Organizers are calling it possibly the biggest environmental celebration the Roaring Fork Valley has ever seen.
On August 2, The Maroon Bells 50th Birthday Party is scheduled to take place at the base of Aspen Highlands. The celebration coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act of 1964 that established the first 54 wilderness areas in the United States.
Chris Lane, the CEO of the Aspen Center of Environmental Studies, and Sloan Shoemaker, the executive director of the Wilderness Workshop, are spearheading a campaign to raise $43,000 to put on the celebration. Both men spoke at the county commissioners work session on Tuesday and received $5,000 from the county to help pay for the event.
All the commissioners supported the idea of the celebration, although commissioner Michael Owsley voiced his concern that $5,000 was setting a precedent and other worthy causes in the valley also would seek such a large amount from the county. Commissioners Rachel Richards, Steve Child and George Newman all voted to give the event the $5,000 they requested.
ACES, the Wilderness Workshop and the U.S. Forest Service are the three main institutions presenting the birthday bash.
“We want to celebrate this beautiful area and all the benefits it gives us,” Lane said.
Tentative plans include a host of wilderness-oriented activities during the day that culminates with a birthday celebration at the base of Aspen Highlands ski area. The birthday bash includes a keynote address from author Rick Bass, a headline band and two opening acts, food and beverages along with family and kids’ activities.
Last week, the city of Aspen agreed to donate $2,500 and said it possibly would add to that total if other entities helped financially to make the event more affordable for the public.
Newman said he supports the idea 100 percent and said it’s a great opportunity to celebrate something unique to Pitkin County.
“Hopefully you can now leverage our dollars to bring in more money through our municipalities,” he said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime event.”
Shoemaker said he hopes the event will draw up to 3,000 people throughout the course of the celebration. The initial plan is to charge the public $25 to attend with kids 12 and younger attending for free. The Highlands Alehouse will supply food and beverages.
From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., there will be educational activities provided, including trail work with the Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers, guided hikes with the Wilderness Workshop and the Aspen Youth Wilderness Conference with ACES.
He also hopes the celebration will raise awareness about the benefits of the local wilderness areas, as well as the stewardship challenges faced in the future.
“We’re going to have some great bands and inspirational speakers at the event,” Shoemaker said. “We’ve also invited representatives from the Ute Nation to come and celebrate with us.”