Gaylord Guenin: Letter from Woody Creek |

Gaylord Guenin: Letter from Woody Creek

Gaylord GueninAspen Times Weekly

We can all thank God, or Zeus, or whomever it is that you put your faith in because within just a few days of my writing this, the 2008 national election will be over. We can all stay up late on election night and cheer or cry as the results begin to dribble in, various voting problems are reported, discrepancies are alleged, and challenges are thrown into the mix by our various political parties. In truth the election never ends, it simply morphs into a new and equally mean-spirited form.But in Woody Creek, we can curl up with a good book and a warm cup of coffee or tea and enjoy an early-morning snack while you play with your laptop, chat with a neighbor or stranger, and scan the morning newspapers.The Woody Creek Community Center (WC3) is slowly becoming precisely what it was intended to be: A gathering place for a small community, and as they say at KDNK Public Radio, and beyond.As most of you should know, George and Patti Stranahan and Ann Owsley, Woody Creatures all, opened the Woody Creek Store in 2001. It was an art/photo gallery, gift shop, grocery store and snack shop in its various stages, but it was never quite profitable. In 2006, at Ann Owsleys and Patti Stranahans urging, a decision was made to turn the whole operation into a nonprofit community center. It was a splendid idea, but one that generated serious problems. A major and expensive renovation of the building was required to move forward, so fundraising became a key concern. A group of six Woody Creek residents stepped forward to underwrite the project, assisted by a grant from the Community Office of Resource Efficiency. The place was more or less shut down for construction in January 2006 and finally reopened in late 2007. A board of directors administers the nonprofit, with seven or eight members, and slowly a wedge began to appear between Owsley and that board. It was shattering to many of us because Owsley had been the heart and soul of the place for six years. She was an infinite source of energy and ideas, but it was apparent the gap between her and the board was widening and she eventually resigned to move onto other projects.In June of this year, Kris Cooney was hired to become the new director of WC3 and for those of us who are outsiders, it appeared as if the place really was evolving into a community center. Owsley might disagree because she did have a much larger vision for the center, and she also might point out that much of what is being done at the center was already in place before she left.As an observer, I want to believe that an actual community center is in the offing, an all-inclusive place where neighbors can gather and be creative, discuss ways to improve and protect Woody Creek, or just lounge around and be lazy if that is their druthers. WC3 may still have some growing to do but there already are positive signs, and it must be admitted that many were introduced by Owsley before she left.One popular feature of the place is its abundance of used books for sale, a project overseen by a lady known as Pickett to one and all it seems. She accepts donations of books, prices them or rejects them, and then displays them for sale at affordable prices. A nice touch to this project is that books that are rejected for sale in WC3 are donated either to the Aspen Thrift Shop or the Basalt Thrift Store. And in this land of greed, here is another sweet touch: If you should accidentally donate a book that Pickett knows is worth more than $50 wholesale, she will call you and let you know the situation.And having worked for a major book chain for six years, owning a new bookstore for 20 years and a used bookstore for 12 years, she knows her books. Hillary, another one-name-only individual, who had her own used bookstore for two years, assists her.Another new touch to the center is Woody Wednesdays, an evening program that has featured such happenings as comedy movie night, musical movie night, film noir night and an evening with Monty Pythons Flying Circus. Each showing includes a wine tasting from Woody Creek Cellars and snacks for sale.The center has a small menu of unusual but tasty food items and, of course, that required cup of coffee to urge you through the day. On the final Wednesday of each month, Peg OBrien, PT, offers a free check of your blood pressure, your oxygen intake, orthopedic screening and referral information and support. Peg conducts these sessions between 9 and 10 a.m. And on Wednesday evenings from 6 to 7:15, you can participate in restorative yoga with Emily Hightower, for a small fee.Also as a result of the center, Woody Creek now has another publication, The Woody Creature. It is a completely unpretentious, computer-produced paper. The creation of Martin Cooney, Kris husband, it is open to all with an emphasis on Woody Creek (of course). Details are available at the center, as is information about renting party or meeting space.OK, WC3 may still have a lot of maturing to do but at least its a start. The problem now is to somehow energize the community so that more and more residents have a desire to participate. That will take some serious reaching out by WC3, but I want to believe it will happen.

This is the 368th article in a two-part series devoted to the community of Woody Creek, a community still trying to find its center.

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