County ponies up for pool |

County ponies up for pool

Jeremy Heiman
Special to the Post Independent

The Garfield County Commissioners agreed Monday to use lottery funds to help pay for the pool now under construction at the Glenwood Springs Community Center and for a conservation easement on the Bair Ranch in Glenwood Canyon.

Terri Miller, fund-raising chairwoman for the Let’s All Pledge (LAP) campaign to build the pool, asked the commissioners for $100,000 over three years, but settled for a $35,000 gift this year.

Commission Chairman John Martin said the county cannot commit funds more than one year in advance and suggested that Miller return next year with a follow-up request. Martin joined Commissioner Tresi Houpt in voting for the funding.

Commissioner Larry McCown, of Rifle, argued against county funding for the pool, citing a projected pool fee structure that will charge out-of-town residents more per visit than Glenwood Springs residents.

Residents oppose allocations

County residents converged on the commissioners’ meeting to oppose spending the county’s lottery money for the two projects. One spokesman for this group was Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario.

“What I’m concerned with is that this will divert money away from the fairgrounds and 4-H,” Vallario said. Revenue for other recreation and open space should come from another source, he contended.

But Houpt assured him that $200,000 in lottery money has already been allocated for the fairgrounds this year, and the money for the pool would not affect that sum.

The LAP effort has so far garnered $1.1 million in pledges toward the $3.5 million aquatic center. Construction started in January. The city of Glenwood Springs has guaranteed the additional funds, but fund-raising is ongoing.

Kids want to keep the ranch

The commissioners also approved a contribution of $25,000 of the county’s lottery money toward the purchase of a $5 million conservation easement on the 4,800-acre Bair Ranch, which lies in Eagle and Garfield counties.

“We’ve been getting calls for months about the opportunity to protect this ranch,” Houpt said.

Martin quizzed owner Craig Bair about efforts to create a dude ranch business at Bair Ranch.

“Right now, [tours] are a way of keeping the wolf away,” Bair said. But he said that wasn’t intended to be a permanent financial solution. The family was forced by drought to sell its flocks of sheep in 2002.

“Probably the smart thing to do would be to sell out to big development, take the money, and move someplace else,” Bair conceded. But he said he asked his six children what they would want, and all wanted to keep the ranch.

The funds for the conservation easement would buy out Bair’s brother’s share in the ranch.

Again, Martin and Houpt voted for the contribution and McCown against. McCown said he’s received a lot of feedback from constituents in his part of the county, adamantly opposed to participating in the purchase of the conservation easement.

Contact Jeremy Heiman: 945-8515, ext. 534

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