An opportunity for Garfield County

Dear Editor:

I’ve closely watched the processes leading to the proposed 2010 Garfield County Comprehensive Plan. Much of the public comment at meetings and in surveys supported more of a focus on preservation of open space, separation between towns, public access to recreational and historical sites, and recreation opportunities. There is very little in the draft plan that supports these land-use objectives, even less than in the present comp plan.

I think that it makes sense to form a commission charged with evaluation of open space, trails, historic preservation and agricultural heritage preservation. This commission could first evaluate the economic and social impacts of such programs in other counties of Colorado and then advise the county commissioners on the best plan for Garfield County. It is clear that land values are increased for properties surrounding the features just mentioned. I believe that it is important to provide these potential amenities for the citizens of Garfield County, not only for enhancing property values, but also for giving citizens easy access to beautiful places and providing a framework to recognize where our past and present identities lie.

Such a commission could assist the county commissioners in evaluating the worth of such propositions as the Sutey Ranch-Two Shoes swap, finding open space along the county’s section of the Roaring Fork River, and development of a trail downstream along the entire county portion of the Colorado River.

Such a commission could help identify funding sources such as GOCO and historic preservation funding grants. Also, Garfield County is blessed with the unusual richness of oil and gas preserves. Recognizing the inevitability of negative environmental impacts by these extractive industries, we should give these industries the opportunity for positive PR by their contributing significantly to the developments of open space, agricultural heritage preservation, trails and historic preservation. This win-win approach could be through a pad tax, use tax, a small levy on volume of extracted hydrocarbon, or some other agreeable means.

I believe that such a commission should be identified and endorsed in the 2010 Comprehensive Plan and ask you to require this to be done in the plan now under consideration. Ten years more is a terribly long time to wait for the next such opportunity.

Bill Spence