The Aspen City Council approved a $2.5 million purchase of the Dolinsek family property Monday, while praising the agreement that ensures the half-acre plot of land will remain open space in the heart of downtown.
The Dolinsek family — historically significant to Aspen for its role in developing some of the town’s first ski runs as well as helping establish the Aspen Ski Club — has owned the property for 125 years. In the agreement, John and Josephine Dolinsek reserve the right to live out their lives on the lot, which sits adjacent to the city-owned Lift 1A and Willoughby parks.
Howie Mallory, of the Open Space and Trails board, said the Dolinsek family is to be commended for approaching and working with the city for the past 17 years on an agreement that will help preserve a piece of an ever-crowding town. He said the long-term benefit will be a green space flowing from Lift 1A to Durant Avenue, with a nearly contiguous 1.5 acre stretch of space linking the now three city-owned parks.
“They came to us with their vision, their dream,” Mallory said. “And I think that’s a remarkable effort, as opposed to the city being forced into buying an open space property because there’s a threat of development.”
Parks Director Jeff Woods said the Dolinseks’ priority was not to make a significant profit but to keep the area a park-like asset to the general public. The property is valued at $5.18 million, according to the Pitkin County Assessor.
Austin Weiss, of the Parks Department, said the city does not know exactly what the community park will look like, but there are historical-interpretation and gardening opportunities.
In October, an attorney representing the Dolinsek family informed the city that John Dolinsek was interested in selling the property to the city for the development of a community park. The purchase had unanimous support from the Open Space and Trails Board — as well as the council at Monday’s regular meeting — to proceed with this acquisition.
“To have the opportunity to acquire this land before it is completely unattainable is miraculous, in some ways,” Councilwoman Ann Mullins said. “You end up with a park that is close to the size of Wagner Park. It’s such an extraordinary accomplishment by the city to get this park land in the center of downtown — it’s something that we probably will never be able to do again.”
Councilman Adam Frisch expressed interest in seeing more lodging density in Aspen but said the open space acquisition will allow breathing room for visitors and locals alike. Councilman Art Daily called the Dolinseks’ gesture “an act of love,” which he thanked them for.