Pitkin County candidates show differences on open space program
Editor’s note: This is part three of a five-part Q&A series with county commissioner candidates.
Today, the two candidates for the District 3 seat on the Pitkin County board of commissioners answer the third of five questions posed by The Aspen Times.
The District 3 seat currently is held by Michael Owsley, who has served three 4-year terms on the board and is term-limited from running again. District 3 essentially wraps around Aspen’s city limits and includes Independence Pass, Brush Creek and Woody Creek, though members of the board are elected by all county residents on an at-large basis.
The District 4 and District 5 seats, held respectively by Steve Child and George Newman, also are up for re-election, though neither commissioner is being challenged this November. Child will serve his second term on the board, while Newman will serve his third.
Question: What do you admire about Pitkin County’s Open Space and Trails program and what do you think can be improved about it?
I am — and have always been — a fierce advocate for open space, wild lands and healthy rivers. My inspirations were role models I recall from my youth. People like Stuart Mace, Bob Lewis, Elizabeth Paepcke and Tom and Jody Cardamone looked decades ahead. The creation of OST 25 years ago by dedicated conservationists is one of the three most significant actions taken on behalf of our county. In those 25 years, OST has preserved about 20,000 acres of land in our combined watersheds. I salute the dedication and hard work of the OST board and staff.
I think the OST program can improve in the following ways, which I have expressed throughout the campaign.
1. Enforce the board term limits and board diversity. Our community in particular has so many talented and skilled land-use experts and ecologists, it is unsupportable that OST cannot accommodate them.
2. Halt “mission creep.” OST began by conserving and neutralizing land and by preserving access. As OST has matured, naturally their mission and budget need adjustment to account for maintenance. Let’s not let land acquisition become secondary to developing those properties at the expense of pristine landscapes and wildlife habitat. Trails for recreation are important for our populace as well as the visitors who are economy depends on, but not every place is appropriate. Let’s regain our balance.
3. Communication: While OST has been making a super effort to communicate their message, I wonder if the citizenry is being heard.
4. I believe it is prudent that the community have more oversight and input. The 20-year extension is convenient, yet seems excessive in term.
Finally, I support the reauthorization because there are properties we all assume are protected but have yet to be acquired.
Amazing program. I am an ardent supporter of Referendum 1A — vote yes on 1A. This is effectively the county’s “Parks and Recreation Division.” We live in a county whose “industry” is mostly tourism and this is how the county funds its contributions to that component of our economy. It also happens to be the entity that protects habitat from development, creates incredible paths and trails, preserves and enhances our agricultural heritage and future and is a sound and fair method of growth control. When we invest in open space and trails we invest in not only what we love but our economy.
I wish to praise the volunteer board members on the OST Board. The time and dedication these members put in to this program for us is as intense as any volunteer board I have ever witnessed. My opponent has been openly (and in my mind unfairly) critical of this fine group of volunteers including claiming “conflict of interests,” “arrogance,” and calling it an “old boys club.” I think this highlights a very real and distinct difference between our styles of leadership/management and the way we each deal with people with whom we may not agree. Use respectful discourse, not character assignation.
I believe my professional experience of 30 years in real estate and environmental/renewable energy business interests will add unrepresented skill sets to the board and I am excited to serve as this program moves into the future. There are some incredible opportunities ahead of us and I am jacked to kick in.
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