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For the week of July 12 through July 18, 2000

Ground work begins for Golden Eagle II

Growth on the western landscape

Earth movers shape the landscape along the Highway 75 corridor where there once was a field of alfalfa. Developer Harry Rinker will replace the hay with ponds, waterfalls, 3,500 trees and acres of native shrubs and blue grass green. Express photo by Willy Cook

Express Staff Writer

The platoon of earthmovers working over what was once a field of alfalfa north of Greenhorn Gulch Road represents the first stage of construction for phase II of the Golden Eagle Ranch subdivision.

Scrapers, graders, front-end loaders, giant backhoes and bulldozers are working the land like busy ants, but gigantic ants at that.

"Basically we’re just doing dirt work," said Jeff Plumber, a truck driver with Desert Sage Excavation. "We’re putting in fill over here and over there, we’re cutting down 20 feet for a pond.

"It’s like we’re a bunch of kids playing with our Tonka Toys."

Developer Harry Rinker will turn the 132 acre parcel into 27 high-end, spacious lots located adjacent to the existing first phase of the Golden Eagle Ranch subdivision.

Rinker said his part in the development involves the groundwork and landscaping of the property. Buyers then purchase the lots and build their homes through other contractors.

Rinker said that since putting the lots on the market a week ago–which sell for $500,000 to $1.5 million each—15 buyers have put down deposits.

"We’re very excited," Rinker said.

Residents of the Wood River Valley, however, have mixed emotions about growth and the dwindling open spaces along the Highway 75 Corridor.

Construction workers such as Plumber depend on growth and development to make a living and feed their families.

Some residents believe that open spaces and the valley’s scenic wonders add to their quality of life.

"America is a free country, Blaine County Commissioner Dennis Wright said in an interview. "We can’t put up a gate at the valley’s entrance and stop people from moving here."

Others believe that if they have the money, they should be able to build whatever and wherever they want.

Steve Wagoner lives on Timber Way, just north of Golden Eagle phase II.

"I’m very pleased it’s happening, it’s the best use of the land," Wagoner said. "The only thing better would have been a golf course."

Wagoner said the development represents good stewardship of the land since the zoning of the property could have allowed for more homes to be built.

Still conservationists and slow-growth activists can argue that before the land along Highway 75 was plowed over, foxes and coyotes could be seen on occasion hunting a thriving population of ground squirrels across fields of alfalfa. Elk and deer came down from Timber Gulch and grazed along the fringes. Now, there’s a vast construction site.

Rinker has earned the reputation for developing quality projects with an emphasis on aesthetic and environmental distinction.

He said that open space in general is an important attribute in the Wood River Valley and that preserving open space should be considered in the design of subdivisions.

"It’s very important to preserve open space within the development so you don’t destroy that quality," Rinker said. "What we’ve done is actively mindful of preserving open space."

Rinker said that in the first phase of the Golden Eagle Ranch only 50 percent of the permitted density was developed. Phase II, he said, will only have 25 percent of the homes allowed by the residential land use classification of the property.

Rinker said the development will include 23 acres of ponds and waterways, 250 feet of waterfalls, three miles of shoreline habitat for wildlife such as ducks and geese, 50 acres of native grasses and shrubs and 40 acres of bluegrass.

The grove of transplanted trees along Highway 75 to the south—which number 3,000 aspen, 300 spruce and 200 pine—will be used to landscape the property.

"Each lot will have a minimum of 35 trees, 20-to-35 feet tall," Rinker said. "It all adds to the environment in a very enjoyable way."

The entire landscaping project will be completed and planted by Nov. 30, and construction of homes will begin next spring, he said.


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