Success for the great Open Space

Trout Unlimited Wild Trout Chapter’s benefit last night for the Eagle River Preserve was, in my opinion, a smashing success. Of course, my view was based on the number of folks with big smiles on their faces, sipping beers, and spewing good fishing stories. There were also lots of bids for the variety of items in the silent auction, so I suspect some good money was raised for the cause.

US Congressman Mark Udall spoke at length about the benefits of the project, as well as other similar initiatives he is involved with – it was truly refreshing to hear. Then photographer John Fielder gave an outstanding presentation – the man has amazing stories of his treks across Colorado, and the visuals (his unparalleled views from behind the lens) to back it up were and ARE extraordinary.

But the best part of the event was the news the audience received about the cause. The Vail Valley Foundation and its Partners reached their goal of raising $12 million for the purchase of the Eagle River Open Space. Congratulations to all who put in the time, effort, and of course money to make this happen. Press release follows.

For Immediate Release – August 24, 2005
Media Contact: John Dakin
(970) 949-1999
jdakin@vvf.org

VAIL VALLEY FOUNDATION AND PARTNERS REACH $12 MILLION GOAL TO PURCHASE EAGLE RIVER PRESERVE OPEN SPACE

VAIL, Colorado—The historic Eaton Ranch homestead in Edwards will forever be known as Eagle River Preserve as the Vail Valley Foundation and its partners have reached its goal of raising the $12 million purchase price to ensure that the 72-acre parcel will be designated as passive open space.

The goal represents an extraordinary public-private partnership, involving governmental entities, metro districts, businesses, homeowner’s associations, conservation foundations and over 600 individuals from throughout Eagle County, spearheaded by the Vail Valley Foundation.

Eagle County contributed $6 million to the preservation effort, along with the $1 million pledged by various metro districts. Individual contributions ranged from $1 to $1 million.

“No one group could have made Eagle River Preserve a reality,” explained Ceil Folz, president of the Vail Valley Foundation. “Reaching this goal is the product of incredible teamwork from all sides.”

The Foundation began the effort in September of 2004, purchasing a one-year option on the property and initiating an extensive regional and local fundraising campaign to secure the necessary funds. Once finalized, Eagle River Preserve will be turned over to Eagle County, with a conservation easement, held by the Eagle Valley Land Trust, placed on the property to guarantee that it will never be developed.

“This is a landmark day for everyone that has worked so hard to see Eagle River Preserve become reality,” added Eagle County Commissioner Arn Menconi. “We should all feel a sense of accomplishment in being able to help facilitate this project, but the real winners are the residents and guests of Eagle County. Projects like Eagle River Preserve will guarantee that this valley remains a wonderful place to live and vacation for generations to come.”

With the initial fundraising component of Eagle River Preserve complete, the Foundation will now turn its attention to creating a strategy to address the overall look and feel of the open space, working closely with interested citizens and groups.

The required B & B reclamation effort on the parcel is ongoing and will eventually include a one-acre pond and full topsoil replacement when complete. The section of the parcel that has already been reclaimed has yielded one cut of hay and currently supports cattle grazing.

“The Vail Valley Foundation presented all of us with an opportunity 11 months ago,” offered Ron Wolfe, Chairman of the Eagle County Open Space Commission, “when they purchased the option on Eaton Ranch. Now, with the fundraising complete, they have given us another opportunity: to have a say in what a key piece of open space on the valley floor will look like to our children and grandchildren.”

The Eagle River Preserve acreage includes one half mile of new access to the Eagle River corridor and represents the first significant stretch of public open space between Vail and Edwards. Possible future uses include hiking, biking, fishing, picnicking, wildlife viewing and snowshoeing, as well as other dispersed low-impact recreation.

“This effort by the Vail Valley Foundation and the support by the community is truly visionary,” offered Eagle County commissioner Peter Runyon. “Because of the Foundation’s successful $6 million fundraising effort, Eagle County is essentially purchasing a $12 million piece of property for $6 million.”

“For the past 25 years,” Runyon continued, “we have thought of this property as a gravel pit. Now we can forget about what it has been and envision what it will now become.”

Although the $12 million has been raised for the purchase of Eagle River Preserve, the Vail Valley Foundation will continue to solicit donations and grants for the enhancements and long term maintenance scheduled for the property. A citizen’s committee has been establish to help determine the various uses and facilities for the parcel while the Foundation continues to fine tune the conservation easement with the Eagle Valley Land Trust.

For additional information or to contribute to Eagle River Preserve, visit www.eagleriverpreserve.com or call (970) 949-1999.

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