Creation of two parks under way in Vail


Photo by Special to the Daily
Click to Enlarge
Vail has begun the legal process that would make the so-called "middle bench" of Donovan Park in West Vail an official town park. But there is disagreement over how strenuously the land should be protected.
Special to the Daily

Scott N. Miller
February 16, 2005

VAIL - The so-called "middle bench" of Donovan Park in West Vail moved closer to designation as a town park Tuesday.

A split Vail Town Council voted 4-3 Tuesday to start the process needed to change the zoning on the undeveloped Donovan Park parcel in the Matterhorn neighborhood, as well as on a piece of town-owned land near the Bald Mountain neighborhood in East Vail.

That change would create two new official town parks, which could be the final step in making the parcels eligible for open space status. Once a piece of property is put in the town's open space portfolio, no development can occur without voter approval.

The prospect of locking up those parcels, especially at Donovan Park, is what concerned Councilwoman Kim Ruotolo, who voted against the measure Tuesday.

"That piece is an important asset to the town of Vail," Ruotolo said. "I really think we're being short-sighted if we designate it as open space, and the park designation is the last part of what's needed to do that."

Ruotolo's objection to giving the undeveloped property open space status is the difficulty of ever allowing any type development, even, for instance, a baseball filed.

While developed parks with playgrounds and picnic areas are in the town's open space inventory, none of those parks have ballfields or other "active recreation" features.

"Say 20 years from now the hottest new sport is croquet, and if you don't have facilities for that, you haven't got anything," Ruotolo said. "I'd just hate to be short-sighted about using that land."


 Small, open spaces
In addition to working on turning the middle bench of West Vail's Donovan Park and land in East Vail into actual parks, the town is preparing a law that will bring another 16 pieces of town-owned land into the open space portfolio. Those parcels include:

Pirate Ship Park
Ellefson Park

Several small parcels along Gore Creek

A parcel just behind the Middle Creek apartments
The same is true to a lesser extent with the Bald Mountain property, Ruotolo said. In the early 1990s, the land was eyed as a site for a par-three golf course, but the idea never got past the early planning stages.

But planning for the future is why Councilman Farrow Hitt voted to start work on re-zoning the parks.

"I want to show people the Town Council is a good steward," Hitt said.

The effort to bring several smaller parcels into the town's open space inventory (see box) started when Hitt asked the town's Open Space Committee to meet.

"I just wanted to do some housekeeping with those," he said. But Bald Mountain, and, especially, Donovan Park, should be parks, he said.

In the case of Donovan Park, that land was bought with money from the town's Real Estate Transfer Tax, known as RETT. That money can only be used to buy or maintain parks, open space or recreation facilities.

Preserving that part of Donovan Park would be honoring the intent of the town officials who bought the property, Hitt said.

And, he added, park designation doesn't necessarily mean the parcel will remain completely undeveloped open space, he said.


"I'm not necessarily pushing for open space there," Hitt said. "But we need to use RETT as it was intended."

For Hitt, honoring the tax's original intent is critical if the town ever expects to use the money for anything else. That day may be coming, he said, especially considering how that account is going to grow as Vail redevelops.

Wolf Mueller wants to honor the tax's intent, too. Mueller, a Matterhorn resident, is a veteran of the heated battles over developing the Donovan Park property for housing. As long as the property isn't used for that, he'll be happy, he said.

"I wouldn't object to either open space or a park there," Mueller said. "I don't mind the idea of some sort of active recreation there."


Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or smiller@vaildaily.com.