It was a year like no other. Hit hard by the onset of the deadly pandemic, much of the year was spent addressing the health, emotional and economic needs of the community with the development of programs and assistance guided by the Town Council, staff and various working groups. During the summer, Vail’s economic resiliency eclipsed initial forecasts as travelers heeded public health guidance by seeking refuge in the great outdoors. All the while, the delivery of municipal services continued in various iterations, including virtual building inspections, online civic engagement activities and remote board and commission meetings to keep business flowing. In November, voters showed confidence in the town by joining other voters across the state in authorizing a de-Gallagher ballot issue that will allow the town to address critical safety and economic recovery activities associated with the pandemic with redirected revenues. Efforts to address Town Council’s dual goal of housing and environmental sustainability continued throughout the year with decisions to pursue deed-restricted housing on the town-owned site occupied by Children’s Garden of Learning as an alternative to the approved Booth Heights housing development in East Vail. This will require a temporary and then permanent relocation of the Children’s Garden of Learning early childhood education center. Simultaneously, the town worked to facilitate a partnership with the U.S. Forest Service to undertake a review process to reduce wildfire fuels on USFS land in the East Vail areas with the secondary benefit of improving habitat for bighorn sheep and other wildlife. These activities served as the basis for preparation of a draft memorandum of understanding between the town, Vail Resorts and Triumph Development that contained a series of deal points that would ultimately turn over ownership of the Booth Heights property from Vail Resorts to the town. As the year was coming to an end, negotiations with Vail Resorts were put on hold as the company turned its attention to safely operating its resorts during the pandemic. The town’s leadership indicated it would be ready to resume negotiations at any time.
Examples of the many other partnerships and activities attributed to the Town Council, staff and members of the community are detailed below:
March 6 – First Confirmed Case of COVID-19 in Eagle County
Eagle County reported the first confirmed case, a woman in her 50s visiting the area and likely exposed during international travel.
March 10 – Annual Community Meeting
The first indicator of COVID-19’s impact on the community occurred March 10 when the town’s in-person Annual Community Meeting was abruptly altered to a video-taped format with remarks presented by Mayor Chapin, Town Manager Robson and introduction of the Trailblazer recipient by Council member Brian Stockmar. Staff members intercepted attendees at the door to turn them away from possible exposure to the deadly virus in what would become the first of many maneuvers to keep community members safe and informed while development of alternatives were created to conduct essential business with the town without disruption.
In-person event cancellations dominated the headlines during the outset of the pandemic as the town shifted its communications to protecting public health. Community members were asked to follow social distancing protocols, wash their hands, avoid close contact with others and were directed to www.ECEmergency.org for details.
March 12 – Operational Adjustments
The town took immediate measures to implement the first public health order issued by Eagle County Public Health & Environment by adjusting operational protocols that emphasized social distancing practices in day-to-day municipal operations and canceling and/or adjusting public gatherings according to the standing order. Community members were asked to conduct as much business with the town as possible via phone, online services and by appointment.
March 13 – Administrative Disaster Declaration
An order declaring a local disaster emergency in and for the Town of Vail was executed effective immediately by the town manager. The administrative procedure allowed for implementation of prevention, preparation and emergency response measures. Following several extensions, the declaration remained in place at the close of the year.
March 14 – Vail Mountain Shut Down, Paid Parking Suspended
Paid parking was suspended in the Vail Village and Lionshead parking structures until further notice to coincide with the suspension of operations on Vail Mountain. Vail Transit continued to operate routes as scheduled with passengers advised to use social distancing and to refrain from riding if they were ill.
March 15 – Visitors and Residents Encouraged to Minimize Social Contact
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued a message strongly advising all visitors and residents of Eagle, Summit, Pitkin and Gunnison counties to minimize social contact with other people in order to reduce the spread of the virus.
March 15 – Vail Public Library Closes
The Vail Public Library building was closed with patrons directed to consult the library’s online services.
March 18 – Virtual Format for Public Meetings
Upon the advice of public heath officials, the town began conducting its Town Council meetings and other public sessions virtually after closing the Municipal Building to all public meetings. Several boards and commissions suspended their March meetings to allow time for implementation of virtual formats.
March 19 – Vail Transit Operations Suspended
In response to public health concerns, the town suspended operations on all Vail Transit routes at the end of the evening, March 18. ECO Transit continued operations with free fares for essential passengers who had no alternative transportation.
March 19 – Mayor Dave Chapin has COVID-19
In an open letter to the community, Mayor Dave Chapin shared that he had tested positive for the virus and urged everyone to follow the 5 commitments of containment.
March 24 – New Questions Added to Community Survey
The town added questions to the Biennial Community Survey to learn what it could do to support the community during the public health crisis. The deadline for responses was April 20.
March 26 – Online Resource Directory
An online COVID-19 resource directory was added to the town’s website to assist with community questions on public health orders, local resources and other information.
March 20 - Sales Tax Payment Relief
Payment due dates were extended for sales tax returns for businesses with a physical location in Vail. Businesses were notified that beginning with February 2020 sales tax collections due by March 20, due dates for payment would be extended 30 days to April 20; payments were later extended to Aug. 20 to help provide relief.
March 31 – Vail Community Relief Fund Established
Town Council approved a resolution establishing a $500,000 community relief fund in which it would partner with local non-profit organizations to provide relief in the areas of food, shelter and health for the Vail community, as these organizations were found to be best equipped to provide assistance to frontline community members. Applications for the first round of funding were due April 15.
April 1 - Rent Relief
The town administered temporary residential rent relief for residents of Timber Ridge Village Apartments in collaboration with Corum Real Estate.
April 1 – Virtual Adaptations of Town Programming
With no end in sight, town-sponsored programs and activities quickly pivoted to virtual adaptations, including the library’s story hour and a free webinar series on Sustainable Landscape sponsored by the Environmental Sustainability Department which took place April 15 to May 27.
April 6 – COVID-19 E-newsletter Created
The first in a series of regular COVID-19 email updates were provided from the town to those who subscribed at www.vailgov.com/subscribecovid19. Between April and December, the updates reached nearly 1,000 subscribers.
April 7 – 2020 Town Budget Revised
Town Council approved a reduction of revenues of $10 million, or 13% of total revenues for the town, as well as corresponding cuts in 2020 expenses, including use of $4 million in fund balance.
April 9 – Critical Businesses Required to Post Social Distancing Protocol
Critical businesses, as defined in a revised county Public Health Order issued April 6, were required to post their social distancing, sanitizing, cleaning and other protocols.
April 15 – Quasi-judicial Hearings with Town Council Postponed
An executive order was signed by the town manager that allowed for the postponement of any quasi-judicial hearing before the Town Council if the town manager determined the public hearing would be compromised by holding the public hearing remotely. In separate emergency orders, the town manager postponed a public hearing for rezoning of 366 Hanson Ranch Road and a Special Development District hearing for Highline/Doubletree at 2211 North Frontage Road West. The two hearings took place in June when protocols allowed citizens to enter Council Chambers individually to present live public comment to Town Council.
April 15 – Vail Neighbors Facebook Page
A Vail Neighbors Group on Facebook was created by the town to connect residents with a fellow neighbor. Residents were encouraged to join the group and post if help was needed with food, pets, transportation or simply to check on a loved one.
April 17 – New Format for Live Public Input during Virtual Meetings
A new format was announced by the Vail Town Clerk’s Office to be used to offer live public input during Town Council meetings and other virtual meetings which were being held via Zoom. This format would be one of the ways to connect with citizens for the remainder of the year.
April 17 – Legislative Delegation Joins Town Council Meeting
Updates on national and state COVID-19 recovery assistance were provided to the community from Vail’s state and congressional representatives. In particular, there was a discussion on efforts underway to assist small businesses and others hardest hit by the pandemic.
April 22 – Next Phase of Municipal Services
The schedule for the next phase of municipal services was announced following the earlier shut-down. This included transit to begin on May 4; curbside library services, processing of construction applications, plan reviews, issuing approved permits and performing inspections. Seasonal landscape crews were to begin May 18; street sweeping and cinder pick up, April 20; chipping service, June 15; Sole Power green commuting challenge, May 25; and E-bike share program, July 1-Sept. 9.
April 22 – Vail Public Library: Curbside Pickup 7 Days a Week
In an effort to offer the community additional library services, Vail Public Library began offering daily curbside pickup by appointment as allowed by Eagle County public health orders. In addition to offering the curbside pickup service, the library offered virtual story time; virtual book discussions; virtual gentle yoga; and virtual Zumba.
April 22 – First Round of Community Relief Funds Awarded
Ten qualifying nonprofit organizations were awarded $283,000 in the town’s first allotment of Vail Community Relief Funds. The $500,000 fund was established by the Town Council to provide local financial relief associated with the pandemic impacts in the areas of food, shelter and health for the Vail Community. Residents and employees in need of assistance were asked to contact the funding recipients directly to apply for aid. The allocations provided direct relief to nearly 200 frontline households in the areas of food, shelter and health impacts associated with the pandemic.
April 25 – Message to the Community from Mayor Chapin
In an open message to the community, Mayor Chapin emphasized that personal actions and responsibility will lead to the community’s overall success. He urged everyone to practice the 5 Commitments of Containment.
April 28 – Mayor Chapin Donates Plasma
After fully recovering from the COVID-19 virus, Mayor Chapin donated plasma in Vail during one of the country’s first mobile convalescent plasma donor events to help treat others infected with COVID-19. The mobile lab was sponsored by Vitalant, an independent blood provider.
May 4 – Vail Transit Returns to Service with Safety Requirements for Passengers and Drivers
Transit operations returned to service on the outlying and in-town routes for passengers who complied with safety requirements to protect the health of drivers and riders. This included wearing face coverings, entering and exiting through the rear door and practicing social distancing.
May 5 – Vail Town Council Reviews Updated Budget Projections, COVID-19 Impacts and Recovery Plans
Updated economic indicators showed the town moving into deeper phases of its 2020 recession plan with estimated annual revenue decreases up to 26% from the prior year, mostly from sales tax collections. March sales tax collections showed a decrease of 46% from the prior year, but more favorable than the 75% previously estimated. On a brighter note, the town was awarded $1.35 million in CARES funding for transit operations. Those funds were used to help cover costs associated with interruption of bus service and efforts to bring the service back.
May 15 – Honoring Colorado COVID-19 Victims
Local emergency responders, including the police and fire departments, participated in a statewide remembrance for the 1,000-plus victims who had tragically lost their lives in Colorado to COVID-19. Vehicles were arranged in the shape of a heart for a one-minute moment of silence.
May 19 – Economic Recovery Team Recommendations
The newly formed Vail Economic Recovery Team presented recommendations to the Town Council including: extending the outdoor capacity of retail and restaurants by using town right-of-way, allowing consumption of alcohol in designated public areas, reimagining events such as the Vail Farmers’ Market and Vail America Days, bulk orders of face masks and consideration of a rent relief program for commercial business owners. The team was comprised of members of the Vail Economic Advisory Council and included representatives from retail, restaurants, lodging, health and nonprofit organizations as well as Vail Valley Partnership and Vail Chamber and Business Association. The team was charged with building on Eagle County’s economic recovery efforts and the work of the Vail Valley Foundation’s regional industry task forces.
May 25 – Eagle County Blue Phase Public Health Order Effective
In alignment with the county’s “transition trail map,” the Blue Phase loosened some restrictions that had been in place since April 27. Gathering sizes were increased to 50 people, dine-in service at restaurants allowed 50% seating capacity and 6 ft. distancing was required for outdoor restaurant seating.
May 30 – Public Locations for Consumption of Alcohol
Following Town Council approval of an emergency ordinance on May 19, boundaries were established for the outdoor consumption of alcohol by the town manager’s office. The continuous zones in Vail Village and Lionshead allowed restaurants and bars to request an expansion of their liquor licensed premises. The modifications outlined in the ordinance were to be temporary and intended to lessen the impacts of COVID-19 on local businesses by providing the public with more ways to enjoy food and drink while maintaining required social distances.
June 1 – Phased Reopening of Public Buildings
Limited public access to the Vail Municipal building, Vail Public Library and other town offices and facilities became available as part of a phased plan to provide restricted in-person services to customers and guests, including an 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily opening of the Vail Public Library. The transition required occupancy requirements and the use of face coverings and social distancing.
June 2 – In-Person Public Meetings Return to Council Chambers
Following enactment of revised public health orders by Eagle County, public meetings returned to the Town Council Chambers. Protocols limited the number of people allowed in chambers to board members, town staff and presenters on the agenda. Members of the public were escorted into chambers one at a time to comment during citizen participation or during public hearings and were required to exit the chambers upon completion of presenting public comment.
June 2 – Town Moves to “Crisis” Phase of Recession Plan
Town Council authorized a staff recommendation to transition to a “crisis” phase in which 2020 town revenues were projected to drop by a total of $15.3 million, or a 21% reduction from the original budget. Sales tax collections were estimated to drop 43% from prior year. Reductions to offset the revenue came from use of general fund reserves, $6 million; deferred capital spending, $25.4 million; operational cuts, $2.1 million; staff vacancies, wage freezes and furloughs of summer seasonal employees, $2 million; and a 30% reduction in special events funding, $864,000.
June 16 – Expansion of Public Areas for Consumption of Alcohol
With allowances enacted by the state, the town authorized an expansion of outdoor public areas designated for the consumption of alcohol in Vail Village and Lionshead. The action provided for even more flexibility and judicious use of public spaces amid the pandemic.
June 16 – Second Allotment of Vail Community Relief Funds
A second round of Community Relief Funds totaling $92,000 was awarded to three non-profit organizations to provide direct relief to front line households in the areas of food, shelter and health impacts associated with the pandemic. Potential recipients were directed to the town’s website for details. As the year ended, $375,000 had been granted to area non-profit organizations with the balance of the 2020 allocation, $130,000, available for additional grants in 2021.
June 22 – Eagle County Amends Blue Square Public Health Order
This amendment allowed an increase to the number of persons that could gather at certain events to those limits set by the state.
June 29 – Vail Transit Begins Summer Schedule
Bus passengers were reminded to comply with safety requirements to protect the health of drivers and riders when Vail Transit transitioned to the summer schedule. The service continued uninterrupted through the remainder of the year.
July 21 – Public Meetings Return to Virtual-Only Format
An Eagle County amended Public Health Order issued July 17 caused the town to return to a virtual-only format for its public meetings to ensure public safety due to an increase in COVID-19 cases and a request to restrict the number of people who gather in public places. The virtual-only format would continue for the remainder of the year.
Aug. 31 – Commercial Rent Relief Applications Available
Supported by a $1 million allocation by the Town Council, an online application process was made available to the business community for commercial rent relief. The program was designed to support and help sustain local storefront businesses by sharing the burden among the landlord, town and tenant from August to November not to exceed $15,000 per business. By the end of the year, 17 businesses had been approved for the relief, receiving a total of $30,769. To assist additional businesses, the town aimed to restructure the program to a commercial grant process to be announced in early 2021.
Oct. 9 – Vail Gift Card Program
A gift card program to reward hard working employees and boost local Vail business revenue during the shoulder season was undertaken with redemption of the $25 cards taking place between Oct. 15 and Dec. 15. The cards were distributed to employees of Vail businesses and through local media promotions. In all, ___ cards were redeemed. By this time, the town’s numerous economic recovery efforts had received over $2.7 million of funding.
Nov. 4 – Town Pioneers Municipal-wide Installation of Synexis BioDefense System
The town added to its arsenal of public protections by becoming the first municipality in the nation to comprehensively install a state-of-the-art microbial reduction system in occupied spaces throughout its public facilities and buses. The continuous, chemical-free system was used to complement the town’s additional cleaning protocols to provide wide-ranging environmental protection efforts for Vail’s guests, residents and employees.
Nov. 7 – Mandatory Mask Zone
At the direction of the Town Council, an executive order was issued by the town manager implementing a mandatory mask zone in designated areas of Vail Village, Lionshead, Golden Peak and Cascade Village ahead of the start of the 2020-2021 ski season. The additional requirement was a way to support a request by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment for communities in Eagle County to immediately implement mitigation measures to address an increase in COVID-19 cases.
Nov. 16 – Additional Operational Changes due to Elevated COVID-19 Risk Meter
Additional adjustments were made to the town’s office-based operations in response to the state’s elevated COVID-19 risk meter for Eagle County which moved from Yellow to Orange. To keep interactions between non-household members to a minimum, employees were directed to work remotely as much as possible and community members were asked to conduct business with the town via phone and/or online services as available.
Nov. 24 – Executive Order Limits Private Gatherings and Indoor Dining
An executive order signed by the town manager limited the size of private gatherings to a single household. The order also restricted indoor seating at restaurants and bars, where only members of the same household could be seated together. The order added an additional layer to a revised Eagle County Public Health Order. The Vail restriction was later extended to Dec. 15 and was allowed to lapse thereafter with Town Council members saying it did the intended job to keep COVID-19 numbers from spiking over Thanksgiving.
Dec. 8 – Trial Run for Vaccine Distribution
Police Chief Dwight Henninger assisted in escorting a mock shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine to Vail Health as part of an exercise coordinated by the State Emergency Operations Center and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The milestone event not only dominated headlines in the Vail Daily, but graced the cover of The Denver Post and was featured in The New York Times. Vail Health was one of eight locations in Colorado selected to receive the first round of vaccines.
Dec. 16 – Vaccinations Begin in Eagle County
Vail Health administered the first Pfizer vaccine in Eagle County to a lead respiratory therapist at the hospital who had recovered from the virus after being on a ventilator for seven days and returned to work after her recovery to help other COVID-19 patients. She was the first of 220 staff and local health care workers to receive the vaccine that day. Police and fire employees were to receive the vaccine before the end of the year.
Dec. 21 – Vail Transit Limits Passengers to 20 Riders, Modifies In-town Route
In response to updated state public health guidelines, the town adjusted its transit protocols to a 20-rider cap, down from 40 riders implemented previously. This resulted in adding extra buses to the outlying routes to accommodate the reduced capacity while redirecting the in-town route to an express service via the Frontage Road – all while experiencing a severe shortage of drivers despite a widespread recruitment effort.
Dec. 31 – CARES Act Assistance
Through the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund, the town was awarded the following allocations of CARES Act funding during the year:
COVID-Related Cancellations and Postponements
Eagle County Annual Ride in Remembrance
Originally scheduled for May 20, rescheduled to September – then postponed to 2021
Neighborhood picnics at Bighorn Park and Donovan Pavilion
Postponed to 2021
Vail Social Community Potluck
Originally scheduled for Sept. 15 – postponed to 2021
Fire Department Open House for National Fire Prevention Week in October
Postponed to 2021
America Recycles Day collection event for e-waste and paper shredding
Originally scheduled for Nov. 13 – postponed to 2021
Numerous programs sponsored by Vail Public Library were cancelled or converted to virtual activities, including Touch a Truck, in-person Summer Reading program and the Harry Potter event.
In January, Mayor Chapin announced the town had approached representatives from Vail Resorts and Triumph Development to explore an alternative approach to the Booth Heights housing development planned for Vail. The centerpiece of the discussions was an exploration of other viable town-owned housing sites that would provide equitable partnership opportunities for Vail Resorts to build deed-restricted homes for a minimum of 144 people elsewhere in town. Of the 11 sites analyzed, the town-owned parcel occupied by Children’s Garden of Learning was identified as the Town Council’s preferred housing site. In return, the Town Council expressed interest in acquiring the 23-acre Booth Heights property on behalf of the community to determine its future use and facilitated the start of a large-scale fuels reduction and wildlife habitat enhancement initiative with the U.S. Forest Service covering 4,400 acres in the East Vail area. Site plan studies were commissioned and discussions with additional partners including Vail Recreation District, Eagle County Schools and Children’s Garden of Learning were undertaken throughout the spring and summer to explore temporary and permanent sites for relocation of the early childhood education center with the goal to have a temporary facility ready for occupancy by August 2021. In October, Children’s Garden of Learning and the town announced agreement on a relocation plan that includes use of the Charter Bus Lot in Lionshead as a temporary location for the next 3 to 5 years to allow time to prepare for a permanent facility. An analysis showed the ability to provide CGL with facility requirements and outdoor play spaces necessary to meet state licensing requirements. Under this agreement, the town would fund the cost of the temporary facility, estimated at $5 million and funded by Vail Reinvestment Authority dollars, and would work with CGL on a fundraising campaign to secure and design a permanent facility that can be a fixture of the Vail community for decades to come. As the year was coming to an end, the town was reviewing bids from qualified vendors for construction of modular buildings at the temporary location with the plans under review by the town’s development review boards.
Meanwhile, discussions with Vail Resorts and Triumph Development during the year resulted in preparation of a draft memorandum of understanding intended to serve as a non-binding agreement between the three parties allowing each to act in good faith in pursuing an alternative approach to the Booth Heights development. In July, the draft MOU was made available for public comment. Key provisions included an extension of the approved Booth Heights entitlements to December 2024 which was memorialized via resolution on Oct. 6, 2020; use of the current Children’s Garden of Learning site (Lot 3 Middle Creek subdivision) to be made available for a future deed-restricted housing development as an alternative site to Booth Heights; and granting title to the Booth Heights parcel to the town upon successfully demonstrating measured progress toward achieving the dual housing and environmental stewardship goals. In August, an updated MOU draft was being crafted to include refinement of mutually agreed upon deal points to be presented for additional public comment. However, by the end of the year, the updated MOU draft had stalled when negotiations between the town and Vail Resorts were put on hold due to the pandemic and the priority of safely opening Vail Mountain and the other resorts for the winter season and keeping them open for the duration of the season. In response, the Town Council indicated it looked forward to restarting the dialogue any time Vail Resorts is ready to re-engage and would continue discussions with Triumph Development with the intent of developing deed-restricted homes on the Lot 3 Middle Creek parcel.
District Court Decision
Vail Town Council’s decision to uphold the Planning and Environmental Commission’s 2019 approval of the Booth Heights development application in East Vail was affirmed by Eagle County District Court Judge Russell Granger in October. Judge Granger found the Town Council neither exceeded its jurisdiction nor abused its discretion in its decision to approve the application. Town Council’s quasi-judicial review and approval of the development on Oct. 15, 2019, followed approval, with conditions, by the Planning and Environmental Commission on Aug. 26, 2019, and was challenged by six plaintiffs on July 9, 2020, naming the Town of Vail and Triumph Development as defendants.
Josef Staufer, known for his impassioned speeches that inspired bold and visionary actions by Vail’s leadership spanning 60 years, was selected as the recipient of the 2020 Vail Trailblazer Award. Presented by the Vail Town Council, the annual award honors those who contribute their time and talent to make Vail a great community.
Booth Creek Fuels Reduction Project
The town’s partnership with the U.S. Forest Service to undertake a review process to reduce wildfire fuels on USFS land in the East Vail area, with the secondary benefit of improving habitat for bighorn sheep and other wildlife, continued during the year. This included a challenge cost share agreement to support the National Environmental Policy Act review process. The proposed project area is approximately 4,400 acres and is located on the north side of I-70 from Spraddle Creek east to Pitkin Creek and north to Bald Mountain. Of the 4,400 acres in the project area, 2,418 acres are within the Eagle’s Nest Wilderness. Proposed treatments include a combination of prescribed fire (both broadcast and pile burning); manual pruning and chainsaw treatments; and potential mechanical treatments. Preliminary field work was completed which resulted in preliminary treatment recommendations and mapping as part of the project’s Environmental Assessment. Public comment on the plan is anticipated to begin in March 2021.
The community-inspired guest experience initiative that was launched at the start of the 2019-2020 winter season finished out the inaugural season and continued in its second year with safety-focused guest experience training, walking tours and more. Produced by the town in cooperation with Vail Mountain and the Vail Chamber & Business Association, the free PrimaVail programming is designed to not only educate employees on the importance of premier hospitality, but also to create a sense of community among its participants who work in Vail. More than 700 individuals and 80 businesses participated in the program’s first year and the 2020-2021 season began with 247 participants taking part in five different programs.
Environmental sustainability efforts were identified as Vail’s highest priorities for action by respondents who took part in the town’s biennial survey which was conducted during the spring. The next highest rankings were for “housing for resident-occupied, deed-restricted households” and “defining comprehensive parking management policies.” It was noted that year-round residents were twice as likely to rate resident-occupied housing as a priority than part-time residents. A series of questions related to COVID-19 were added to the survey during the early days of the pandemic to gather input on local behavior as well as opinions on the situation which assisted the town in prioritizing its crisis response.
Public Opinion Survey
In August, the town initiated an online survey to probe opinions of the town’s registered voters regarding a possible property tax ballot measure for the Nov. 3 general election. Results were presented to the Town Council in September, showing a somewhat favorable climate to move forward with the de-Gallagher ballot issue.
De-Gallagher Property Tax Ballot Issue
Vail’s electorate approved Town of Vail Ballot Issue 2G on the Nov. 3 general election ballot with 1,680 voting in favor and 1,380 voting against. Voter turnout was 85.26% based on 3,997 registered voters. This was the sole ballot issue forwarded by the Vail Town Council for the election. Local approval coincided with statewide approval of Amendment B, repealing the Gallagher Amendment across the state. Vail Mayor Dave Chapin said the Town Council was extremely grateful to Vail’s electorate for supporting the local ballot issue and having the confidence to allow for more local control in directing how Vail property tax dollars are allocated in the event the state effort was defeated. “As we continue to address our critical safety and economic recovery activities associated with the pandemic, these redirected revenues totaling an estimated $1.4 million in 2022 alone, will help support the essential services our taxpayers have come to expect,” he said.
2021 Budget Approved
Town Council adopted a $99.5 million budget for 2021, guided by the town’s “crisis level” recession plan which focuses on recovery from the global pandemic. This includes conservative revenue projections, maintaining budget reductions that were made in 2020 and prioritizing Town Council’s strategic goals identified in its Council Action Plan and 2020 community survey. The $48.5 million operational budget is a decrease of 5% from the 2020 original budget and flat with the 2020 forecast. The spending plan reflects projected decreases in revenues in the areas of sales tax collections, parking and lift tax. Funding was included to continue the Vail InDEED program and other housing initiatives, plus environmental sustainability activities and a forest health initiative in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service. Major capital projects included in the budget are improvements to South Frontage Road from Vail Health to the Lionshead parking structure and relocation of the early childhood learning center. Both projects will largely be funded by the Vail Reinvestment Authority which has an estimated cash balance of $40 million at the end of June 2030. By the end of 2021, reserves are projected to be $33.1 million in the general fund, or 75% of annual revenues in a normal year. This is well above the 35% minimum required by Town Council as a budgetary policy. Town-wide reserves are projected to be $70 million at the end of 2021.
Public Works Shops Financing
Town Council agreed to pursue public financing to cover expenses related to the estimated $19.6 million renovation and expansion of the Public Works Shops. This is projected to save an estimated $2.5 million due to favorable interest rates when compared with delaying the project for seven years to cash-fund.
Housing Zone District Parking Calculation Change
Town Council approved an ordinance to replace Section 12-6I-8 Parking and Loading, Vail Town Code, with a new section, Section 12-6I-8 Mobility, to address mobility needs of residents in the Housing Zone District.
In April, the town turned its attention toward Vail’s economic recovery which included working one-on-one with event promoters to help provide guidance on protocols that could allow some outdoor events to take place. A Vail Economic Recovery Task Force was formed as a subset of the existing Vail Economic Advisory Council to address Vail-specific efforts to reboot the economy. Efforts included creation of outdoor spaces to expand storefronts, restaurants and bars; commercial rent relief program; business toolkits; a gift card stimulus program; and distribution of Vail-branded facemasks. Recovery efforts also included working one-on-one with event promoters to provide guidance on protocols that could allow some outdoor events to take place within public health guidelines. Staff also joined regional and county planning efforts to coordinate the exchange of information.
Town Revenues & Pandemic Impacts
Estimated 2020 sales tax collections of $25 million, a vital indicator of the town’s economy, generated 14.6% less revenue than in 2019, but exceeded COVID-adjusted forecasts, including record collections in February, September, October and November. Uncertainties such as the status of air travel, consumer behavior and a resurgence of the virus complicated financial forecasting. Year-to-date Real Estate Transfer Tax collections of $9.8 million through November were pacing up 36% from the prior year. Between 2000 and 2024, the town is projected to lose up to $15 million in revenues due to economic impacts of the pandemic and recovery period.
Special events were canceled, postponed and later reimagined as the long-term reality of the pandemic took hold during the spring and summer, causing the town to reduce the events budget by 30%. Due to COVID-19, large event cancellations included: Taste of Vail, Pink Vail, Powabunga, Vail Snow Days, Kids Adventure Games, Gourmet on the Gore, NEW Bourbon and Bacon Festival, Vail Lacrosse Shootout, Vail Oktoberfest, Vail Outlier Offroad Festival, Vail Summer Bluegrass Series and more. Guided by public health protocols, which regulated the size of outdoor gatherings, Vail’s event producer partners got creative and delivered a variety of customized activities and performances to continue the tradition of exceptional guest experiences in Vail. These included:
Burton US Open was a success with new elements that honored Jake Burton and his legacy on the snowboard industry including the Ride for Jake and a unique display of snowboards in Vail Village.
GoPro Mountain Games, the annual mountain sports, music and lifestyle event, originally scheduled for June 4-7, was postponed until June 10-13, and later became the GoPro Mountain Games Elements, a hybrid/virtual event featuring select competitions and events at limited capacity.
Vail Farmers’ Market began June 14 with a virtual format offering curbside pickup of fresh Colorado produce, then transitioned to the open-air market by reservation. Vail Farmers Market Farm to Table Series was reformatted to accommodate limited capacity.
Vail America Days celebration over July 4th introduced a new concept of socially distanced walking tours of stationary parade floats and mobile musical entertainment throughout the villages to comply with public health orders. A new launch site for the fireworks show on Vail Mountain provided increased viewing areas all across the valley floor to facilitate social distancing.
Hot Summer Nights shifted their model to produce two seatings of 175 people, allowing more guests the chance to enjoy the Tuesday night shows.
Vail welcomed a new event, the Vail Fine Arts Festival, to Lionshead Village. The event brought a variety of artists and their crafts and wares to the village.
Vail Craft Beer Classic was moved from June to August and found a new home at the event venue created at Ford Park lower bench. Capacity was limited and managed by hosting multiple flights of guests within capacity restrictions.
Vail Wine Classic was moved to Vail from Breckenridge after the success of the Vail Beer Classic, which was produced by the same event producer. The Ford Park lower bench venue was well suited to host this event, which provided additional tables and shade to create a more intimate high quality experience.
Ticketed concerts produced by Shakedown Presents took place throughout the summer and fall at a newly built stage in Ford Park. Pop-up concerts also took place in Vail Village and Lionshead to the surprise and delight of guests and residents.
Revely Vail, the kick-off of Vail’s welcome to the brilliance of winter, was presented with a mix of stay-in family experiences and small celebrations. Activities included a virtual tree lighting, an ornament-decorating art kit activity, ambient music pop-ups and ice skating shows.
Vail Holidays was presented with a similar mix of stay-in and outdoor family experiences. Activities included a hybrid/virtual tree lighting, ice skating shows at Solaris, astronomy nights and New Year’s Eve fireworks visible from countless locations throughout Vail.
Magic of Lights Vail, a ticketed walking tour featuring dazzling holiday lights at Ford Park, debuted on Dec. 11 to provide a socially distanced-inspired family outing.
Also during the year, Burton Snowboards announced the difficult decision to cancel the 2021 Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships which had been scheduled to take place March 1-6 in Vail, due to uncertainties around the pandemic.
Vail Local Marketing District
The Vail Local Marketing District continued a shift in strategy during the year to focus on building an owned database to more actively target known guests. The shift away from reliance on Vail.com and Vail Resorts resulted in the new DiscoverVail.com website, which was launched in March The two websites are meant to complement one another, with cross linking to Vail mountain information on Vail.com and comprehensive Vail content on DiscoverVail.com. With the continual presence of DiscoverVail.com, the need for additional year-round marketing efforts arose and the VLMD responded with seasonally appropriate content. The website launched with a comprehensive lodging search engine which allows users to book their reservations online directly with Vail properties. The website offers the lodging community the opportunity to list their properties free of charge with the individual property paying no commission to the VLMD, which carries the ongoing cost of the booking platform. Additionally, a new Wi-Fi gating was put in place for the town’s free Vail Wi-Fi to gain a better understanding of guest behavior while in-resort. Since its launch in mid-March, over 28,000 names have been collected. This data will enable the VLMD to create a relationship with Vail’s guests, including post visit surveys to better understand the guest experience. As of mid-December, VLMD lodging tax revenue totaled $2.4 million, down 16.8% from 2019 but up from the amended crisis budget. Expenses were $2 million compared to the amended budget of $2.6 million.
Forty-nine new business licenses were issued by the town in 2020, including 14 new retail establishments, 14 new lodging/property management businesses, 7 new food and beverage licenses and 14 in the “other” category. Licenses were forfeited by 23 businesses.
In the third year of the town’s short-term rental regulations saw an increase in the number of online registrations and compliance. The estimated compliance rate of 93% for the year includes 2,469 registered properties in Vail. Fines were issued to 9 properties for non-compliance.
Results of an independent audit of town financials for 2019 showed the town continuing its strong financial position. For the full-year, government-wide revenue exceeded expenses by $20.6 million. Total reserves at the end of 2019 were at $95.8 million; of that, $80.5 million was available for general operations and capital spending. The remainder is restricted by use, such as the town’s minimum reserve requirement of 35% annual revenues, as well as reserves in restricted funds such as Dispatch Services, Health Insurance Fund and Heavy Equipment Fund.
The Welcome Centers adjusted operations to accommodate public health protocols with at least one center operating daily to serve as a liaison for walk-in guests and the business community by providing up-to-date information on safety restrictions and socially distanced activities. The Welcome Centers also coordinated the summer Trail Host program, supported economic recovery efforts and implemented a Guest Service Advocate program during ski season to create a welcoming presence in the villages to help educate guests and residents on community safety measures.
Red Sandstone Facilities
A ribbon cutting for Vail’s newest public parking garage and guided tours of the community’s remodeled elementary school took place in January. The activities celebrated completion of the Red Sandstone parking garage and the reopening of the school following a $14 million renovation of the building. Together, the facilities represented a multi-year partnership involving countywide voters, Eagle County Schools, Vail Resorts and the Town of Vail.
Vail Health Hospital
After more than five years of planning and construction, Vail Health debuted the new east wing of the hospital in November, providing a more sophisticated infrastructure to meet the growing needs of the community and guests. The east wing improves access to high-quality care by including a state-of-the-art 24/7 emergency department with three dedicated behavioral health rooms; a rooftop helipad with direct elevator access to the hospital that reduces transport time by 30-45 minutes; improved medical space for nurses and providers; additional operating rooms; a new imaging/radiology department; increased covered parking; accommodations for the ambulance district; an enclosed loading zone; a new pharmacy, gift shop and Starbucks; LEED certified standards; and a main entrance off South Frontage Road. For access to The Steadman Clinic and Howard Head Sports Medicine, the patient entrance will remain located off 181 West Meadow Drive until mid-2021.
West Vail Master Plan
In June, the town launched a master planning process for West Vail. The intent of the plan is to envision planning, zoning and design options as well as transportation infrastructure, housing and economic development for the West Vail residential and commercial area. The study includes approximately 262 acres and encompasses the area bordered by West Gore Creek Drive to the south, Cortina Lane and Garmisch Drive to the north, Buffehr Creek Road to the east, and Arosa Drive to the west. Public engagement activities have included online surveys, interactive maps, focus groups and workshops with updates shared on the community hub, EngageVail.com. Members of a 15-member citizen advisory committee have served as community liaisons and have assisted in helping to shape the plan’s vision. The plan effort is expected to take between 12 and 18 months to complete with adoption in the spring/summer of 2021. The planning process has been guided by a multi-disciplinary Colorado-based consultant team led by SE Group.
The Community Development Department initiated an update to the Sign Code in Title 11 of the Vail Town Code. Changes were needed to address the removal of most content-based requirements as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Reed vs Town of Gilbert. The scope of the update was not intended to include increasing sizes, locations or manner of display, but would address the way certain signs are regulated and classified. In August and October, a series of public meetings were offered to receive feedback on the proposed changes to the Sign Code. The proposed update is expected to be heard by the Planning and Environmental Commission and Town Council in early 2021.
Overnight public parking remained free throughout the summer for the first time since the 2017 season as the town scaled its operations to reflect a decrease in parking demand and reductions in seasonal staffing. The town’s managed parking program at Ford Park was also suspended for the summer, due to the cancellation of major events at the Ford Amphitheater and sporting events at the Ford Park fields.
Pricing established for the 2020-2021 winter season remained consistent with the previous season as recommended by the Parking & Transportation Task Force. In fact, pricing has remained unchanged since the 2017-2018 season. The green employee parking pass that had been good for weekday parking in Lionshead during previous seasons was discontinued due, in part, to completion of the parking structure at Vail Health. As a result of COVID-19 protocols, the annual recertification process for existing Value card holders was waived for the 2020-2021 season. No refunds or credits were issued for pink, blue, green, red, blue, gold or silver passes purchased for use during the 2019-2020 season.
In preparation for the delivery of four battery-electric buses, installation of the charging infrastructure needed for the fleet transition took place during the year. This included four chargers at the Vail Transportation Center dedicated for bus charging. The town also began upgrading the electric infrastructure in the bus barn to accommodate a modular charging system for up to 40 buses.
West Vail Pass Improvements
Public meetings were held in the community as the Colorado Department of Transportation sought feedback on the I-70 West Vail Pass Auxiliary Lane project as part of an environmental assessment process. Proposed improvements include an eastbound and westbound auxiliary lane from the East Vail exit to the Vail Pass rest area on I-70. In June, CDOT announced it had won a $60.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to be used to help construct a portion of the project estimated at $140.4 million.
Loading and Delivery Discussions
Discussions took place in July to review recommended changes to loading and delivery regulations in Vail Village. Hosted by the Police Department, information was presented on a proposal to use electric delivery vehicles to transport products from underground loading docks located at Mountain Plaza, Solaris, Sebastian, Four Seasons and One Willow. As proposed, the town would either operate the service, hire a third-party vendor to centralize deliveries or potentially from a co-op of business owners. No changes were proposed for loading and delivery in Lionshead due to regulations already in place prohibiting on-street deliveries. Additional actions on the topic were put on hold indefinitely due to the pandemic.
Pedestrian Village Slow Zones
Responding to concerns of speeding cyclists through Vail Village and Lionshead, the Town Council asked staff to explore options to reduce conflicts between pedestrians and those on bicycles. Concerned that full dismount zones could impact bicycle shops, inconvenience responsible riders and conflict with Vail’s Bicycle Friendly Community status, the response was to create Village Slow Zones, similar to slow zones on Vail Mountain during ski season. New Slow Zone signs featuring a turtle on a bicycle were installed throughout the pedestrian areas. Early indicators seemed to show positive results. Town staff will work with bicycle rental shops during 2021 to help spread the Slow Zone message.
Online Multilingual Crime Reporting Form
In April, the Police Department introduced a new online form for reporting non-emergency crimes. The online form provides a stay-at-home option to report incidents in Vail without the need to visit the department in person. The form is available in 10 languages on the police website at www.vailgov.com/police.
During August, community members were invited to take part in a 10-question survey to collect feedback on the functionality of www.vailgov.com as the town began a comprehensive initiative to redesign the government website to provide increased navigation and new customer-driven features. The new website will be introduced in spring 2021.
NextBus System Upgrades
The town was awarded grant funding from the Colorado Department of Transportation to upgrade its transit intelligent transportation system (NextBus system). Potential new components include audio/visual stop announcements, automatic passenger counters, onboard Wi-Fi and increased ability to export schedule and real-time information to third party applications, including Google Maps and TransitHub. The tentative schedule for implementation is summer 2021.
New Contractor Certification Requirements
Homeowners and businesses will have an increased level of confidence in their building contractors following adoption in October of new testing and certification requirements. Effective May 1, 2021, all contractors performing work in the town will be required to provide proof of licensing and/or certification. While contractors have been required to register with the town for decades, they have not had to provide any proof of qualification or competency.
Remote Video Inspections
Due to the ever-changing landscape and continuing challenges of the pandemic, the town began piloting a remote video inspection program during the fall, coordinated by the chief building official. This allows for various project inspection services to be completed via video conferencing, thereby ensuring safe social distancing practices. The program has been successful to date and continues to be a viable inspection option for any contractor with appropriate technological capabilities.
New Online Employee Housing Compliance Process
The Housing Department listened to feedback and created an online sworn compliance statement and compliance form for the 2020 annual employee housing compliance process. The improved online process replaces the notarized affidavit requirement and allows owners to click, upload and sign all the documents online. Letters were mailed Dec. 17 to all deed-restricted property owners with a compliance deadline of Feb. 1, 2021.
Stephens Park Playground Renovation
The 25-year-old play area at Stephens Park in the Intermountain neighborhood was renovated to ensure compliance with current playground safety guidelines and to provide ADA accessibility. New features include renovated wooden play structures, replacement of worn out slides and rope and log components, and new swings. Many of the existing wooden play components were repurposed within the new design. Input for the design was solicited from park users via email and online information. Additional enhancements, including a public art component, will be installed in 2021.
Covered Bridge Pocket Park Renovation
A much-needed renovation of the Covered Bridge Pocket Park began in October. Improvements to the park include stabilization of the Gore Creek streambank, installation of stabilized aggregate walkways, a low seat wall, extensive landscaping and irrigation upgrades. Most of the work was finished in 2020 with the landscape planting to occur in the spring.
Vail Valley Drive Traffic Pattern
Advisory bike lanes were installed along Vail Valley Drive on a two-month trial basis to better accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists. The pilot traffic pattern included new signs and striping that allowed for two-way vehicular traffic to share a narrowed single center lane while pedestrians and bicyclists utilized the bike lanes on each side separated from vehicular traffic by dashed lines. Following a review of the pilot program, Town Council authorized continuation of the lanes in summer 2021.
Emergency Safety Fencing
Working with its partners from Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife, the town installed emergency safety fencing in East Vail for the second season in an attempt to keep bighorn sheep and other wildlife from accessing the Frontage Road and I-70. This action followed the previous loss of three bighorn sheep to vehicle collisions and continued danger to motorists and wildlife. The fencing was to be in place until the middle or end of June 2021.
Vail Home Partners: Housing Goal Progress
The community was introduced to Vail Home Partners, the new name given to an existing collaboration between the Vail Town Council and the Vail Local Housing Authority. Together, the two entities have committed to implementation of the Vail Housing 2027 Strategic Plan’s adopted goal of acquiring 1,000 new deed restrictions by the year 2027. At the time of adoption, 698 deed restrictions were recorded on properties within the town. As of the end of the year, that number had increased by 32% to 922. At the current rate of acquisition, it is projected the town will reach its goal by 2026.
Alternative Housing Sites Initiative
A 5-year strategic action plan was drafted to achieve the town’s goal of acquiring a net increase of more than 400 new deed restrictions by the year 2025. The draft plan identified public-private partnerships on 8 sites and outlined 7 steps for implementation.
Permanent Funding Source Initiative
A potential ballot question to ask Vail voters to consider a tax increase to support a permanent funding source for housing was put on hold during the spring due to the impacts of COVID-19. This decision followed an earlier public opinion poll which measured the level of support for either a property tax or sales tax to fund the town’s housing initiatives.
The Vail InDEED program, in which the town acquires perpetual deed restrictions from private property owners subject to a mutually accepted purchase agreement, received national recognition in the fall by the Urban Land Institute. The program received the 2020 Robert C. Larson Housing Policy Leadership Award following a lengthy evaluation process that consisted of a jury review of the program and panel interviews. Previous recipients of the award have included New York City, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and City of Chicago. Since its inception in 2016 Vail InDEED has been used to acquire an additional 155 deed restrictions at a total cost of approximately $10.8 million. In total, more than 343 year-round and seasonal residents of Vail have been provided homes through the program.
Vail Local Housing Authority
The Vail Local Housing Authority realized numerous accomplishments in 2020 including continued implementation of the Vail InDEED program which resulted in the purchase of 21 new deed-restrictions on behalf of the town from 58 applications submitted. The program was funded by $2.5 million budgeted by the Town Council. The VLHA also helped facilitate two exchanges of underperforming deed restrictions netting a 2x increase in the total amount of deed-restricted square footage. Other activities included: overhaul of the annual compliance verification process; evaluation of various land use tools and recommended modifications; ongoing discussions with Colorado Department of Transportation regarding a potential housing partnership on a CDOT-owned parcel in East Vail; and completion of amendments to the Middle Creek at Vail ground lease in partnership with the Town Attorney’s office resulting in creation of a potential future housing site on Lot 3, Middle Creek Subdivision.
A Chamonix Vail townhome was resold to a qualified buyer for in August. The 1,581 sq. ft., 3-bedroom, 3-bath, 2-car garage home sold for $610,000. Chamonix Vail homes are deed-restricted and have a resale price appreciation cap of 1.5% per annum plus any approved capital improvements.
A lottery was held in August for a rare resale of a deed-restricted Vail Commons home. The 927 sq. ft. 2-bedroom, 2-bath home netted 51 interested buyers for the sale price of $211,820. Vail Commons homes also have a resale price appreciation cap of 3% per annum plus any approved capital improvements.
An internal town employee home purchase program was launched with the sale of the first home occurring in the fall, a 580 sq. ft. 1-bedroom, 1-bath at Homestake at Vail Condominiums which sold for $250,000. The town had purchased the property in 2019 for $325,000 with the intent to sell the home to a town employee with a deed restriction in place. The Town of Vail is one of the larger employers in the community.
‘Best of the Americas’ Award
The Vail community was honored with the 2020 ‘Best in Americas’ Award for continued progress made toward waste diversion in a mountain community. The award was presented by Green Destinations, a global non-profit foundation promoting sustainable tourism. Category winners and finalists were selected by a panel of experts representing 12 international organizations.
Climate Leader Award
Vail was recognized as one of 88 cities across the globe that continued to lead on environmental action during the year. Vail’s “A” list rating for 2020 was awarded by CDP Cities, a global emissions reporting platform. This was the first time the town had achieved the climate leader rating. To score an A, a city must disclose publicly and have a city-wide emissions inventory, have set an emissions reduction target and published a climate action plan. It must also complete a climate risk and vulnerability assessment and have completed a climate adaptation plan to demonstrate how it will tackle climate hazards now, and in the future.
Sustainable Destination Audit
Preparations for a re-certification process were undertaken during the year to retain Vail’s distinction as a Sustainable Destination under the Mountain IDEAL standard authorized by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. Re-certification requires the town and its partner stakeholders to meet and maintain progress on 44 sustainability criteria in categories including destination management, planning, community and culture and environmental resources. The Town completed the recertification audit process in December and was currently awaiting results.
Community Recycling Report
Through the first three quarters of 2020, the town achieved a 28% recycling rate. A total of 8,897 tons of municipal solid waste, 3,263 tons of recycling and 221 tons of compost was collected in 2020. While many events were cancelled or downsized due to the pandemic, there was strong participation in the Celebrate Green! Zero Waste program leading to a cumulative 83.4% diversion rate.
E-Bike Share Pilot Program
Following a request for proposals process, the town selected Bewegen Technologies to implement a neighborhood-based electric-assist bike share program which occurred July 1 through Sept. 9. The goal was to determine community interest, level of participation and feasibility of implementing a full-scale electric bike share program in Vail as a micro-mobility option for residents and employees to reduce the number of single occupancy vehicles traveling in town during non-snow months. The program resulted in 189 unique users logging 518 rides and riding 2,062.8 miles using the electric bike share for commuting purposes.
Lunch with the Locals
A series of in-person and virtual Lunch and Learn sessions was hosted by the town’s environmental sustainability team throughout the year to raise community awareness on topics such as stream ecology, aquatic health, riparian buffers, invasive weeds and more. This was the sixth year of the free sessions, which serves as a platform to spread the word about the Gore Creek Strategic Action Plan and small changes residents can make to positively affect the health of the creek together.
LED Bulb Swap
The Vail Public Library hosted an LED bulb swap during the month of February to promote free and easy ways for community members to take climate action. Community members were encouraged to save money and cut climate pollution by exchanging two inefficient old-tech lightbulbs for two high-efficiency LEDs. Two-hundred and twenty LED bulbs were given out, which will equate to a 128,000 pounds reduction in greenhouse gas emissions over the next 11 years. This is a cost savings of $11,625 and the equivalent of removing 12 vehicles from the road.
Sustainable Landscape Series
In place of its annual Sustainable Landscape Workshop, the Environmental Sustainability Department sponsored a free weekly webinar series with seven sessions held in April and May. The sessions taught landscapers and property owners how to maintain a beautiful landscape while conserving water, creating habitat for native animals and beneficial insects, and reducing dependence on landscaping chemicals. Since 2012, Gore Creek has been identified as an impaired stream by state regulations due to a decline in aquatic macroinvertebrates. Historically, landscaping practices in Vail have been a contributing factor in Gore Creek’s decline but changing practices in recent years have led to an upward trend in aquatic life.
Gore Creek Riparian Planting Projects
The town continued efforts to reestablish native plants along town-owned sections of Gore Creek. More than 3,000 plants were installed during 2020 bringing the total number of new plantings to over 15,000 since 2017. Native willows, chokecherries, serviceberries, currants and wild rose, plus a variety of wetland sedges and grasses were among nearly 40 different plant species installed. The planting projects are part of the overall Restore the Gore efforts with a goal of having Gore Creek removed from the EPA list of Impaired Waterways. The new plants will help to filter pollutants and sediment, slow runoff, provide shade to help keep water temperatures low, create habitat for native fauna and reduce erosion. The project will continue in 2021, anticipating nearly 4,000 additional plants.
Gore Creek Test Samples
While Gore Creek macroinvertebrate populations still did not meet state standards for aquatic life in 2019, steady progress can be seen in the data. Increases in aquatic insect populations can be attributed to reductions in stormwater pollution, the elimination of foliar-applied pesticides on town property and the 10,000 native trees and shrubs planted along Gore Creek since 2016.
The public-private cost share program known as Project Re-Wild completed its fourth major project in 2020 at Gore Creek Meadows Townhomes in East Vail. The property, which sits across Gore Creek from Bighorn Park, had suffered severe bank erosion which was beginning to threaten the stability of some of the townhomes. Thanks to a warm spring, this project was completed before runoff in 2020, protecting the eroded bank from another year of floodwaters.
The 24-hour Gore Creek spill reporting hotline (970-476-GORE) continued to receive calls about instances of stormwater dumping in 2020. Vigilant community members who reached out via the hotline this year helped town staff respond to spills including hydraulic fluid, carpet cleaner and fuel, preventing some of these harmful pollutants from reaching Gore Creek.
Bridge Road Watercraft Put-In
Rafters, kayakers and stand-up paddleboarders were excited to utilize the new watercraft put-in near Bridge Road in East Vail as creek levels rose during spring runoff. The new launch area, which includes a vehicle drop-off zone and seasonal restroom, formalized the area long used by boaters who enjoy floating Gore Creek. The town had recently purchased the parcel along the north side of the creek as part of the updated Open Lands Plan recommendations. The stone put-in area will help reduce erosion by protecting the stream bank, and new plantings between Bighorn Road and Gore Creek will help filter pollutants and sediment from Gore Creek.
Earth Day Celebration
To celebrate Earth Day’s 50th anniversary on April 22, the town provided complimentary native wildflower and vegetable seeds to residents and encouraged community members to take part in alternative clean up efforts due to the cancellation of the annual clean-up day as a result of the pandemic.
The 10th annual Sole Power Challenge, a free green community challenge offered to the entire Eagle Valley and facilitated by the town, saw 280 members participate in the program. They logged nearly 51,000 miles in their daily commuting activities, which included cycling, walking, skating and other non-motorized travel. Their efforts prevented over 156 metric pounds of carbon from entering the atmosphere. Participants had the chance to win prizes donated by generous community partners.
Hard to Recycle Event
A free, socially distanced recycling event was held in July to collect electronic, yard, and household hazardous waste, and to provide paper shredding services. Over 15 tons of materials were collected and recycled. The event was funded by fees from the “kick the bag habit” program in which a 10-cent per bag fee is collected by the two grocery stores in Vail for customers who choose to opt out of reusable bags.
Trees for Vail
The town sponsored the distribution of 100 native trees and shrubs in June as part of its annual Trees for Vail program. Reinstated in 2009 after a long hiatus, Trees for Vail has included volunteer planting projects as well as the free public giveaway for residents.
Volunteer Trail Host Program
Volunteers from the town’s Trail Host program began greeting trail users for the second summer season in June. The program provides helpful information and resources at busy East Vail trailheads to promote trail etiquette and to offer recommendations on a variety of guest services, including less-traveled trails. In anticipation of a significant increase in trail use, the hosts increased their presence during peak times and updated summer hiking trail maps were distributed. The Trail Host program is a component of the Vail Welcome Centers.
Vail Trails Clean Up Initiative
The town partnered with the U.S. Forest Service, Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance, Adopt-A-Trail and Walking Mountains Science Center to host Vail Trails Clean Up Days, Oct. 1-4. The clean-up efforts took place on some of Vail’s most popular USFS trails from West Vail to East Vail following a summer of heavy use.
Business Recycle Challenge
The town sponsored its second Community Business Recycling Challenge that included free, customized training, progress reports and bragging rights in four award categories. Hosted by the town’s environmental sustainability team in partnership with Walking Mountain Science Center, the challenge was offered to retail stores, restaurants, bars, lodges, offices and other Vail business license holders. Competitors received an initial waste audit and education session to learn about recycling best practices and specific workplace ideas for their unique businesses. Each competitor received a random weekly audit during the challenge to measure progress. Nine Vail businesses participated and collectively averaged a 70% recycling rate over the five-week challenge. Slifer, Smith and Frampton’s Bridge Street office earned the Best Diversion Rate Award for the small business category with a 98% recycling rate and Sonnenalp Hotel won Best Diversion Rate for the large business category with an 84% diversion rate. Eagle River Water and Sanitation won the award for Cleanest Compost; Betty Ford Alpine Gardens won the award for Cleanest Recycler; and McNeil Property Management won the award for Most Innovative Diversion Program.
The town continued its partnership with Energy Smart Colorado to offer free energy audits and double rebates for energy efficiency projects for Vail residents and businesses. This included 28 home energy assessments completed through November resulting in an estimated reduction of 11.38 metric tons of CO2e through quick fixes installed at assessments; 9 residential rebates provided through November, which resulted in an estimated 6.33 metric tons of CO2e reduced through home energy improvements rebated; and 9 commercial rebates provided through November, which resulted in an estimated 56.25 metric tons of CO2e reduced through business and multi-family energy improvements rebated. The estimated annual carbon reduction in the town through participation in the EnergySmart Colorado program was 73.96 metric tons of CO2e through November.
Climate Action Collaborative
The town continued to be an active participant in the Eagle County Climate Action Collaborative, which works to advance the greenhouse gas reduction goals established in the county-wide Climate Action Plan. A few projects undertaken by the collaborative in 2020 included: hosting the Getting to Zero: From Radical to Rational climate event with Dr. Robert Davies, professor at University of Southern Utah who provided a vivid explanation of climate change science and why it is essential to understand the gravity and scale of the current climate challenge and need to expand and accelerate climate action efforts; conducting a Commuter Study to better understand commuting patterns of Eagle County residents and barriers to smart commuting methods; rolling out a behavior change campaign to incentivize residents to utilize smart commuting at least twice per week to reduce transportation related emissions; providing a bi-annual community recycling guide; developing recommendations for municipalities to adopt above building code regulations to improve energy and water efficiency, electric vehicle charging and photovoltaic panel readiness for new construction and remodeling, and construction and demolition debris recycling requirements; and modeling, forecasting and re-prioritizing goals, objectives and strategies established in the Climate Action Plan.
Following a bid process, local artist Jenna Oppenheimer was selected to design a temporary recycled art installation for the town. Oppenheimer created a trout sculpture that was made from 700 recycled cans and plastic bottles, 125 outdated Town of Vail parking passes and several yards of plastic film and bubble wrap to inspire a message of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and to educate the public on the importance of waste reduction. The sculpture was displayed between the Vail Public Library and the Dobson Ice Arena from March through September.
COVID-19 Safety Protocols
Safety protocols enacted by the police and fire departments allowed for emergency response, routine patrols and calls for service to be provided without interruption. Attempts were made to limit exposure to residents and guests by taking non-emergency calls over the phone.
Fire & Emergency Services Calls
Vail Fire & Emergency Services responded to 1,899 calls for service in 2020. This included 63 fires of various types, which consisted of 27 vehicle fires, 19 wildland fires, 4 structure fires and 33 miscellaneous fires. The remainder of the calls for service included 56 physical rescues, 590 emergency medical incidents (including vehicle accidents), 595 false alarms, 76 hazardous materials incidents, 7 other hazardous conditions, 182 service calls and 330 other calls for service. Vail Fire & Emergency Services also responded to calls for assistance out of Vail 227 times. Of the responses outside the Town of Vail, 130 were to the Vail Pass area. These responses are provided as part of an intergovernmental agreement with Eagle County.
Fire crews responded to four structure fires within the Town of Vail. Thanks to the rapid response of Vail Fire and Emergency Services crews, there were no major losses.
New Code Amendments
Informational workshops were held at the beginning of the year by the Fire and Community Development departments in preparation for implementation of new code amendments requiring ignition-resistant building materials and fire-resistant landscaping effective March 1. Fire Chief Mark Novak commended the Town Council for adoption of the amendments, citing them as a “measured step forward towards creating a safer community in the face of growing wildfire concerns.”
Community Wildfire Protection Plan
Adoption of Vail’s first-ever Community Wildfire Protection Plan took place in the spring following a two-year effort involving critical input from partner agencies and other stakeholders. The plan addresses 5 main goals with 11 strategies and 31 actions that are being used to reduce the risk of a highly impactful wildfire event in Vail. Examples of suggested actions identified in the plan include strategic implementation of fuels reduction projects, empowering community members to implement wildlife hazard mitigation activities on private property, development of tools to support businesses in preparedness and continually planning, as well as marketing strategies.
One-hundred eighty-three property owners took part in another season of free chipping services provided by Vail Fire. Additionally, all homes in the Booth Creek and Golf Course areas received a complementary curbside wildfire hazard evaluation. Residents were provided a copy of their evaluation and encouraged to contact the department with questions about defensible space or measures they could take to help protect their home from the threat of wildfire.
Grizzly Creek Fire
In August, Fire Chief Mark Novak and Police Chief Dwight Henninger penned a joint letter to the community asking everyone to be mindful of the heightened risk for wildfire in the area with the Grizzly Creek fire burning nearby in Garfield County and western Eagle County. “Let this fire serve as a reminder to all of us that there’s no better time than now, no matter where you live, to prepare an evacuation plan well ahead of a future emergency.”
Vail Evacuation Plan
With the Grizzly Creek fire still burning, Vail’s police and fire chiefs hosted a timely conversation about Vail’s Emergency Evacuation Plan, reasons the town may need to be evacuated and how to personally prepare for an evacuation. The conversation was hosted via a special Facebook livestream event on Aug. 31 with participants directed to learn more at www.vailgov.com/evac.
2020 was a record year for fires in Colorado with the three largest fires ever recorded in Colorado all occurring in 2020. The magnitude of the 2020 fire year was due in part to the ongoing drought that Colorado is experiencing as well as ongoing forest health issues. Response to wildland fires was further challenged by COVID-19 safety precautions which complicated many of the logistics associated with fighting large wildland fires. The 2020 wildland fires reinforced the need for every person to have a personal wildfire action plan that includes a “to go list” as well as an evacuation plan. These fires also emphasized that the survival of a home is largely dependent upon the actions taken before a fire occurs which will make it resistant to wildfire generated embers. In support of the wildland fire suppression effort in Colorado, personnel from Vail Fire and Emergency Services deployed to 21 wildland fires. Due to the long duration of several Colorado fires, Vail Fire deployed crews to the same fires multiple times. Fires with multiple Vail Fire deployments included Pine Gulch and Cameron Peak. Other notable fires to which Vail Fire deployed included Grizzly Creek and East Troublesome.
Fire Prevention Week
The Fire Department went virtual to promote National Fire Prevention Week which took place Oct. 4-10. Unable to host the annual open house format at the West Vail Fire Station or do their regular classroom visits due to the pandemic, firefighters were featured in safety videos to emphasize this year’s theme, “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen.”
The Fire Department joined other local agencies in introducing Community Connect, a new online platform at Eagle County Community Connect that allows residents and commercial property owners to share critical information about their household or property with first responders. Users simply create a profile and enter critical property and occupant information which is then made available to public safety agencies at the time of dispatch.
In December, Fire Chief Mark Novak announced the Vail community had maintained an excellent insurance rating following an assessment of the department’s suppression resources by the Insurance Services Office. ISO is an independent company that serves insurance companies and others by providing information about risk. The excellent rating for fire suppression services could result in reduced insurance rates for some customers.
Police responded to close to 34,500 calls for service, and wrote approximately 1,490 incident reports and 288 traffic crash reports during the year. Officers arrested nearly 430 people, issued citations to over 870 people and issued over 1,230 warnings for traffic and code violations. Detectives investigated 84 new cases in 2020 while also managing cases from previous years. The department’s clearance rate for part 1 crimes (theft, burglary, robbery, assault, arson, etc.) was 42.8%, which is very high, which was aided by the arrests of multiple suspects responsible for numerous similar crimes like bike and vehicle theft.
Surveillance Camera Footage
Surveillance camera footage was shared with the public during numerous instances throughout the year to assist in investigating a variety of incidents, including a New Year’s Day assault, vandalism of an ice sculpture, various thefts, including high-end bicycles and vehicles, as well as residential burglaries. Community members provided leads in assisting the department in identifying persons of interest and suspects, including a 23-year-old man charged with second degree assault, a 22-year-old woman charged with criminal mischief, and a 29-year-old woman and a 42-year-old man charged with 18 felonies for their alleged role in the thefts of a vehicle and high-end mountain bikes.
Former IT Director Arrested for Stealing, Other Crimes
Police arrested Ron Braden, the town’s former Information Technology Director, in July following an 18-month investigation that began after Braden’s resignation in November 2018. Braden’s absence from the town exposed an elaborate scheme to defraud taxpayers over a six-year period. Braden was charged with multiple crimes including violations of the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act, embezzlement of public property, theft, official misconduct, forgery and assault on a peace officer. Due to the scope of the case, Vail received manpower and investigative assistance from the FBI. A co-conspirator, Eric E. Nastri of Denver, was also arrested and charged. The case took a tragic turn in November when Braden cut off his court ordered GPS monitoring device as he was awaiting trial and fled the state. A week later he was located in Arizona and died by suicide as authorities were attempting to contact him. Nastri pled guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering and because of his continuing cooperation he was sentenced to 30 days in jail, 10 years’ probation and ordered to pay $156,000 in restitution to the Town of Vail.
Police arrested a 51-year-old Vail man in August, charging him with first degree assault with a deadly weapon, felony menacing, harassment and animal cruelty after allegedly stabbing a man in a neighborhood park.
A 37-year-old man was taken into custody and charged with shooting his roommate during an argument between the two in December. The victim suffered non-life threatening injuries.
Eagle Valley Mental Health
The Eagle Valley Co-responder Team completed its second year of service. The co-responder team consists of law enforcement, mental health clinicians from the Hope Center and Eagle County Paramedics. The team handled 23 calls in Vail and 99 calls countywide. The Hope Center handled 384 direct report/phone calls for mental health assistance in 2020. The Hope Center and Eagle Valley Behavioral Health have increased mental health resources so successfully, most mental health calls are going directly to a clinician, which has been one of the goals of the program since inception.
Let’s Be Blunt
The Police Department, in partnership with Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, launched a media campaign aimed to educate residents and visitors about the Colorado marijuana laws while inspiring responsible and lawful use through a series of light-hearted and relatable visuals on social media, bus ads and more. The Let’s Be Blunt campaign was introduced in February and continued through the year with high praise from industry representatives.
Liquor and Tobacco Checks
The Police Department assisted the Colorado Department of Revenue Liquor and Tobacco Enforcement Division with compliance checks during the holiday season. The checks were conducted at bars, restaurants, retail liquor stores, grocery stores and gas stations. Only three of the 21 businesses checked were found to be in violation of Colorado law.
Drone Added as Public Safety Tool
In July, the police and fire departments added an unmanned aerial vehicle as a new public safety tool. The drone allows first responders to quickly gain situational awareness by providing a safe and efficient aerial observation and perspective on law enforcement and other public safety incidents.
Coffee with a Cop
Showing its commitment to community involvement, the Police Department hosted a virtual Coffee with a Cop event in May with Chief Dwight Henninger and other members of the department answering questions about the new public health orders and their impacts on Vail, the department’s new online reports process as well as community concerns and questions.
Vail signed on to a countywide animal control code in August that allows for consistent enforcement throughout the county. This included adoption of a map showing locations of off-leash areas allowed in town.
National Drug Take Back
In addition to the Police Department’s year-round disposal site for unused household medications located in the Municipal Building, police participated in a National Drug Take Back event in October. The event was coordinated by the Safe Disposal Program, which is a partnership involving the Police Department, Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, Eagle River Water & Sanitation District and Vail Health.
Chain Possession Inspection
The Police Department continued to partner with the Colorado State Patrol to ensure the safety of the traveling public by conducting vehicle chain possession inspections. State law requires trucks to carry chains from September through May when traveling on Interstate 70.
Vail Police joined other local agencies in assisting Catholic Charities and Eagle County’s Law Enforcement Immigrant Alliance with its 10th annual coat drive. The children’s coats were collected during the fall and distributed to local kids and families in need. Over the last several years, the coat drive has distributed over 4,000 coats to those requesting assistance.
Shop with a Cop
A new format was used for Shop with a Cop in December, due to safety protocols. The event allowed local elementary school children to be paired with a law enforcement officer to shop for holiday gifts for themselves and family members. Officers then fulfilled that list, wrapped and delivered the gifts to the families during a drive-through event.
Social Justice Police Reform
Law enforcement personnel joined with local protesters to decry the killing of George Floyd in a march of over 1,000 people in Vail Village on June 3. In an open letter to the community, Police Chief Dwight Henninger and other law enforcement leaders wrote “Eight minutes and 46 seconds. That’s how long a knee was senselessly, cruelly, and yes … criminally, held to the neck of George Floyd in Minneapolis, resulting in his death. Eight minutes and 46 seconds is also how long it took for four officers … one with criminal intent, and the other three without the courage to stand up to a peer officer, to erase any gains in trust and goodwill, that policing has worked so hard to earn in recent years, since the Ferguson, Missouri, incident… We’ve not heard or spoken to one officer who isn’t shocked and angered by what they saw on that video from Minneapolis, but sadly, in many jurisdictions that won’t matter. The broad brush of corruption and brutality, which exists in some agencies, paints much more thickly than the precise but fragile little brush of honor, goodness, and trust… Please work with us to continue the building of trust and equality for all in Eagle County."
Summer Art Installations
Art in Public Places commissioned two outdoor installations during the summer. Evoking a sense of joy, happiness and whimsy, these colorful installations by Colorado artists brightened two highly visible locations. The Ladies Fancywork Society adorned the front entrance and atrium of the Vail Public Library with a playful large-scale crocheted yarn installation titled “The Hatchery.” The painting collective Jason T. Graves and Remington Robinson enlivened the main entrance and top deck of the Vail Village parking structure with their large-scale signature style murals.
Free Seasonal Art Walks
The popular free seasonal Art Walks were offered on selected Wednesdays during the winter season until the tours were suspended during the pandemic shutdowns in March. The tours resumed during the summer months according to local COVID-19 guidelines for gatherings.
Fourteenth Annual Vail Winterfest
Sponsored with Doe Browning
While the Lantern Making Workshops and Lantern Walk did not occur as in the past, the reimagined Fourteenth Annual Winterfest was a festive celebration continuing this beloved family tradition. Highlighting community, connection and unity, an installation of 20 illuminated ice sculptures representing lanterns from across the globe was installed on the Gore Creek Promenade. This picturesque setting allowed for a safe, socially distanced art experience. The variety of sculpted lanterns reflected Vail's presence as an international mountain resort community, showcasing influences from Vail's friendship cities including Yamanouchi, Japan; San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; and St. Moritz, Switzerland. Premiering alongside the ice sculptures was an exhibition of over 100 lanterns created by Vail Mountain School students above the International Bridge. Guests and residents were invited to create their own lantern through video instruction with Alpine Arts Center and complimentary lantern kits provided through Art in Public Places for public display.
2019 AIPP Capital Projects
Golf & Nordic Clubhouse
The interior enhancements continued at the Golf and Nordic Clubhouse with the installation of a hand carved wood installation within the main stairwell by Mexican artist Emilio García Plascencia titled “In Praise of Shadows.”
Deemed an essential service, Vail Public Library served its patrons in extraordinary ways during the pandemic, following the protocols provided by Eagle County Public Health for the safe use of public spaces. After a two-and-a-half month building closure which necessitated implementation of a curbside pick-up program, the library reopened for in-person services in June and continued operating daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The following steps were taken to prioritize the health and safety of the community:
In-person services inside the library building were limited to one hour daily for returns, browse-and-checkout and computer use. The maximum number of patrons and staff allowed in the building at one time was determined by library administration.
Seating areas, children’s room, community room, study room and Tech Studio remained closed.
Masks and social distancing were required of all patrons and staff; gloves were required for use in the periodical lounge.
Front door pickup was offered to patrons who did not wish to enter the building.
The after-hours book drop at the front of the library remained open. Patrons were asked to return materials to the book drop or the cart in the library galleria. Appropriate isolation and disinfecting procedures were completed before returning items to circulation.
Restrooms remained open to the public.
The Synexis dry hydrogen peroxide microbial reduction system was installed in the building and was in use continuously to clean the air.
Lastly, the library’s cleaning service thoroughly cleaned and disinfected the entire library according to protocols with special attention to all touchpoints.
Even during a pandemic, the library successfully provided diverse services and materials to patrons and libraries throughout the state. In particular, the library’s virtual collections, which feature downloadable books, audios, movies, periodicals and streaming online resources, were increasingly more popular in 2020 as patrons enjoyed these materials from the safety of their homes.
Children’s Services @ your library
Story time and Kids Create programs swiftly pivoted into virtual and take-home activities during the pandemic highlighting the staff’s creativity, resourcefulness and commitment to the library’s young patrons with programming originating from the homes of staff members via Facebook Live. Vail joined the ranks of libraries across the country offering craft “Take & Make” activities that parents could pick up for their story time and Kids Create extension activities. Several programs were lost to the pandemic, including the annual Harry Potter event, Touch a Truck and in-person Summer Reading Program. There were bright spots, too, including formation of a Tween Book Club in May and Girls Who Code in August. Scarecrow building went virtual and letters to Santa replaced the annual family holiday party. Creative thinking, teamwork and support from the Colorado State Library helped to round out a year different in so many ways with lessons for all.
Bilingual Story Time and “New” Spanish Story Time
Bilingual Story Time was offered in person every Saturday at the beginning of the year. When COVID hit, the library started offering a daily virtual Story Time by Facebook Live, including the Saturday Bilingual Story Time. Due to the popularity in September for Hispanic Heritage month, a Spanish Story Time was added for the Spanish-speaking community on Friday mornings with participants extending beyond the valley and from throughout the U.S. and other countries.
Healthy Lifestyle Series
The 2020 Healthy Lifestyle Series was the library’s primary programming focus. Within a month of the pandemic, staff began offering virtual classes via Zoom: Zumba fitness every Monday evening and Gentle Yoga on Mondays and Wednesdays. Yoga became so popular that a third class was added on Fridays.
Evenings of Engagement @ your library
Due to COVID-19. the library had to pospone all in-person programing beginning in April. Virtual formats allowed for a concert in September with Michael Gabriel as well as monthly Books ‘n Bites discussions. The library also hosted a 3-part virtual Shakespeare series, “Meet Will Shakespeare: An introduction and book club – The Bard doesn’t have to be hard.” The library’s senior outreach also moved to a virtual format wiith Sensational and Super Seniors. Gentle Yoga continued to be offered to seniors in partnership with Caregiver Connections on Monday afternoons. And each month a new virtual Book Discussion is hosted for the library’s senior friends.
One Book, One Valley
The ninth year of the county-wide community reading initiative, One Book One Valley, kicked off revealing the title “I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter” by author Erika Sanchez. From January through mid-March, the library offered related programming. However, the pandemic hit just prior to an in-person author event. The activity was moved to a virtual format and in September two virtual finales were held with the author. As this valley-wide reading initiative gains momentum each year, the library continues to benefit from the generosity of community donors who seek to ensure its continued success. In 2020 the library received two grants – $1,000 from 1st Bank and $1,000 from Education Foundation of Eagle County – which helped defray the cost of the author’s honorarium.
Common Cents for Colorado
Like much of the library’s programming in 2020, the Common Cents for Colorado financial literacy initiative was significantly curtailed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, one class on Personal Financial Management and Identity Theft Protection was provided virtually to the Vail Mountain School senior class at the request of VMS administration.
National Library Week
The annual tradition of offering a “fine free” period in April in recognition of National Library Week did not take place this year as the library was closed. However, due to the challenges presented by COVID-19, fines were waived for all items returned during the library closure from March 15 to June 1. This resulted in $3,663 in fines waived during this period.
Friends of Vail Public Library
This group of beloved donors and volunteers rallied in a year of pandemic, bringing in donations and support to help with library services and programming. Friends’ donations allowed the library to expand digital access while the library was closed, provided additional support for the StoryWalk® Project in Bighorn Park, enabled the library to digitize several years of the Vail Trail through the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection and provided funds for a new larger capacity printer for staff. In February, the Friends Annual Champagne Celebration was a success with record attendance and a theme of “Love Your Library,” a mere month before the library was forced to close its doors when the pandemic hit. The Annual 4th of July Book & Bake Sales had to be cancelled and the library ceased allowing book sale donations. However, the volunteer-run Book Sale Nook at the library, which sells donated and used books year-round, remained open and raised approximately $1,400. As the year was ending, the annual Friends of the Library appeal had collected over $34,000 from generous patrons.
Grants awarded @ your library
The library enjoyed a stellar year in grant awards. In January, staff successfully applied for an NEA Big Read grant through Arts Midwest in celebration of the 10th Anniversary of One Book One Valley. In April, the library was notified it had been awarded $9,150 to be used towards purchasing books for the community, marketing, programming and the Finale Author event.
In the summertime, the library applied for a CARES Act Grant so that it could make a StoryWalk in Eagle County become a reality. It was the perfect time to introduce a new way in which families could engage safely in the beautiful outdoors. A week after the application was submitted, the library learned it had been awarded $7,500 for the StoryWalk and an additional $2,500 to be used to increase its collection of digital resources.
Lastly, Holy Cross Energy awarded a Community Giving grant of $5,000 to be used for the library’s Vail Valley Voices project as well as digitization of the Vail Trail project.
Digital Archives Initiative
The library's collection of digitized materials grows every year, including oral histories, transcripts, scanned photographs and various documents. New this year was creation of "History Nuggets," which are shorter, condensed snippets of a specific oral history. These nuggets are fun and quick ways to hear a portion of a personal history. The newest addition to the library's digital initiative lives at the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection, which has started digitizing the Vail Trail.. The years 1965-1973 of the Vail Trail were digitized in 2020. Additional years of the Vail Trail will be added as time and funds permit. A related offshoot from the Digital Archives initiative is the Preserving Our Cultural Heritage team which formed in 2019 and has met monthly throughout 2020. This team is comprised of members from most town departments and serves to preserve Vail’s cultural heritage as part of Town Council’s Action Plan and fulfills a component of Vail’s Sustainable Destination certification.
Sustainable practices @ your library
For the sixth consecutive year, Vail Public Library was part of Actively Green. The library was also the proud recipient of the 2020 Sustainable Destination Dedication Award. Sustainable practices include recycling, composting, carpooling and mass transit use, plus the library’s green roof for self-cooling and heating. Library staff also try to shop locally and assist local artists by offering them the opportunity to showcase their art for free in the Fireside Lounge. As a result of the Actively Green program, the library applied once more for the Colorado Environmental Leadership Program; Vail is the only library in the state that is gold level certified in this program. As its legacy, the library continues to strive to be a living building, a vibrant example of ‘how to’ for public spaces and improvement in the human environment as well as the outside world.
Fernando Almanza – 40 Under 40
Vail Public Safety Communications Center Dispatcher Fernando Almanza was selected as one of the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s prestigious “40 under 40” award recipients. The annual IACP award recognizes 40 law enforcement professionals under the age of 40 from around the world who demonstrate leadership, exemplify commitment to their profession and have a positive impact on their communities.
Dwight Henninger – International Association of Chiefs of Police
Police Chief Dwight Henninger was sworn-in to the executive board of the International Association of Chiefs of Police in the role of first vice president during a virtual ceremony Oct. 23. Henninger will become president in September 2021.
President’s Commission on Law Enforcement
Chief Henninger took part in the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice initiative established by President Trump which released its final report in December with specific measures to reduce crime and restore the public confidence in law enforcement. The commission set out to conduct an evaluation of the major issues affecting American law enforcement agencies and the communities they protect. Assisted by working groups, the effort focused on national issues that most impact the efficacy of law enforcement to safeguard the public and maintain a positive relationship with their communities. Chief Henninger served on the Rural and Tribal Working Group.
Vail Interfaith Chapel
The town issued an official proclamation in December noting the Vail Interfaith Chapel’s iconic place in the town’s history as a historic and cultural center. The proclamation was in support of the chapel’s 50th anniversary capital campaign.
Board and Commission Appointments
Board and Commission appointments during the year included: Rollie Kjesbo, Ludwig Kurz, Henry Pratt and Pete Seibert to the Planning and Environmental Commission; Kit Austin, David Campbell and John Rediker to the Design Review Board; Susanne Graf, Tracy Morrison Gordon and Courtney St. John to the Art in Public Places Board; Kirk Hanson and Michael Szmaida to the Vail Local Licensing Authority; Steve Lindstrom and Greg Moffet to the Vail Housing Authority; Alison Wadey, Marco Valenti, Douglas Smith and Nicholas Conover to the Vail Commission on Special Events; and Esmarie Faessler, Kam Bozich, Scott Gubrud, Lianna Moore and Michael Holton to the Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Council.
In December, Beth Slifer was honored with a Mayoral Proclamation for her outstanding role as chairperson of the Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Council. After serving as chair for more than 20 years, Slifer decided not to seek reappointment upon completion of her current term.
Chris Southwick filled a newly created position of mobility innovation coordinator for the town with responsibilities ranging from grant writing and management to helping to implement new transportation technologies.
Following a hiring freeze and adjustments to seasonal positions due to reduced service levels, the town welcomed 82 rehires and new hires during the year, filling posts in the Finance and Communications departments, as well as seasonal jobs and part-time jobs, including six new Welcome Center advocates who were hired to help guests understand the pandemic guidelines and other guest service resources.
Promotions included: Lachlan Crawford to police sergeant; Miguel Jauregui Casavueva to lead code enforcement officer; and Alex Jakubiec to revenue manager.
Rod Powell, Bob Lazier and 12 Others
Sadly, COVID-19 took the lives of Vail icons Rod Powell and Bob Lazier in the early days of the pandemic as well as a dozen others as the year ended. The community grieved for the lives lost and livelihoods impacted.
Jeff Shriffin passed away unexpectedly in February. The father of Olympian Mikaela Shriffin, Jeff was an anesthesiologist with Vail Health and Anesthesia Partners of Colorado. The Jeff Shiffrin Athletic Resilience Fund was established in his memory to aid ski and snowboard athletes with travel, training and other expenses to “keep the flame alive” ahead of the 2022 Olympics in Beijing.
The community lost other notables during the year: Penny Circle, chief of staff and executive assistant to former President Gerald R. Ford, serving in that role for 30 years; Barbara Mooney, who along with her husband Albert, built Casa de Luna in Vail in 1961; James Mandel, former senior vice president of Vail Resorts Development and lead attorney in the company’s IPO; Josef “Pepi” Langegger, early restaurateur in Vail who was involved in opening of the Lancelot, Lord Gore, Blue Cow and Tyrolean restaurants as well as Golden Eagle Inn in Beaver Creek; Marijke Brofos, longtime local who managed one of Vail’s first ski shops, Vail Blanche; Connie Knight, a freelance writer who came to Vail in 1968 and was known locally for her social columns; and Lorraine Higbie, wife of Harley Higbie, one of Vail’s original investors, who opened one of Vail’s first ski shops, The Gondola Boutique with Gretta Parks.