Runyon: A 50-year perspective on proposed gravel mine
I’m a 50-year resident of Eagle County. Arguably, that gives me a unique perspective on growth and developement over time. Add to that, my experience includes 10 years as photographer for Vail Resorts, eight years as an Eagle County Commissioner and six years as a member of the Planning Commission.
The population of Eagle County the year I arrived was only 7,000. Now it’s well over 50,000. That time and experience has given me insight on how and why we continue to value massive growth over slow, well-thought-out development.
I believe that for every planning decision we make, it is imperative that we pause and look through our 50-year future “predictascope”. Turn the knob to the right to increase pro-growth decisions. Turn it to the left to halt development completely. Neither extreme seems to give favorable outcomes.
Sadly, such a magical tool is still in the development stage, so we must rely on our imagination and experi- ence to project the long-term consequences of land use decisions.
It is imperative that we hold that 50-year perspective up to all plans. Indeed, I believe that this con- sideration is more important than any other factor in arriving at a decision. We must keep in mind that the choices we make today will absolutely determine the world we leave to the next two generations.
The history of planning is incremental. Every approval leads to and justifies subsequent approvals, which, in turn, lead to and justifies more approvals. In the end, we may find ourselves approving projects that those original decision makers would have rejected outright in horror. Seemingly simple projects can reverberate consequences far into the future.
So it is with this new gravel pit proposal near Dotsero. We must consider what we will look like in 50 years. Will this western gateway community reflect our valuing of the natural environment or will it reflect our non-stop bending to will of porcine developers, whose short-term profit drive consumes them like the overfed geese of Strasbourg.
Ever since the eastern end of the county has become the playground of the rich and powerful, land use decisions downvalley have been focused on serving the success of the upvalley resort econ-omy with little thought to the impact on the quality of life of its citizens. I do not expect to reverse the economic reality of this dichotomy, but I do believe that we should apply the same values of environmental sustainability, air quality, density, and the honoring of the natural environment to downvalley planning decisions.
The Dotsero Community Plan, adopted by the county in 2012, absolutely considered the 50-year view. It reflects a vision of embracing the natural resources surrounding Dotsero, including the Colorado River corridor with the goal of developing a recreation economy that protects this valuable recreation, wildlife and scenic area.
In 50 years, don’t the unsung downvalley citizens also deserve to enjoy clean air, wildlife running freely, a clean economy and beautiful surroundings like the rest of Eagle County? I believe they do, but every decision that fails to embrace the Community Plan’s goals puts that bright future further out of reach.
Peter F. Runyon is a former two-term Eagle County Commissioner.
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