Aspen trolley backer not yet ready for the end of the line
Aspen Times Staff Writer
Aspen’s trolley advocates hope to convince the city to hold on to at least some of its trolley cars for passive use around town, now that voters have shot down plans for a downtown trolley line.
Aspen resident Susan O’Neal, who supported the defeated referendum regarding the trolleys on Tuesday’s ballot, began making calls to pitch her proposal first thing Wednesday morning.
O’Neal has proposed privately funding the restoration of two more trolleys, in addition to the one on display at Rubey Park, rather than giving all the cars away to other communities.
“After 20 years, it would be tragic to just send them off,” she said. “My goal is to have two more restored and let the people decide where they want to put them.
“People can still have the enjoyment of at least looking at them.”
The Friends of the Trolleys would raise the necessary cash for the restoration, according to O’Neal, who said she had already committed $5,000 of her money to the cause and raised another $5,000 by yesterday.
The cosmetic restoration of the car now on display at Rubey Park cost $23,000, she said.
Last year, the city received a proposal from an individual who wanted to refurbish all six of the city’s vintage trolleys for display around town. City Council members voiced little enthusiasm for the idea and said they’d rather see the cars put to actual use in a transportation system.
This week’s trolley referendum was intended to gauge Aspen’s desire to put them into service here. The proposal was defeated by 53 percent of the vote ? 1,314 to 1,148.
Forty-six percent of voters endorsed the proposed trolley line, which was to be built with private funds raised by the Aspen Street Railway Co.
“Forty-six percent is a clear indication of interest,” O’Neal said. “It seems to me, if someone is willing to pay to restore them, that the City Council wouldn’t say, ‘Absolutely no, we don’t want them.'”
“We could, perhaps, use one for an information booth. That’s a possibility,” said Mayor Helen Klanderud on Wednesday.
She questioned the need, however, to hold on to more than one of the cars.
“I think part of that decision is, is that the best use of these trolleys?” she said. “If there is a community that will actually put them to use ? using them for what they were built for is the best use.”
Assistant City Manager Ed Sadler said Ecuador has expressed interest in some of the cars and is sending him a proposal. He said he also plans to contact representatives in Tucson, Ariz., and Issaquah, Wash., both of which expressed interest in the cars.
Issaquah had a car on loan that it had to give back, leaving it without a trolley for its line, according to Sadler.
“Silt called. They want one for their chamber office,” he added. “And I actually had a young lady in here this morning who wants one to convert to housing.”
The council’s last directive to Sadler, however, was to find takers for the cars that would operate them on a trolley line should Tuesday’s ballot measure fail.
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