Aspen voters derailed plans for an in-town trolley line Tuesday by a 1,314 to 1,148 margin.
Voters rejected Referendum 2D, which called for city government to cooperate with the Aspen Street Railway Co. in its efforts to privately finance and construct a $5.5 million trolley system to replace the Galena Street Shuttle’s in-town service.
The proposal called for completion of the trolley line, which was to be handed over to the city to operate, by Oct. 31, 2008.
Instead, Assistant City Manager Ed Sadler said he will give the cars away to various communities that are interesting in taking the trolleys and putting them to use.
While the trolley backers advocated the trolley line as a unique form of transit that would add to Aspen’s historic charm and prove a tourist amenity, many voters were apparently unconvinced.
“I think it’s a waste of time and money,” said voter Art Hohmann, exiting the Precinct 1 polling place yesterday morning. “I don’t think it makes any difference at all whether we have a shuttle or a trolley.”
“I voted against it,” said Aspenite Cliff Mohwinkel, arguing that Aspen doesn’t need trolley line. “It’s trying to beautify something that’s already gorgeous,” he said. “It’s like trying to patch up the Mona Lisa – it’s is already beautiful – it doesn’t need that.”
“I don’t think it will be utilized enough to make it worth having,” said voter Scott Ormond, who also cast a “no” vote on the trolley question. “I see the Galena Street Shuttle and I never see too many people on that, so I figured the money would be better spent elsewhere.”
But Nancy Snell endorsed the trolley plan, siding with railway company members who believe vintage trolley cars running on rail between the post office and Rubey Park would be a plus for the resort.
“I felt it was worth taking the risk,” she said. “I think it’s a tourist community and it would add to the tourist experience.”
A handful of local men imported six antique trolley cars to Aspen more than 20 years ago. When the City Council attempted last year to give them away, the trolley advocates convinced council members to poll voters on the fate of the cars first.
Jon Busch, a longtime Aspenite who helped bring the cars here and fought to put his dream of a trolley line to a vote, was disheartened last night and reassessing his future in a town he has called home for 32 years.
“I think, for me, Aspen voters have clearly killed my dream,” he said. “I take it very personally. I feel it is simply an indication that Aspen doesn’t give a shit about me, so I don’t give a shit about Aspen.”
“I’m not sure where we go from here,” said Kip Wheeler, a spokesman for the group. “This would have been a valuable asset for the community.”
With the “no” vote, the city’s Sadler said he expects his phone to start ringing today. Potential takers for the trolley had marked the Nov. 5 election date on their calendars, he said.
The council had authorized Sadler to give the six cars away in the event Referendum 2D was defeated, he noted. With the onset of winter and the cars sitting in outdoor storage, however, they may remain here another winter, Sadler added.
“I think people realized they’re kind of a silly idea,” said City Councilman Tony Hershey, who campaigned against the trolley line.
“Now, we’re going to give them a home,” he said.
Hershey, however, said he wouldn’t object to keeping one of the trolley cars in Aspen for use as an information booth or some similar purpose.
The railway group has already cosmetically restored one of the cars and put it on display at Rubey Park. That car is to be removed by Nov. 15, according to the group’s deal with the city, unless the City Council decides to let it remain there, Sadler said.
Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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