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Basalt plans little steps to stimulate its economy

BASALT – There’s no guarantee that Basalt’s economy will improve this summer, but at least the town will be more entertaining.

The Basalt town government is teaming with civic organizations to create some new events and add some pizzazz and vitality. The Town Council Tuesday night approved construction of a stage in Lions Park, where movies will be shown on Saturday nights throughout the summer and where Jayne Gottlieb will stage her popular plays during July.

The town government will buy the materials and the Lions Club will enlist contractors and volunteers to construct the stage. The performance area will be 20 by 30 feet, and the structure will be 15 feet from the floor to the peak. A lot of the material will be beetle-kill lumber.

The stage will be on the west end of Lions Park, on the downvalley side of the Wyly Community Arts Center. A large lawn in front of the stage will provide space for seating. The park, which includes Town Hall and the Basalt Chamber of Commerce caboose, is kind of a focal point for town. The chamber will use the stage for its Wednesday night music series, which has proved to be one of the more popular events in Basalt after years of persistence.

Basalt Town Manager Bill Kane said the town government’s modest investment in the stage will prove to be money well spent because the structure will prove so popular. “The Widespread Panic concert will pay for this many times over,” he quipped.

Lions Park and the adjacent Midland Spur street will again host the Sunday Market in Basalt, a popular farmers’ market started by interested residents. The chamber of commerce is planning a variety of events for the summer, including “Saturday Live in Basalt” where shops, restaurants and other businesses will team to try to attract people to town with special events and promotions.

The chamber and town are throwing a summer kick-off party on Saturday, June 11 that will feature a street party and opportunities for restaurants to display their best food. Basalt Town Manager Bill Kane said the theater performances, movies, parties and rock ‘n’ roll are part of Basalt’s “summer stimulus” package. “We’re trying to make our town jump,” he said.

Basalt has suffered from the recession perhaps the worst of the Roaring Fork Valley towns. It went from a town where real estate speculators scrambled to buy property sight unseen – after a flattering New York Times article about the Aspen-influenced market in the mid-2000s – to an economy that is still struggling to get back on track more than two years after the recession hit. Basalt’s sales tax revenues were down 2 percent during the first quarter of the fiscal year compared to 2010, which was down sharply from 2009.

Bennett Bramson, the new president of the Basalt Chamber of Commerce, previously said one priority is to get some better directional signs that guide tourists to historic downtown Basalt. Kane said the Colorado Department of Transportation has agreed to install better signs along Highway 82 at the various entrances to Basalt. The theory is sales are bound to increase if people can actually find the town.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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