I am a Fraser Town Trustee with deep roots in the town of Winter Park. During my long community service tenure in our valley, I have consistently advocated for both close cooperation and possible consolidation of the towns of Winter Park and Fraser.
My father, Woody and my uncle Dwight built Miller’s Idlewild Inn in 1946 as the third ski lodge serving the Winter Park Ski area in the un-incorporated berg of Hideaway Park. I continue to marvel how two young men, both under 21, managed to design and erect a lodge hosting in excess of 100 guests on less than a shoestring budget.
My family sold the Inn to Nick Teverbaugh, who of course went on to serve the new town of Winter Park for 26 years as mayor.
I took my interest in valley politics to a full time avocation with the new Winter Park Manifest newspaper, founded 40 years ago – in 1977. I first served newspaper founder Jim Davidson and then paper purchaser Virginia Cornell (my Aunt) as political editor until the paper was sold to the Sky High News in 1984. I attended meetings of both towns during those years and often wrote about issues wherein the two communities might cooperate.
I moved full time to Fraser in 1995, living in my 100-year-old house at the corner of Doc Suzie and Mill Ave. for the past 22 years. My loyalty is, of course, to Fraser – but I also recognize it would be all but impossible for either Fraser or Winter Park to function without each other.
The recently completed Community Resiliency meetings identified the need to re-examine the 10-year-old study of the possible combining of Winter Park and Fraser. Not much has changed since the study which identified many issues which could lead a resident to support this idea.
First, and most obvious, is Fraser’s sales tax base is about one third that of Winter Park. We depend in large measure on sales tax to function, and most of this income comes from Safeway. The impact on this income of the new grocery store in Winter Park will soon be clear.
Second is the fact Winter Park was incorporated in 1979 and so has relatively junior water rights. Colorado water law is based on “first in line” getting water during dry years. In fact, Winter Park faced having its water system turned off during the drought in 2002; a last minute well-crafted deal prevented this from happening. Fraser was incorporated in 1953, and thanks to the vision of our “first family”; led by patriarch Chuck Clayton- some of our water rights date back to the later part of the 1800’s.
Clearly there are many reasons the two towns must work closely together. I fully support our town’s efforts to grow our business community – efforts which I believe will be successful. But I continue to believe both towns will achieve much loftier goals if we work closely together. One Resiliency meeting attendee noted, “I thought we were all in this together”.
We have made great strides already toward community cooperation. We share a police force. We share a building inspection department. Most importantly, we share responsibility for a transit system. We, of course, also share a long common boundary.
One expensive item coming up on both towns’ radar is to expand our respective public work’s facilities. Fraser is constrained to a relatively small in-town lot next to our town hall (the old Fraser School where my Father once served as Fraser District Superintendent K-12/ teacher/ school bus driver and coach). Winter Park is outgrowing its wetland constrained road shops by the north entry to the ski area.
Fraser’s boundary encloses a large area called West Mountain in the Grand Park development. A public works facility near the south end of this area could serve both towns, including the large neighborhoods already existing and likely to be developed in both communities west of the tracks.
In short we all need to envision how our two adjacent communities can best work cooperatively. Changes in ski area ownership and an uptick in the economy present both communities with economic opportunity. To best serve all residents and visitors, Winter Park and Fraser must work well together to take advantage of an opportunity which anyone with a history here knows rarely comes our way.