By: Chris Rapp, The Durango Telegraph
October 11, 2012

Tearing down the ‘Village’

To the editor,

Red McCombs is trying to push through a land exchange that would pave the way for a large commercial and residential development atop Wolf Creek Pass – the wrong place for development regardless of size.

Wolf Creek Pass provides critical wildlife linkage for species like elk, deer, bear and reintroduced Canada Lynx between the vital habitat to the south and the vast Weminuche Wilderness, the largest wilderness in Colorado. Together with the unroaded areas to the south, the two areas create a habitat that some speculate may be large enough to host grizzlies. A development that obstructs this key connective juncture is misplaced and misguided.

With the construction of a “Village,” Wolf Creek Pass will drastically change from an area that currently experiences seasonal activity related to the ski area and primarily during the day, to a year-round community of up to 1,711 residential units, 221,000 ft² of commercial space, a water storage and treatment facility, a waste water treatment plant, and a natural gas distribution facility.

Suffice it to say the wildlife, environment, riparian areas, hunting, fishing and backcountry recreation opportunities will be significantly and negatively impacted. And, imagine how it will impact the viewshed. Currently, people often stop to take pictures of this iconic landscape from atop the pass or on their way up the pass. A development of this size will mar that image and make our scenic part of the world look just like everywhere else. I don’t want to be part of a generation that only tells the next about the vast, dramatic and wild landscape that once remained unbroken near Wolf Creek Pass. They should have the opportunity to experience it for themselves.

I don’t begrudge an entrepreneur trying to make a living, but given the consistent public outcry over the last 30 years against this type of development in a fragile and ecologically imperative area, you think Red McCombs might consider building elsewhere. Many suggest that a development atop Wolf Creek is unwise and will not succeed for a host of reasons: too high an elevation; too much snow; too far from a major airport or other urban services; too much inventory in an already flooded real estate market in the area; etc. Unfortunately, if McCombs gets his way, by the time we figure out it’s a bad plan, the damage will be done—even a vacant village will impact wildlife, environment, wetlands, riparian areas, backcountry recreation opportunities, and so on.

Many ski areas in Colorado that have a “village” associated them are located closer to towns and are a more logical extension of growth and development (think Vail, Beaver Creek, etc.) Wolf Creek is located 23 miles from the nearest town (South Fork) and services. What makes Wolf Creek memorable is its remoteness from urban areas, the lack of roads, scenic vistas and the wildlife that call the area home. It’s the wrong place for a “village.”

Chris Rapp, Durango

Read more at the Durango Telegraph.

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