East’s wilderness mecca must be saved
We read Scott Condon’s recent article on the Chaffin & Light development from The Aspen Times with great interest. Condon did a good job of getting many of the issues on the table with the exception of John Bradley’s motivation for developing the ridge. Another story for another issue, I suppose.My wife, two boys and I have been skiing in Aspen (mostly Snowmass) every year for almost 20 years. Every time we drive or fly into The Roaring Fork Valley from Glenwood Springs we remark at how much it feels like the Rondout Valley (the back side of the threatened Shawangunk Ridge), give or take 8,000 feet.The Ridge is the epicenter of rock climbing and hang gliding on the East Coast. The famous Trapps in New Paltz attract world-class climbers on a regular basis. On a day with the right conditions, up to 25 hang-gliders at a time can be seen circling over Bear Hill on the eastern end of the Ridge. My son has, on two occasions, seen bobcats on the Ridge. There are bears and gigantic rattlesnakes and lately eagles for the first time in over 50 years. The ecosystem is full of indigenous flora and fauna that create a very unique natural environment (think the Cirque with two-foot oak trees) – as anyone who has traveled widely will confirm. Mud Pond and Lake Awosting, both threatened by this project, are crystal-clear, high-altitude (for the East) marvels surrounded by rock promontories (think the Hanging Valley Wall).The ridge trail from Cragsmoor on the western end of the ridge to Minnewaska/New Paltz on the eastern end provides 12 miles of spectacular hiking in the summer and ski touring in the winter. Many of the region’s telemark skiers visit the ridge in the winter to 3-pin down the back side to Ellenville in the valley below. All this, 90 minutes from New York City. It is not because Chaffin/Light have not communicated their plans and intentions well, but precisely because they have communicated them that the entire valley is up in arms. Imagine if someone proposed putting a golf course on the 10th Mountain Trail. Margie’s Hut could be the pro shop for the golf course! Or how about a restaurant on the Maroon Bells?!If Chaffin/Light have a good track record for environmentally consciousness developments, it won’t survive participation in spoiling the last great wilderness area in the New York area.Scott RandallNew York City
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