July 22, 2009
Aspen needs to steal from Basalt’s playbook and clean up its recycling center.
Aspen had a chance in 2006 to erect a couple of shelters, build berms, plant trees and change the trashy, dirt turnaround we now call a “recycling center” into a facility worthy of the name. Nearly three years later, plastic bags, cardboard and other throwaways continue to litter the area, attracting bears and creating an eyesore right next door to Aspen’s handsome and well-designed skate park.
This is not a “recycling center”; it’s a dump. (Some residents of our fair town have figured this out, of course, and are simply throwing garbage there.)
As Lee Cassin, the city’s environmental health director, put it recently: “It’s a hideous mess. We get complaints all the time.”
We’re happy that city officials plan to bring forward a proposal to spruce up the place. It needs the overhaul, and the existing mess is not in keeping with Aspen’s stated goals to be an environmental leader, let alone an attractive resort.
Not long ago, the town of Basalt took a similarly run-down dirt recycling area – nothing more than a turnout along Two Rivers Road – and turned it into a nicely organized, paved area that’s safely separated from the road and doesn’t look like a dumping ground. For a total of $150,000, officials were even able to install night lighting and security cameras to deter would-be dumpers.
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But a funny thing happens when a town takes a little pride in a public facility like this one; citizens tend to treat it with more respect as well. So Basalt is seeing fewer cast-off couches and old shelving at the new recycling center.
Even a modest plan like Basalt’s would be a huge improvement for the eyesore down on Rio Grande Place. Something more ambitious, like the $750,000 plan that city voters rejected in 2006, would be even better, if voters can stomach the cost. Unfortunately, the $375,000 that Obermeyer Place planned to contribute to the 2006 proposal is not on the table anymore.
In retrospect, it’s a mystery to us why voters decided the way they did.
We’re unsure exactly what city officials plan to propose for the recycling center this time around. But practically anything would be better than what’s out there now.
We look forward to seeing the plan they create, and we hope the neighbors and naysayers opt this time for constructive criticism and dialogue, rather than shooting down a needed public project with a referendum.