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Mother-daughter to discuss life in Aussie outback

Aspen Real Life resumes its speaker series on Thursday with a mother-daughter conversation about Janie-Joseland Bennett's childhood on a cattle station in the Australian outback.

Bennett and her daughter Eleanor will be sharing stories from their monthlong journey traveling back in time to record Eleanor's upcoming podcast, "The Questions I Never Asked" — a biography on her mother's childhood on a cattle station situated alongside the Pitjantjatjara Aboriginal community in the remote Australian outback.

Eleanor is a freelance podcast producer and broadcast journalist covering issues of climate justice and women's empowerment.

The event starts at 4 p.m. at the Caribou Club. For more information, go to aspenreallife.com.

Women’s ski and march set for Saturday in Aspen

The third annual Women's Ski and March for Decency and Truth is set for Saturday morning at Aspen Mountain and Paepcke Park.

The Aspen event, which is hosted by the Pitkin County Democrats, coincides with women's events going on around the country.

For the past two years in Aspen, hundreds of people have gathered to ski and march.

Those interested in skiing first should meet at the gondola plaza at 10:30 a.m. Saturday to ski Aspen Mountain. After the descent, the group will leave the plaza at 11:45 a.m. to go to Paepcke Park on Main Street.

From noon until 1 p.m. there will be assorted speakers at the park. A march through Aspen is planned after the speakers finish.

Aspen Skiing Co. applies to build 148-bedroom workforce housing project at Willits in Basalt

Aspen Skiing Co. hopes to take a bite out of its affordable-housing needs by spending $15 million to build a 148-bedroom project in Willits Town Center.

Skico submitted an application to the town of Basalt at 4:30 p.m. Thursday for what it calls the Willits Workforce Housing Project.

"It's 100 percent workforce housing," said Philip Jeffreys, Skico project manager. "It's on a site that otherwise wouldn't have had (affordable housing)."

The company has a contract to purchase vacant land known as Block 9 at Willits. That property is along Willits Lane and flanked by a vacant lot purchased by the Steadman Clinic to the east and the future home of The Arts Center at Willits to the west.

Platform Ventures, the landowner and developer of much of Willits, has taken care of its affordable-housing obligations elsewhere in the project, so Block 9 was earmarked for a combination of commercial space on the ground floor and free-market residential housing above.

The site is perfect for high-density housing, Jeffreys said, because residents can walk two blocks to a major bus stop on the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority system and they are surrounded by services ranging from grocery stores to numerous bars and restaurants.

"I've been trying to do something at Willits since the day I was hired," Jeffreys said.

Skico enlisted him in fall 2016 specifically to work on housing issues.

If this project advances through the Basalt review process, it would be a $15 million investment by Skico, from property acquisition to infrastructure work and construction of the housing, Jeffreys said. Harry Teague Architects has been hired for the design. Skico hopes to build in 2019-20.

The project would have 36 units, including eight that are being offered as deed-restricted housing for workers in Basalt. The first priority would be child care professionals working at a day care center being contemplated nearby in Willits on property owned by the town government.

Jeffreys said Skico's offer to provide housing for child care workers could help make the day care facility more economically feasible.

The remaining 26 units at Willits Workforce Housing would go to Skico employees. Residences on the second floor of the three-story building would have a unique modern dormitory-style design, with four bedrooms clustered around a kitchen-dining area and small living room, with two additional bedrooms in lofts. The complex also would have one- two- and four-bedroom units.

"These units are admittedly and unapologetically small," said Jeffreys.

Skico needs to reap a large number of bedrooms in the project to make the investment pay off, he said. Parts of the units can be locked off from the remainder to make them compatible for families. However, it is anticipated that seasonal workers will live in the majority of the units in winters. They would be potentially available for rent to other workers during summers, which is Basalt's busiest tourist season.

"ASC's workforce units will take pressure off of the existing housing pool and provide additional capacity to area businesses in the summer season, thereby serving the community as a whole," Skico's application said.

Jeffreys said Skico's affordable housing shortage is going to intensify in the next few years. The company has 470 employees aged 60 years and older. Many of them live in free-market housing they acquired years ago.

"Due to current economic forces, replacement employees will not be able to move into free-market housing," Skico's application said.

Jeffreys said, "How do we replace them and where do we put them?"

Skico estimates it has 700 beds in its housing inventory, in Aspen and downvalley. Land costs in the upper valley are forcing it to focus on options in the midvalley. Skico has already developed a tiny home project in unincorporated Eagle County, adjacent to Basalt.

The application included a Frequently Asked Questions section that includes the entry: "Why should Basalt house Aspen Skiing Company's employees?"

Skico's own reply was it is one of the largest employers in Basalt, with roughly 80 employees in an office and warehouse. Skico purchased downtown offices for its finance, legal, planning, reservations and accounting departments.

A different section of the application estimated that the Willits Workforce Housing project would house at least 148 employees making an average of $35,000 annually. That adds more than $5 million in income annual to Basalt and an estimated $750,000 in annual spending at midvalley shops, restaurants and service providers.

Basalt Planning Director Susan Philp said Friday her department hasn't been able to check the application for completeness yet since it was just submitted. Once deemed complete, it will be scheduled for review by the planning and zoning commission. After an advisory vote, it will advance to Basalt Town Council. Councilman Auden Schendler, a Skico executive, will recuse himself, he confirmed previously.

The good news for Skico is Willits Town Center already has approvals. Skico must seek two amendments to make its project work, Jeffreys said. It must get permission to convert commercial square footage into deed-restricted community housing on the building's ground floor. The Block 9 building was pegged for between 7,200 and 7,600 square feet of commercial space, he said.

Second, it must ask the town to remove a "roommate cap" on the site. Basalt's municipal code prevents more than three unrelated parties from living in the same unit, regardless of unit size or bedroom count, according to Jeffreys.


Swift foundation accepting grant applications from local nonprofits working in education

The Bessie Minor Swift Foundation is accepting grant applications from Pitkin County and area nonprofits that promote literacy, reading and writing skills and programs in the languages, sciences and interdisciplinary areas.

The fund will consider applications for grants from $500 to $3,000. Applications will be accepted through Feb. 15 and recipients will be announced May 1.

The Bessie Minor Swift Foundation awards grants to organizations that provide direct service to help with the implementation or expansion of literacy programs for children who are below grade-level or experiencing difficulty reading, and also to develop reading and writing skills at all age levels. The foundation supports STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics), and occasionally supports programs for adults.

More than $530,000 in grants has been awarded since 2008. Last year, 36 organizations were awarded a total of $80,986.

The foundation prefers to consider grants for programs instead of grants strictly for purchase of technology. It also favors awarding grants to organizations that do not have access to large fundraising budgets and are local in nature. Grants are made only to nonprofit organizations certified as tax exempt.

The Bessie Minor Swift Foundation was formed by the owners and founder of Swift Communications, which owns and operates The Aspen Times and http://www.aspentimes.com.

Bessie Minor Swift was mother of Philip Swift, the founder of Swift Communications. Bessie was born in Onaga, Kansas, on June 29, 1887. She was raised in Kansas City, Missouri, and then moved to Blackburn, Missouri, where she taught school in a one-room schoolhouse.

Phil Swift said the importance of education was reinforced throughout his upbringing not so much through statements or concrete expectations, but more through the example of his mother's interest in English, reading, history and music.

For more information, go to bessieminorswift.org or send an email to grants@bessieminor​swift.org.

Christmas tree recycling at rodeo lot until Sunday

The town of Snowmass is encouraging residents to drop off their old Christmas trees at the town's tree recycling center for composting.

The composting dumpster will be located at the rodeo lot. Snowmass residents may drop trees off anytime until Sunday.

The town asks residents to ensure their tree is clear of all lights, ornaments, tinsel and other products that cannot be composted. Dumping these types of items into the container will contaminate the collection, according to the town.

All of the Christmas trees will then be composted at the Pitkin County Landfill. The compost will ultimately be available for the community to purchase and use.

More information on the composting process can be found at http://www.landfullrules.com.

Colorado state parks fees on rise for 2019; up $10 per vehicle

GREELEY — Entry fees at all of Colorado’s 41 state parks are increasing on Jan. 1.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife says daily passes for vehicles, individuals and off-leash dogs will increase by $1. The 2019 charges are up to $10 per vehicle, depending on the park; $4 for an individual and $3 for an off-leash dog.

Annual vehicle passes are increasing from $70 to $80 while a hang tag that can be used on any vehicle will cost $120.

The Tribune of Greeley reports the increase will be the first for park entry fees since 2010. The money will be used to address increased operating costs, provide adequate staffing and maintenance and continue to offer quality programs and services.

Colorado Mountain College students earn photography accolades

Three Colorado Mountain College professional photography students are echoing the success of other CMC alumni in the world of photography.

Since 2011, the international College Photographer of the Year competition has given 15 awards to CMC students. This year’s competition received nearly 10,000 entries from 550 student photographers attending 126 colleges and universities in 17 countries.

CMC’s Stephanie Stocking recently earned a silver award for her image, “Cisco Remains,” in the CPOY’s interpretive eye category. Fellow CMC student Dustin Gregory won an award of excellence in the competition’s photo illustration category for his image, “Layers of Time: Day to Night in Canyonlands.”

And students are breaking through in new areas, according to a press release issued by CMC. A third photography student and Global Imagination Scholarship recipient, Laurel Smith, recently created a short film that’s bringing public attention to the plight of Araceli Velasquez. An asylum seeker from El Salvador, Velasquez has entered sanctuary in a Denver church, which she has not been able to leave for over a year.

Smith, Stocking and Gregory join two CMC photography alumni, Guadalupe Laiz and Jeremy Joseph, who have also achieved recent success. Originally from Buenos Aires, Laiz studied photography at CMC. This fall, she signed a book deal with teNeues, a global publishing company, for her work photographing the horses of Iceland. She recently opened a gallery in Aspen.

Joseph’s outdoor adventure photography is currently on view at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. With work selected to be included in the highly competitive 2018 “Nature’s Best Photography Windland Smith Rice International Awards” exhibit, Joseph is recognized as a highly honored winner in the outdoor adventure category for an image made during a climb of Mount Rainier.

The college’s professional photography program is under the umbrella of CMC’s Isaacson School of Communication, Arts and Media.

“Our students continue to win acclaim on an international level,” said Derek Johnston, director of the college’s photography program.

Christmas tree drop-off sites are open

Aspen and Snowmass officials are encouraging residents to drop off their old Christmas trees at recycling centers for composting and mulch.

In Aspen, residents can take trees to the Rio Grande Recycling Center until Feb. 14. In Snowmass, the composting dumpster will be located at the Rodeo Lot until Jan. 6.

All trees need to be clear of all lights, ornaments, tinsel and other products that cannot be composted.

Hearing set in Aspen on Wednesday for Crystal Valley Trail

The Pitkin County commissioners will hold a public hearing during a second reading of the Carbondale to Crested Butte Trail Plan at their meeting Wednesday.

The commissioners' meeting begins at noon but there are a handful of items before the trail plan will be considered. The meeting is in the commissioners' meeting room at the Pitkin County administrative building.

The commissioners approved a first reading of the trail plan Nov. 7. If adopted at second reading, it authorizes the staff to submit an application to the U.S. Forest Service for review of a trail segment from Redstone to the summit of McClure Pass. An application also would be submitted to the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Further planning would be necessary for trail segments between the KOA campground 6 miles south of Carbondale and Redstone.

"The plan is a vision of what is possible for the Carbondale to Crested Butte Trail in Pitkin County with recommended phasing," said a memo to the commissioners from the open space and trails staff. "All segments can stand alone, so if no other segments are completed, the created trails will connect people to places or trailheads."

S.A.W. in Carbondale hosts Saturday celebration and art sale

The Studio for Arts & Works, also known as S.A.W., will bring in the Christmas season with its “S.A.W.liday” celebration from 2 to 7 p.m. Saturday at 525 Buggy Circle in Carbondale.

The free event will have creative professionals opening their studios and sharing their handmade jewelry, weavings, photography, pottery, prints, sculpture, paintings, living plants, floral arrangements and more.

A silent art auction will be held to raise funds to purchase trees that will be planted along the Rio Grande Trail behind the studio.

Local musician Wes Engram will play guitar, sing and play his bass drum from 4 – 6 p.m.

The Biscuit Truck will be on hand serving food.

For more information on the event or S.A.W. artists, visit sawcarbondale.com