Fashion faux-pas in the forest



Designer Ralph Lauren's proposal for a land swap with the U.S. Forest Service has been sent back to the drawing board after encountering fierce local opposition.

The swap called for the Forest Service to give Lauren 525 acres, including part of a public-access road that runs through his Double RL ranch near Ridgway, Colo. In exchange, Lauren promised to give the agency 680 acres of ranch property that adjoins the Uncompahgre National Forest and to build a new road to access Box Factory Park, a popular recreation area.

Both parties thought it was a good deal. Lauren would gain privacy and relief from poaching, littering and illegal camping along the road, while the Forest Service would gain a buffer zone for the Mount Sneffels Wilderness Area.

"We felt (it was) a win-win situation," says Tom Harrington, the Double RL's ranch manager.

But the proposal sparked a flurry of letters to the editor and cries of outrage from some homeowners. Beth Bailis, whose home would be 100 yards from the new road, fears that hunters using the road would shoot into her backyard. She also worries that the road would disrupt wildlife that frequents the area, bring more vehicles close to the wilderness, and increase the risk of forest fires started by careless campers.

Now, all plans are on hold while Lauren and his representatives sift through the public comments and come up with new alternatives. Says Harrington, "We want to try and make people as happy as we can."

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