Bravo for the new bathrooms |

Bravo for the new bathrooms

To quote a U.S. Forest Service official: “The revised design takes the emphasis off the bathrooms and puts it on the Bells.”

Thank goodness for life’s many miracles.

The latest miracle is the decision by the Forest Service to heed the complaints of locals and put a new face on the restroom at Maroon Lake.

Normally, The Aspen Times has no comment on matters concerning public restrooms, but the case at Maroon Lake was unique.

When Forest Service officials unveiled the new toilets in 2001, they expected to receive praise. After all, the 2,600-square-foot facility was built to handle thousands and thousands of visitors each summer in an environmentally sound way. And, to top it off, the Forest Service used a bunkerlike design and a faux rock face to make it look like part of the natural landscape.

But it looked more like something from the Flinstones than of the surrounding landscape. To add insult to injury, the recently constructed bus drop-off area was laid out so that passengers disembarked right in front of the new loo. First-time visitors to one of the gems of the American landscape couldn’t see the forest through the trees, so to speak.

Needless to say, instead of applause, the Forest Service got an earful.

Some of Aspen’s most avid bicyclists, who also rank high on the town’s list of movers and shakers, created Free the Bells. Its mission: to force the Forest Service to tear down the offending toilets and scrap plans for a proposed 4,500-square-foot bus shelter and interpretive center.

At first, Forest Service officials said there was little they could do. American taxpayers had just forked over hundreds of thousands of dollars for the new bathrooms. Tearing them down wasn’t an option.

But as Free the Bells grew in numbers and influence, the Forest Service finally relented. It agreed to redesign the toilets, relocate the bus stop and reconsider the size of the interpretive center.

This week, the redesigned bathroom was unveiled, and everyone agreed it left a much smaller footprint on the landscape. Even better, the drop-off point for the buses was moved far enough away from the toilet to allow a view of the magnificent Maroon Bells. Plus, the 4,500-square-foot interpretive center/bus shelter has been scaled back to just 500 square feet.

So kudos to the Aspenites who worked so hard to keep the Bells from becoming Bedrock and to the Forest Service for listening to them.

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