The temporary fencing in East Vail that protects bighorn sheep in the winter has cut down on animal deaths, but isn’t much to look at. That’s going to change.
The Colorado Department of Transportation this summer will begin a $3 million project to upgrade existing wildlife fence through parts of Vail and will add new barriers to keep animals off the highway.
The project covers two stretches of Interstate 70 through town. Fencing will be on both sides of the highway. To the west is a roughly 3-mile stretch from mile point 170.5 — just east of the Minturn exit — to milepost 173.3 in West Vail. On the east side of Vail, fencing will be installed between milepost 177.8 to 181.8. That stretch includes the East Vail interchange. That means the temporary fencing to protect bighorn sheep will be replaced with a permanent barrier.
The temporary fencing was first installed in 2020 by the town and Colorado Parks and Wildlife after three animals in the small herd were killed on or near the interstate that winter.
The fence did its job, but some residents complained about the fence’s appearance — a chain-link fence topped with coiled barbed wire.
During a Vail Town Council meeting in April of that year, Jenn Bruno, who was then a member of the council, said, “Barbed wire at the entrance to Vail … that’s not Vail.”
Bruno this week said she’s glad to hear that the current fencing will be replaced.
“It’s a horrible visual to have a prison-like fence in East Vail,” Bruno said. The project had to gain town approval, and Bruno said she has “100% trust” in the town’s boards to make proper decisions regarding the fence’s design.
“I don’t see how the current fence could have gotten through any of our boards,” Bruno said.
Vail Resident Bobby Lipnick said he was encouraged to learn about the project.
“I think it certainly makes sense,” Lipnick said, adding the fence could protect both animals and motorists. “I think it’s a great idea,” Lipnick said.
In addition to fencing along the interstate, the project — contracted to CC Enterprises of Grand Junction — will also repair broken fence sections, link into the existing fence and install nine wildlife game ramps. Those ramps will provide escape routes for animals that find themselves on the wrong side of the fence.
The work hours will be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Motorists should plan for single-lane closures, shoulder closures and flagging operations on the town’s frontage roads and nearby bike path. The project will shut down from November of this year until April of 2023.