Aspen goes plastic to preserve park |

Aspen goes plastic to preserve park

ASPEN Patrons of the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen will see less grass under the tent this year.The City Council on Monday decided to rent event flooring to protect the turf on Wagner Park. The move is designed to be an experiment to alleviate the wear and tear on the heavily-used open space in downtown Aspen. If it works, flooring could be purchased for year-round special event use at an estimated cost of $530,000.How much flooring will be placed under the grand tasting tent has not yet been determined. But if its the entire area, Food & Wine Magazine representatives might have a problem with that.If the event had to be 70,000 square feet of flooring, the magazine would consider taking the event somewhere else, said Mike Morgan, a representative for Food & Wine. He added that he and the organization are committed, as always, to working with the city to minimize the impacts to Wagner Park for the 12 days Food & Wine uses the space, and are willing to use flooring in high-traffic areas.The parks and recreation department closes Wagner Park for a month in the spring for restoration; it’s opened just before Food & Wine. That effort costs about $12,000.The citys parks department incurs about $125,000 a year in expenses for labor and materials to clean up and maintain the parks after special events. That is offset by only $9,000 in park rental fees. Those expenses dont include additional costs associated with other city resources, said City Clerk Kathryn Koch and parks department staff in a memo to the City Council.In recent years, theres been a growing number of competing requests for access to the parks for community activities and events, according to city staff.Right now we are over capacity, said Tom Rubel, the citys operating supervisor for parks. We get requests all the time.Compounding the problem was the City Councils 2001 decision to allow events at Wagner and Rio Grande parks in the winter. City staff estimates that with added compaction from thousands of people stomping on the snow, it takes an extra 80 to 120 hours of employee time to restore Wagner Park.The council didnt direct staff to stop winter events at Wagner Park, but none are scheduled currently.The City Council in the future will consider closing downtown streets and the pedestrian malls to hold some special events, including outdoor concerts, and possibly arts and crafts fairs.The idea of having street fairs intrigues me, said Mayor Mick Ireland, adding the summertime Aspen Saturday Market held on Hopkins Avenue and Hunter Street is largely successful. I think people like that kind of use. City Councilman Jack Johnson supports that idea and thinks special events are necessary but shouldnt be the priority for Aspen parks.Generally, parks are for people, he said. That should be the No. 1 consideration … Weve got to get more creative with where we put these

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