Residents protest government shop adjacent to park
Dump trucks and road-graders don’t mix well with Little Leaguers and family picnics, midvalley residents told the Eagle County commissioners Tuesday.About a dozen residents protested the county’s potential construction of a shop for their road maintenance equipment next to Crown Mountain Park. Crown Mountain is a 50-acre park being developed at the old Mount Sopris Tree Farm land behind the BP-Amoco station in El Jebel.”The tree farm property isn’t Eagle County’s property, it’s the public’s property,” said Laurie Soliday, a member of the park and recreation district’s board of directors. “The public wants to use this for other purposes.”Eagle and Pitkin counties acquired 120 acres of the old tree farm in a land swap with the U.S. Forest Service 12 years ago. Eagle County leased part of the site for use as a park, which will feature multiple soccer and baseball fields, along with playgrounds, picnic areas, tennis courts and dog yard when it is complete next year.Eagle County officials are eyeing part of the site they didn’t lease as a potential new home for their heavy equipment shop and storage yard. The county currently stores materials and equipment in the open in the El Jebel area and it has a decrepit-looking shop in a residential neighborhood in Basalt. Those facilities “are in dire need of updating or replacing,” Eagle County Commissioner Peter Runyon said.That’s fine with constituents from the Roaring Fork Valley – they just don’t want a new facility by the park. Soliday, a day-care operator, said Crown Mountain will be a magnet for kids. Their behavior isn’t always predictable, she said, so it would pose a dangerous situation with trucks and heavy equipment traveling through the park’s roads and parking lot.The county is looking at the western edge of the old tree farm site. Some old, abandoned Forest Service buildings are located there. Some could potentially be salvaged for a maintenance shop. County officials are looking for a two- to three-acre site for a building of about 9,000 square feet.Soliday said she has additional concerns. The existing buildings and open space within the tree farm should be reserved for additional recreational and community facilities, she said. A performing arts center and indoor hockey arena have been mentioned in the past, she said.”I hear every day at the grocery store and at my place of business that people want to proceed ahead with a second phase [of the park],” Soliday said.When the counties acquired the tree farm, they agreed to limit the footprint of all new buildings at the site to a total of about 60,000 square feet. So a road equipment shop would take away from other potential community uses.Royal Laybourn, a midvalley resident involved in planning for the tree farm for more than a decade, said it’s critical that the site be reserved for other uses. Facilities like a performing arts center “will allow our midvalley community to blossom,” he told the commissioners. “We need your help to do that.”Bob Schultz, another midvalley activist, said Roaring Fork residents of Eagle County already compromised when the county office building and community center was approved on the corner of the tree farm closest to the El Jebel stoplight. The building was controversial at the time it was proposed about five years ago, he noted. Agreements and compromises suggested the rest of the land would be used for purposes compatible with the park.”It seems to me there was a deal, so I was a little surprised when this came up,” Schultz said.Eagle County Commissioner Arn Menconi said nothing in reaction to the concerns. Commissioner Tom Stone, whose district includes the midvalley, wasn’t at the meeting. Runyon said it was “admirable” that midvalley residents are looking at the tree farm site for facilities like a performing arts center.”I think that’s an extraordinarily strong argument for looking at alternative locations,” he said.But Runyon also noted that Eagle County shouldn’t be faulted for looking at a site it already owns for its maintenance shop. Buying or leasing an alternative site could add “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to the project’s price, he said.Nevertheless, county officials committed to working with Soliday and others to explore alternatives. Eagle and Pitkin counties might shop for a site where they could build together, officials said.One option may be the Crawford family’s parcel across J.W. Drive from the El Jebel fire station, audience members suggested.Eagle County officials vowed they would not engage in a secret plan to build the facility beside the park. Instead, the public will get a chance to comment on any proposal in a lengthy public review process.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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