Why save Bair Ranch? It’s in the numbers Dear Editor:
Yes, 82 percent of Eagle County is already public land, but 18 percent is private and why does this mean we should purchase the Bair Ranch development rights? Eagle County is 40 percent larger than the state of Rhode Island, which has a population of more than 1 million people.
I moved here in the ’60s because of the quality of life. Many of us moved because we did not want to live in an urban environment. This county is driven by tourism and construction. There is a limit to the number of people who the county can support without ruining what we moved here for. There are traffic and water issues today.
In the ’50s, people questioned why investors would buy land in the Gore Valley. In the ’60s, ranches in East and West Vail were sold. During the ’70s, people said that people would never move to Eagle-Vail, then Singletree and I was told no one would ever go to Homestead. In the next two decades, many more ranches were sold for development farther and farther away.
Since 1960, the population has increased at an alarming rate. In 1960, the population was 4,677; by 1970, it was 7,498 – an increase of 60 percent. In 1980, there was a 78 percent increase to 13,320. In 1990, the population was 21,928 – an increase of 65 percent; and finally, in the 10-year period between 1990 and 2000, the population had grown a whopping 90 percent to 41,959. The state demographer predicts that in the next 20 years, the population will be more than 80,000, even with a much slower rate of growth than the last 40 years. These numbers do not include second homes or hotels – all part of our beneficial tourist trade.
There are almost 200,000 acres of private land in Eagle County. Development has only taken place on a small percentage of this acreage. Eagle-Vail, Singletree and Homestead collectively are about 2,200 acres. That is just over 1 percent of the private land with about 2,500 units. Thirty years ago they were working ranches. In the next 30 years, projects that seem not feasible today will be feasible and will be developed.
Of the $5 million-plus going to purchase the development rights of the Bair Ranch, $2 million would come from the county Open Space Fund which can only be used for such a purpose. Almost $3 million will come from outside the county, from state and federal agencies, foundations, grants and private donations.
If Eagle County says “no” to the Bair Ranch, a partnership like this will never happen again for decades. Then when the “more perfect” project comes along, these partners will not be there for the county.
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