Roger Marolt: Roger This | AspenTimes.com

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Roger Marolt: Roger This

When an Aspen local is driving a Range Rover, it’s just another jeep. How else would you be able to tell whether it is parked illegally? This appears as simple as it sounds, but it’s amazing how many people get confused.

There’s nothing like a uniformed official and a local trail poacher playing a game of “he said, he said” in the local papers to demonstrate how easily we can get fooled by a meaningless set of circumstances in determining who is right.

On April 7, when both parties should have been skiing brown slush instead, Aspen local Nikos Hecht allegedly parked his black Range Rover (aka a jeep) in front of a “no parking” sign situated directly below a “trail closed” sign so that he could go for a jog on said trail. We can guess that he intended only to be gone for a minute. Reports didn’t mention whether the engine of the jeep was left running.

After observing the jeep and issuing a warning ticket to it (since it was only an innocent victim), Pitkin County Trails and Open Space Ranger Trevor Washko “observed a man and a woman running down the (closed) trail.” Upon reaching the ranger, the man identified himself as Hecht and allegedly proceeded to act in a manner that will forever and eponymously change the expression formerly known as “I’m mad as heck,” at least in Aspen.

I don’t know for sure, but it was reported that Heck – I mean Hecht – told the ranger that he lived right up the road and had contributed $1 million toward the purchase of the Droste property and that the loose change left over from that was probably paying Washko’s wages.

What happened next is key. After Hecht – Heck? – allegedly made his outrageous claim to have contributed a million bucks to the government to help it buy this chunk of overpriced open space, Ranger Trevor didn’t call elk crap on him. The subtlety here is that Hecht, being a savvy local, knew enough that the best thing to do in a situation like this is to throw up a dust cloud and billow it with indignation and outrage. Washko, not having grown up here, didn’t know any better and went about his job of issuing a citation to Hecht without even questioning Hecht about the dubious claim of the sizable donation or indulging his tantrum.

It’s a classic case of local versus transplant, except in this instance, if you only consider the behaviors of each party, you might erroneously conclude that Hecht is the stereotypical obnoxious transplant while Washko is the grounded local. I’m afraid that many have done exactly this.

There have been letters to the editor coming to the defense of Washko and condemning Hecht. It’s been the consensus at dinner parties and post-office gatherings that Hecht is an A No. 1, first-class nincompoop and possibly even a bona fide jerk. Clearly people have not gotten the only fact that matters straight: The local is always right. Hecht is clearly the longer-standing local. End of trial in the press!

If Hecht was belligerent toward Washko, I’m sure there was a good reason. If Hecht swore at Washko, I’m sure he deserved it. If Hecht threatened to see to it that Washko lost his job because he was doing his job, he (Hecht) was only doing his job as a local. Think about this: If a trail ranger is allowed to give a local a ticket for jogging on a closed trail, what is to prevent a community-enforcement officer from issuing a ticket to a local double parked at the post office or in a handicapped space?

It is an unsettling change in this town that longtime locals are now often treated like regular people. We need to remember that being a longtime local has nothing to do with an ideal. It is certainly not about how you behave. It is not the gradual adoption of any mountain creed or principle over a period of contemplative residency. Decency, kindness, mellowness or even wisdom gained by marveling at one’s great fortune at being able to live here for an extended period of life has nothing to do with it. Respect? Pshaw! Plainly and simply, being a local is a title that we need to revere above all else.

The Droste trail incident needs to be closed. It doesn’t matter how Nikos Hecht behaved or what threats or outrageous claims he may have made that day when all he did was poach a closed trail – and park in a no-parking zone. He’s the local and is entitled to whatever he tried to take advantage of. Trevor Washko, you ought to be ashamed of yourself!