Aspen wants to rethink its streets |

Aspen wants to rethink its streets

Karl Herchenroeder
The Aspen Times
Passers-by take a look at a city-erected chalkboard near the pedestrian mall fountain on Friday. The prop was set up in an attempt to garner public feedback on potential pedestrian access and safety improvements.

As part of the Aspen City Council’s top 10 goals, officials want to rethink Aspen’s streets, gathering places and how the public interacts with its surroundings.

On Friday, the city kicked off a public outreach campaign with the positioning of two large chalkboards near the Cooper Avenue fire pit and the water fountain outside Justice Snow’s. Shortly after the boards were erected, passersby started covering them with chalky comments and graffiti, some of it relevant to the campaign, some of it not.

“The fact that people are paying attention to it is good,” city spokeswoman Mitzi Rapkin said Monday.

Officials have taken photos of the comments, cleared the boards and removed writing utensils. Rapkin said the outreach team — made up of officials from various departments, including Police, Parks, City Manager, Transit, Engineering and Community Development, among others — will now take to the streets.

Officials have three scheduled meet-and-greets at Sister City Plaza, next to Wagner Park, on April 2 and May 28. Rapkin also has set up a Facebook page titled “Rethink the Street: Aspen, CO,” and she expects to post an open City Hall forum on the city’s website today.

According to goal language, officials had initially planned to perform an assessment of city streets to improve pedestrian access, safety and overall enjoyment by May 1. Rapkin said that timeline has been pushed back, as officials need to gather feedback possibly into the fall.

“We’re going slower so we can do more public input,” Rapkin said.

She said the plan is to hold a series of test projects between now and then based on community feedback. Implementation, she said, could be anything from altering curbs to determining temporary closures on streets for special events.

“We need to hear from the public before we’re even close to being ready for (implementation),” Rapkin said.

The goal was spurred in part because of comments Mayor Steve Skadron championed at the council’s retreat in summer 2013. He was inspired by Project for Public Spaces founder Fred Kent, who has developed the concept of converting streets into “places.” The object is to make Aspen more walkable and less car-focused.

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