It appears the proposed Village at Wolf Creek is dead. Perhaps there is some benefit to the national economic downturn, after all. Or maybe the diligence of the Forest Service and the hard work of the project's opponents paid off. However it happened, it is welcome news.
For starters, the Village at Wolf Creek would have been no village at all. Dubbed the Pillage at Wolf Creek by opponents, the proposal called for a resort development capable of housing 10,000 people that would have been constructed on 287 acres near the top of Wolf Creek Pass.
Environmentalists were justifiably aghast. Questions about its impact on its high-mountain environment were numerous. Water quality, waste treatment, air quality and traffic were obvious issues.
And in the end, those factors were instrumental in stopping the project. Last year, the Forest Service and the developer agreed to throw out an Environmental Impact Statement that allowed access to the site and start over. When it was discovered the developer had filed a map with Mineral County showing a different configuration for the project, the Forest Service stopped the new analysis. And when it did not receive a new application reflecting those changes, the Forest Service disbanded the team it had assembled for that job.
The developer could reapply, but whether that is realistic is anybody's guess. For one thing, the EIS was only part of it. There were social and economic impacts, as well.
Mineral County, where the proposed development would have been located, might have been supportive, but that area's inclusion in Mineral County is a historic anomaly. The county seat, Creede, is about 40 miles away and requires driving through another county to get there. So, while property tax and sales tax revenue would have gone to Mineral County, many of the other impacts of the development - demands for employee housing, social services, public health and schools, for example - would have been felt primarily in Archuleta and Rio Grande counties.
Beyond that, the project never seemed to make sense. Wolf Creek Ski Area is a friendly reminder of a bygone era. It offers a laid-back experience that focuses not on high-end real estate, but on skiing and the incredible amounts of snow the area regularly receives. It is pleasant, unpretentious and fun.
But it is not a destination resort. Purgatory has better views. Telluride, Aspen and Vail offer more glamour and celebrity appeal. The Summit County resorts offer easier access to the Front Range population centers and Denver airport. All are bigger.
Transportation is an issue, as is access to medical care and other services. The village would have been near the base of the ski area, which, at 10,300 feet, is pretty far up there for flatlanders, even those who like to ski. That is doubly true for the age groups that more typically can afford second homes and ski condos.
Nothing about the proposed Village at Wolf Creek seemed to add up. That led to considerable speculation as the developer's real intent. But guessing about out-of-state investors' plans - let alone their motives - is at best an unproductive game.
For now, it is better to be thankful that this seems behind us. And hope this really is the last we hear of the Village at Wolf Creek.