Aspen resident is named to contentious county board | AspenTimes.com

Aspen resident is named to contentious county board

Allyn Harvey
Aspen Times Staff Writer

An Aspen resident was named to the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails Board yesterday after an interview that perhaps revealed more about the county commissioners than it did about the candidate.

Although the vote by the commissioners was not a formal action, it appears Anne Rickenbaugh beat out Aspen residents Cliff Weiss and Amy Capron for a seat on one of the most independent and at times politically charged boards in the county.

The one commissioner who opposed Rickenbaugh was Jack Hatfield, who was not satisfied with her response to a question he posed about the yet-to-be-built trail along Brush Creek.

Hatfield, who represents Snowmass Village and the surrounding areas, asked Rickenbaugh point blank if she would be willing to undertake condemnation procedures against two property owners if that is what it takes to complete a trail from the rodeo grounds to Highway 82.

“We’ve got an important trail link and a reluctant landowner,” Hatfield said.

“I’d be reluctant to do that,” Rickenbaugh answered. “I might be willing to condemn if it involved a transit corridor.”

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The owners of Seven Star Ranch and Cozy Point South have yet to grant the county the access it needs to complete a trail through the mostly undeveloped valley along the creek. Dale Will, Open Space and Trails program director, said the owners of the two properties have recently been cooperative in negotiations over the trail easements.

Even though Rickenbaugh was uncomfortable with the condemnation question and indicated that she would need more information before making up her mind, Hatfield said he could not support her application to the Open Space and Trails Board.

After Rickenbaugh left the room, Hatfield said he was afraid her agricultural background would result in positions similar to those of Crystal Valley rancher Bill Fales.

Fales has long been one of the most independent-minded members of the Open Space and Trails Board. Although he is known as a strong supporter of open space and preservation of agricultural lands, his conservative views on land-use regulation, and his willingness to act independently of the commissioners’ will, have put him at odds with the county at times.

The other three commissioners defended Rickenbaugh, however.

Shellie Roy said she had seen the applicant work before and was confident in her ability to serve on the board. “She’ll take a strong stand on that board – which is necessary sometimes,” Roy said.

Patti Clapper pointed out that Rickenbaugh had not closed out the option of condemnation and probably needed more information before answering such a serious question.

“To say that she’ll be the swing vote on the Open Space board is unfair,” Dorothea Farris said to Hatfield. “I won’t vote for condemnation unless it is as a last resort.”

Rickenbaugh said she grew up in Denver and currently lives in Aspen. At one point during the interview, she put her hands up in the air and said, “I’m not a rancher.”

Her family does own a ranch in Gunnison County, however, and she did spend several years working with local ranchers on a plan that was meant to save ranches from the pressure of residential development.

Rickenbaugh told the commissioners that it is unrealistic to try to preserve all the remaining open space in the county. “At some point down the road, we need to shift from a rural perspective to an urban perspective that takes into account quality-of-life issues,” she said.

Hatfield said after the meeting that he would likely end up supporting Rickenbaugh when a formal vote is taken on June 12, if his fellow commissioners were still in favor of her appointment.