Gustafson: Finally looking forward: Now let’s talk! | AspenTimes.com

Gustafson: Finally looking forward: Now let’s talk!

Like drawing in that first invigorating breath of icy air as you step out the door in January, a crisp, somewhat unfamiliar breeze of optimism is filling my senses. A synergy that has long felt lost in Snowmass appears freshly reawakened with the merger between Skico and its two partners. This coalition seems to promise at least a glimpse into the light at the end of our Base Village woes.

If there were only one thing we all — and I mean all residents (full- and part-time), business owners, workers, visitors and other stakeholders — have collectively agreed upon for the past decade, it was "please finish Base Village." So it feels oh so good to hear it even if it is only poetic prose.

We needed to hear it so we could finally grow up, and in this moment we can collaboratively begin to decide what we want to be someday, when we are all grown up.

Maybe we are ready to move beyond the timeless debate of is Snowmass a resort or a community?

As a global citizen, a community member or even an individual, we have a responsibility to talk considerately, productively and with true self-accountability if we have any hope of becoming civically and socially responsible in shaping a collective narrative into a dream come true.

My answer to this question has always been "yes," invoked by a much wiser and more eloquent Snowmass local, who has answered the same question, the same way throughout her lifelong residency here and her love affair with Snowmass.

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Yes, we are a resort and a community. And how lucky are we to be one and the same!

And now is also the time for radical self-accountability. Again, those are not my words, but I fully embrace that challenge presented by a colleague of mine. For many, this past election season exposed what we already knew deep down to be true. We must do more than simply vote our values, for when our voices are lost we must actually become the change we want to see.

Self-accountability might just be the only thing we have left with which to secure any sense of future.

As a global citizen, a community member or even an individual, we have a responsibility to talk considerately, productively and with true self-accountability if we have any hope of becoming civically and socially responsible in shaping a collective narrative into a dream come true. Wishful thinking? Perhaps, but I always tell my kiddos, "When you make a wish you plant a seed."

With many of us feeling that the new momentum to complete Base Village is the best thing born of 2016, we are cautiously optimistic, giddy in some silly ways and dreaming about the essence of Snowmass returning in the upcoming years.

So the timing for the town's efforts to rewrite the Comprehensive Plan seems ideal. The second community event takes place Jan. 10 during an open and public forum "Visioning Session."

The "Plan Snowmass" process has begun and will last until October. This effort could help guide and provide direction to the town when making decisions relating to physical and cultural development. So your thoughtful and, yes, self-accountable input is critical — after all this is our town.

What's best for me isn't always the best course of community action. Walking in another's shoes requires a selfless, even altruistic technique. Let us try to bring to the table an open-minded and considerate approach as we debate our future.

We have a lot of great challenges and good, exciting puzzles to solve, and with thoughtful collaborative examination, we can take some huge leaps and avoid useless conundrums.

Here are some choice quandaries into which I would love to delve deeper with the help of other thoughtful community members:

• For some, myself included, it is vitally important to maintain the current green space we have. Continuing to protect our open space should be a primary issue. I think immediate access to nature is imperative! Others may see Snowmass as underdeveloped and not dense enough to compete with Aspen for visitor dollars. I think we can improve on the pockets of development that we already have underway.

• As we evolve, I would personally like to retain a good dose of rural character, those ungroomed features that separate us from other ski-resort communities. I hope we can find a way to improve our town while avoiding an over-urbanized effect, but some would like to see sidewalks and traffic lights.

• I believe in incubating new businesses. We can create a setting for our visitors that cannot be duplicated and for a new generation of travelers now seeking the "unique," in part by continuing to encourage local entrepreneurs, restaurateurs and business owners. This in turn can strengthen our individuality and destination appeal. But I also understand that it realistically is very challenging to do this.

• Our town is moving toward being more conscious about its carbon footprint and seeking ways to provide some pockets of sustainable agricultural and other practices such as composting opportunities for residents. How can we best nurture these exciting and innovative ideas?

• Consistent issues remain: Offseason is — still — a blessing and a curse. And housing. Oh, housing?

• I also think it's important to avoid counterproductive overstatements and stereotyping, i.e., "All full-time residents want everything to stay the same, but all second homeowners want more culture, more arts, more activities," etc. I disagree with both extreme interpretations of either statement.

• Another noticeable concern is that currently there is very little connectivity between the three existing nodes: Base Village, Snowmass Center and the Mall. How can we move people up, down and around mountain slopes more efficiently?

• I noticed a while back that Snowmass has lost our main gathering spaces over the years. As a result, some emotional connectivity feels missing. I'd like to see more permanent gathering spaces and maybe a performing arts center perhaps integrated with the upgraded Discovery Center.

• Finally, there was one sentiment that came across loud and clear during the project kickoff. We don't want to be like Aspen —we all fear the potential of that. We want to stay family-friendly, more affordable, down to earth and more inviting. Glad we agree on a few things!

If any of these ponderous sentiments get you excited — and there are plenty more where these came from — remember this is a historically significant new era, and in our fortunate little niche of the world we each still have a voice. Consider joining the community discussion Jan. 10, and please hold yourself accountable when you contribute.

Let's exchange a piece of my mind for a little peace of mind, after all, if we always agree what will we talk about? Britta Gustafson appreciates an open mind; share yours and email her at brittag@ymail.com.

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