Friday, February 26, 2010

Questioning the Soundness of "Red's" Plan

The following is a letter to the Durango Telegraph sharing further thoughts on why the dreams of developing Alberta Park at Wolf Creek Pass or its immediate surroundings should be canceled.

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February 17 Congressman Salazar held an informative VWC panel discussion with representatives from government, business, environmental groups, Mr. McCombs and Mr. Jones the developer. The Congressman’s goal was to get all the stakeholders together and find a path toward consensus so that the Village at Wolf Creek project could finally move forward.

Everyone seemed clear on why we need this project. Our mountains are desperate for economic stimulus. Mr. McCombs was optimistic in assuring us that he would build a first class luxury resort and provide local economic growth.

But, what services does this project provide? A luxury vacation get away that requires rich people willing to spend a lot of money. But, there are limited rich folks and most already have their retreats. As for the up and coming professionals, they have been taking serious financial hits and have become cautious with their money.

Panel member comments reflected an assumption that the status quo American business plan remains solid. I had to wonder: what’s that based on? What if our problems go deeper than getting back into the spending mode?

Look at economic indicators, something new and challenging is bearing down on America and the world. Our understanding of economic development is going to have to get smarter with an eye to sustainability, that is, nurturing the biosphere - which is after all our life support system.

There is reason for pessimism.
For instance, an internet search revealed *twenty-three luxury resorts gone bust, or close to it. Some of these foreclosures have abandoned hulking half built rusting monuments to hubris. These foreclosures span exclusive places throughout the world, indicating the risk.

There’s more, from the CoStar Group; Commercial Real Estate Information Company. April 22, 2009: “Just how tough a year 2008 was on property investment companies is evident in the fact that accountants for at least 15 firms issued "going concern" doubts in their year-end annual reports filed with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission.”

Is this the economic climate for gambling away a pristine high mountain watershed?

Also, being ignored is the medical situation at VWC. This parcel is at 10,000’, higher than any other US overnight resort. At 10,000’ our lungs absorb a third the oxygen as at sea level. This alone creates a raft of potential medical, marketing, even ethical, perhaps liability questions since medical experts advise against lowlanders spending nights at that extreme altitude.

SO. HELLO, All you folks with the “NO Pillage by the Village” bumper stickers. Our Call To Action Has Arrived! We have a rare, short lived, moment when thoughtful, reasoned arguments will be read. Each will carry some weight. Help pile the straws of reason upon this VWC camel. Decisions will be made in a matter of weeks that will set the course for the next years. If you have anything intelligent to say about why the Alberta Park area should remain unmolested NOW is the time to speak up, you’ll be heard. Spread the word. And write or call Congressman Salazar plus others.

Perhaps ask: Why is Congressman Salazar trying to accommodate a new land swap anyways? Why is Mr. McCombs’ risky speculation more important than the public’s long term needs? Why won’t Congressman Salazar take the lead and capitalize on this opportunity to recover the Alberta Park parcel, and return this gem to its rightful protected fold? What about the altitude sickness situation?

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