The proposed land swap, if modified as discussed below, presents a real opportunity. Opponents of the swap make good points, but their uncompromising objections fail to consider positive opportunities. The Chris Park-Haviland Lake area could see a net benefit if two things were done.
First, when the Glacier Club builds its additional nine holes, require it to open 18 to the public. That would create opportunities for public enjoyment of formerly public and private land.
Second, require the Glacier Club to finance the building of a trail from Chris Park through the national forest to the Animas River. Although it is possible to bushwhack to the river, a good trail would open an area that currently is inaccessible. Currently, there is no public access to the Animas from Trimble Lane north to the Purgatory Creek trail. A trail would mean the trail system in this area would see a net expansion and enhancement, despite the loss of land to the south.
Opponents also denigrate the value of the tracts to be acquired. The East Hermosa tract is of particular value. The national forest land there is used by more people than the area south of Chris Park. Public ownership of that tract presents a real opportunity for everyone. The Forest Service could eliminate damaging cattle grazing and build a campground there to relieve the overcrowding at Sig Creek and the public area just east of the current privately held land.
Private ownership of the East Hermosa tract poses a real risk of private development that would forever deny the public the benefits of the land. Nothing would prevent the Glacier Club from building an exclusive lodge there, and it could shut off access to the Hermosa Creek trail that cuts across a corner of the tract. Access in the summer is easy for any vehicle, and in the winter, snow cats could gain access for patrons, who then could be transported up the valley to the backside of the ski area.
The Glacier Club and DMR are cooperating on a number of fronts, and an exclusive lodge in the East Hermosa tract would be a logical step.
Sarah Sarnelli, Durango