Vail Daily letter: Our valley, our heritage: Preserving Hardscrabble Ranch | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily letter: Our valley, our heritage: Preserving Hardscrabble Ranch

Editor’s note: Find a cited version of this letter at http://www.vaildaily.com.

The end of the saga of the Brush Creek Valley is in sight. It’s a convoluted story that began about 40-plus years ago as a developer’s dream for a ski area in East Brush Creek with condominiums and opulence to rival Vail, with multiple golf courses and luxury hotels.

The Brush Creek lower valley was to be home to hundreds of high-end houses, with vistas reaching up to snowcapped peaks high above. But, predictably, the then relatively quiet community of Eagle and its surrounding residents were ready to make a stand against that proposal. Years of meetings, studies, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers assessments and plans that seemed to change from one month to the next ultimately concluded in the sale of the 660 acres closest to town, and the sale of the East and West Brush Creek property to become Sylvan Lake State Park.

The sole success of that developer was the Adam’s Rib Golf Course, which he poured millions into before selling it to the present owner, now very successfully operating as Frost Creek Golf Course and Resort — a very positive note in the long, bumpy history of the Brush Creek Valley.

The town of Eagle approved development of more than 800 homes on the lower 660 acres, known as Haymeadow, in 2014. That is a given, but progress has not happened. For now, they’re calling themselves a ranch, much as did the ski-area developer of Adam’s Rib Ranch while they leased land to cattlemen and hay farmers, waiting for their day.

But the gem in this final story is that Frost Creek agreed to work with Eagle County Open Space and The Conservation Fund to make their ranch property ownership a possibility, rather than just a wish. And this is going to be unique in that there will be plenty of citizen access for fishing, hiking, biking and enjoying this land we all are about to invest in. With the $3.1 million grant from Great Outdoors Colorado, this is within our reach.

This will be an astounding attraction to the residents of Eagle, people of the entire valley and our visitors, and it will be protected by a conservation easement held by Eagle Valley Land Trust, ensuring the perpetual conservation of the land. It will be managed so we don’t love it to death, and at its foundation will be the continuation of our ranching heritage. Miners may have explored Fulford, but ranchers and farmers saw a future here and stayed, and that is what is going to be preserved. There will be cows and calves here in the spring, and we will see the 100s of elk and deer visit freely in perpetuity.

Please visit http://www.evlt.org/ourvalley and consider a contribution. We need to close a contract by July 31, and all donations will be greatly appreciated — and needed. Here’s the deal: open land for all of us or trophy houses? Please give anything you can, and to me, this is not just about big-name donors, but so much about those of us who have cared over the years to be able to say “we did this.”

Rosie Shearwood

Co-chair, Our Valley, Our Heritage: Preserving Hardscrabble Ranch