land but also the condition of a permanent conservation easement. So the town could own the land, and future generations would be ensured that land would remain open and undeveloped.

There are many stories of what the Open Space Fund has preserved for our community, including the recent Hardscrabble open space in Eagle and the Dry Lake Motocross Park in Gypsum.

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When we all approved the tax for the Open Space Fund, it had a sunset date, so we had a chance to see how the program worked. Through experience, the way the fund is used has improved over that time, and the program has grown in popularity and support.

My own experience with the Eagle County Open Space fund for the Minturn Boneyard convinced me to co-chair the effort this year to extend the program another 15 years, so that it will not end at its sunset date. On this year's (extraordinarily crowded) ballot, you will find issue 1A, which is our opportunity to keep this amazing program preserving our local land for our posterity. Future generations will be proud of our foresight in recognizing what truly matters. After all, it's why we live here.

Please join me in voting "yes" for 1A to continue Eagle County's Open Space program and to continue preserving our shared natural spaces.

Matt Scherr

Mayor of Minturn