by Jill Ryan
Jill Ryan is running for Eagle County Commissioner in District 1. Her opponent(s) in this November Election are Jeff Layman (R) and Dale Nelson (Independent). Jill is the past Director of the Eagle County Public Health Agency, and is a current Planning Commissioner for the county. Jill owns and operates a public health consulting firm in Edwards. Jill enjoys outdoor activities such as skiing, snowboarding, hiking, triathlons and listening to live music. Jill is married to Ty Ryan and has a four month old named Daxton.
Phone: (970) 462-7444
(Campaign contributions accepted on the website and by US mail at: PO Box 1102, Edwards CO 81632. Make checks payable to “Committee to Elect Jill Ryan”)
On the campaign trail, I have been asking residents about the Open Space tax issue. When people learn that the funds are being used to acquire new and better public access to rivers and trails, most have given me a positive response. In fact, all current Open Space projects include substantial public access components that will benefit boaters, anglers, hikers, hunters, mountain bikers, equestrians and others.
This provides a key economic development component. For example, the program has opened three boat launch sites on the Colorado River. Upper State Bridge handles more than 65,000 river days per year and the new parcels down stream will take the pressure off this one area and provide more capacity for visitors.
It is important to me that the community believes there is a public benefit, and also that the program is able to leverage funding and other resources to stretch our tax dollars. The county is a recent recipient of a $4.6 million Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) grant, funded with lottery dollars. This money will supplement Eagle County Open Space funds, which will only need to pay for 50 percent of the purchase price for two parcels on the Colorado River. Additionally, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will maintain all of the new river access points, so the county won’t have to.
In the Roaring Fork Valley, the Saltonstall parcel, which provides walking access to a highly used trail system on BLM land, has five funding partners. So, Eagle County is only paying 40% of the purchase price and Pitkin County will maintain the property.
Also, the new Homestead L parcel, with three miles of new trail, prompted the donation of conservation easements by two private homeowner’s associations.
In summary, I personally think the program is a good deal:
· It is providing more recreational access for residents and visitors
· It creates opportunities for economic development
· It has a low administrative overhead (1.6 staff people)
Now, back to the question at hand. The greatest role a public official can play is representing the will of the people. With regard to the Open Space tax, one has to take into account the result of the vote in 2002, and be careful not to set the precedent of facilitating a re-vote every time a particular group doesn’t like an outcome. As with any issue, if residents in general don’t think the public benefit is worth the tax, I would seriously consider not spending the money. However, I do not see evidence of this with the Open Space Program, and therefore, I am not in favor of placing the issue on the ballot at this time.
ECT Comment: Jill’s opponent – Jeff Layman has publically committed to put the question of the REPEAL of Eagle County’s Open Space Tax – back on your Ballot.