John Longhill: Short-term thinking in Silverthorne
Board supervisor, Middle Park Conservation District
It seems like the Silverthorne Town Council has taken the shortsighted approach with their decision to develop the most beautiful parcel of open space left in Silverthorne. Political expediency and short-term profits seem to be the guiding force behind the town’s decision to partner with developer Tim Crane.
The Smith Meadow, just north of town and next to the Willow Brook subdivision, is an agriculturally zoned parcel presently outside the Silverthorne city limits. It is soon to be annexed by the city so that it can be re-zoned and have “affordable housing” placed on it. With so many other fallow pieces of land within the city limits that could be upgraded and improved by a well-designed housing development, it makes one wonder what motivations prompted the town council to pick this beautiful view corridor to the Gore Range and home to countless species of wildlife.
This meadow provides a bounty of natural resources, including Willow Creek and its surrounding wetlands, a prehistoric “fen wetland,” a sub-alpine forest and at least three other wetland areas. These resources, so close to Silverthorne and surrounded by development on all sides, still provide forage and safety for a large herd of elk, families of moose, deer, fox, porcupine and various other wildlife that have utilized this native habitat since long before any of us were around. It is a shame that this priceless resource will be sacrificed and forever lost to future generations, because of selfish, shortsighted goals.
It is unfortunate that the reaction of many has been: “Well, it had to happen sooner or later, so let’s just hope it will be done tastefully.” This complacency is normal, given that we are surrounded with so much beauty and seemingly unlimited open space, but in truth that open space is not accessible to everyone (handicapped, infirm and elderly, for example). Nature and its beauty should be easily accessible to all residents of Summit County, and the best way to provide that is with open space and parks within or adjacent to our city limits.
If this attitude of complacency had prevailed at the turn of the 19th and early 20th century, then some of our most important conservation efforts and city parks would never have come to be. Our national park system, wilderness designations, Central Park, the Chicago park system and countless other gardens and parks are the result of brave politicians who made decisions to preserve our natural resources for present and future generations, in spite of political pressure. These forward thinkers, with long-term, broadminded perspectives, had an understanding of true stewardship and their efforts have resulted in the preservation of priceless natural gems that have benefited millions of people. Destroying irreplaceable wildlife habitat so close to our town core is like cutting off our nose to spite our face. It just doesn’t make sense.
The purpose of this letter is not to disparage the elected officials of Silverthorne and the planning department, who truthfully have done a good job mitigating Silverthorne’s industrial town layout with a workable master plan, providing pedestrian corridors and creating an atmosphere of intimacy in spite of a major vehicular parkway running through its center. It is only my hope that a broader view be taken when it comes to stewardship of our natural resources with greater responsibility to future generations, and when opportunities arise (like the Smith Meadow) that our elected officials will not sacrifice our future and those of our children for a very limited, short-term outcome.
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