City Council enters the matrix to protect Wagner Park
ASPEN – Aspen’s beloved Wagner Park is in high demand these days, and city officials are taking steps to ensure it’s not overused by special events.
Officials from the city’s parks, recreation and special events departments met with the Aspen City Council on Tuesday, asking for support to limit the amount of activities in certain public areas and encourage new events at other venues.
And with challenging economic times, city officials expect the demand for public spaces to host special events will increase in the future.
The council signed off on a matrix that shows which venues within Aspen’s core are available during various months. The matrix is designed to ensure parks, streets and other venues are not overused, and suggests others that under-utilized.
“I think it’s important to save some time in Wagner Park when there is no events,” said Mayor Mick Ireland about letting the general public enjoy the park. “People call me all the time and want Wagner Park. It’s understandable but we have to protect it as a community asset.
“I think it’s a good management schedule,” he added.
The matrix gives city officials some substantial evidence that can be presented to those asking to use Wagner Park for a special event, and is now backed by council policy.
“The goal of the matrix is to prevent the current trend of every event requesting Wagner Park for their event location,” wrote Tom Rubel, the city’s parks operations manager in a memo to the council. “Staff’s intention is that the matrix would provide a positive experience for those hoping to schedule a new event in Aspen, allowing them to suggest a specific site that the special events committee could approve … staff feels it is appropriate to have a standard policy to easily distinguish site availability and types of events allowed during specific times of the year.”
Wagner and Rio Grande parks are nearly at capacity for event and athletic use, according to former studies by turf consultants who have determined that too much wear and tear ruins the grass and keeps open spaces closed longer than they should be.
“We could entertain perhaps one high-impact event at Rio Grande or even Paepcke, but certainly not Wagner,” Rubel wrote. “Mid-March to late April, and November/December are critical months where events cannot be scheduled in these parks as any activity could cause severe or irreparable damage to turf, resulting in long closures during high season.”
Perception from event coordinators is that Rio Grande Park is too far removed from the downtown core and as a result, their event will suffer because of the distance, according to city officials.
Although parks officials and the special events committee works with every request, it’s not possible to have every event in Wagner Park, city officials said, adding that Wagner and Rio Grande parks are reserved for revenue-generating events that serve the community.
There is room for one or two more low-to-medium impact events in Rio Grande, Wagner and Paepcke parks, with the caveat that weather could cause maximum damage if elements were extreme.
City officials identified some alternate sites that would open up more opportunities for events to be held: Cozy Point, Koch Lumber Park, the library, the Lewis Ice Arena at the Aspen Recreation Center, the Aspen Ice Garden and downtown streets.
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