Community briefs: New Aspen parks director named; free mental health webinar; Aspen Words to reveal Literary Prize winner

City of Aspen names new director of parks and open space

Matt Kuhn has been named the city of Aspen’s director of parks and open space.

Kuhn has been serving as the interim director since June.

Kuhn previously served as the business services director, operations manager and trails manager for the city’s parks and open space department and began his career doing summer seasonal trail maintenance in 2005.

“I feel honored to have this opportunity to serve the public by helping guide the preservation, stewardship and management of our valuable city owned public lands,” Kuhn said in a news release. “I understand how much our properties and facilities nurture our community and provide spaces to recreate, contemplate and share time with friends and family. I look forward to continue to guide the management of these community resources.”

Kuhn is responsible for the management and direction of the department and supervises a large staff of full-time and seasonal workers.

Overall, Kuhn will provide leadership and direction for short- and long-term plans for all the city’s parks and open space properties and programs.

Aspen Strong, AVH to host mental health webinar

Aspen Valley Hospital and Aspen Strong are hosting a virtual event Thursday to provide resources, information and direction for community members who have been affected by the pandemic.

“The Body’s Response to the Pandemic” is open to the public via Zoom from 6 to 7 p.m. Thursday. A panel of experts will take questions about the effects of COVID and pandemic-related stress and uncertainty on our emotional and physical well-being.

Many people in the valley have lived with a state of chronic stress since the beginning of the pandemic. Eating disorders, relationship struggles, declining physical fitness, depression and a constant sense of anxiety are some of the significant challenges people are coping with as the pandemic enters its second year.

Community members can submit questions to ahead of the event.

The panelist include: Dr. Karen Locke, Aspen Valley Primary Care; Kristi Nicholls, MA, NCC, LPC, Designs for Wellness; Sean Van Horn, who is an elite endurance athlete; and Jeffrey Cole and Lori Ann Kret of the Aspen Relationship Institute who are married, licensed therapists and board-certified coaches specializing in couple-to-couple coaching.

The Zoom meeting ID is 878 8484 8757; for more go to or

Literary Prize winner to be announced Wednesday

The winner of the 2021 Aspen Words Literary Prize will be announced in a virtual ceremony at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. The ceremony is free to watch and registration is required at

Finalists for the $35,000 prize, which celebrates works of fiction for their social impact, are Susan Abulhawa (“Against the Loveless World”), Rumaan Alam (“Leave the World Behind”), Louise Erdrich (“The Night Watchman”), Danielle Evans (“The Office of Historical Corrections: A Novella and Stories”) and Randall Kenan (“If I Had Two Wings: Stories”).

The program will feature a conversation with the finalist authors moderated by Mary Louise Kelly, co-host of NPR’s “All Things Considered.”

The ceremony also will celebrate the memory and work of finalist Randall Kenan, who died in 2020.

Attendees who make a donation of any amount to Aspen Words will receive a promotional code for a complimentary audiobook from Audible available to the first 1,000 registrants.

After the ceremony, Aspen Words will host an interactive celebratory toast and live Q&A with the prize winner. Tickets to join are $200 and grant special access via a Zoom meeting link.

Aspen School District hosts transition nights this week

Aspen School District will host three “transition nights” this week for families of students entering kindergarten, fifth grade or ninth grade in the 2021-22 school year.

The question-and-answer-style meetings are scheduled from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and April 27, with one session for each student group. All three nights will take place on Zoom at

Wednesday’s session is designated for parents of incoming fifth graders at Aspen Middle School; Thursday’s session will be for parents of incoming kindergartners at Aspen Elementary School. The meeting April 27 will focus on parents of incoming freshmen at Aspen High School.