Vail Daily column: Part 3: What are Vail’s plans for the future?
Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from a report by the Vail Homeowners Association board of directors. The association keeps a close eye on economic and political trends in and outside of the Vail community. The electronic version with links to supporting documents is available at http://www.vailhomeowners.com.
As the 2017 Open Lands Update moves forward, the Vail Homeowners Association has five recommendations:
• The designated open space process should be reactivated and parcels should once again be considered for protection.
• The middle bench of Donovan Park should be recommended for designated open space protection.
• Vail should acquire Tract E and D-1 in the town core, parts of which were to be transferred in the Kindle House proposal. Once acquired, Tract E and D-1 should also be recommended for open space protection. (The town has to acquire that property because the open space designation can only be placed on town-owned property.)
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• Tract A, between Bald Mountain Road and Interstate 70, which is currently designated as a town park (similar to the Donovan Park middle bench), should also be recommended for open space protection.
• Infrastructure consideration should be given to all open space uses so that Vail’s infrastructure is not overwhelmed. For example, in connection with hiking trails there needs to be adequate parking. Already there are significant parking issues at the Booth Falls and Gore Creek Campground hiking trails.
Vail is also undertaking a “sustainability” assessment. Again, kudos to the town council. Typically, such an assessment would measure a community’s ability to endure in all aspects of its activities, including the quality of life of its citizens, the health of its economy and the balance between built and natural systems. Unfortunately, to date, it appears that Vail’s sustainability assessment is going to be limited to environmental considerations. Even then, this is an important step for the future of Vail.
But, as important as the environment is, Vail is much more. There are few places where quality of life, cultural riches and well-being, as well as natural beauty, have come together in such perfect balance.
In recent years, however, cracks have appeared in that veneer in the form of congestion, noise pollution, parking and public safety issues and housing needs. These all raise sustainability issues, such as: with the town essentially built out, is it sustainable to increase population by increasing density? At the same time, is it sustainable to continue to increase special events which are causing significant noise and parking issues, as well as congestion, as promoters continue to seek to add more events to an already crowded calendar? Sustainability should also consider on-mountain activities. With the expanded summer programs and the potential of an expansion at Golden Peak and more spectator events there, is Vail’s carrying capacity being outstripped? And, is it sustainable for unsafe on-street frontage road parking to become the norm?
Time to act
It is for those reasons that the Vail Homeowners Association urges that the town undertake a full-scale, comprehensive sustainability assessment, not one that is simply limited to the environment. It should include a thoughtful examination of what is good about the community and assign value to adopting practices to maintaining those features so they are not overwhelmed by change or congestion. Once identified, those factors should drive government decisions and investments so those values are maintained.
Future growth will necessarily require increased densities. A full scale assessment should, therefore, also include determination of the town’s “carrying capacity” so that its facilities will not be swamped. In the context of Vail’s current problems, for Vail to be sustainable, it needs comprehensive, realistic plans for parking and housing.
Public safety needs to be improved; Gore Creek and other environmental assets need to be protected and all of this must be matched to the town’s budget. From a tourism perspective, there needs to be balance between high impact, “heads in beds” and day visitor numbers and the impact of those numbers on the community’s natural and cultural assets.
A full-scale sustainability assessment could be the springboard for Vail’s next 50 years. Failure to address these issues could have serious consequences.
What You Can Do
If these are matters that concern you, then get informed and become involved. Government responds to the public; silence only enables others with different agendas to act in your absence. If you are not already a member, then join the Vail Homeowners Association. Together, we will continue to shine a spotlight on these issues that concern everyone.
The Vail Homeowners Association board is Gail Ellis, president; Judith Berkowitz, secretary; Rob Ford, treasurer; and directors Jamie Duke, John Gorsuch, John Lohre, Andres Nevares, Trygve Myhren, Larry Stewart and Doug Tansill.