Honorable Mention: George "Wilk" Wilkinson | AspenTimes.com

Honorable Mention: George "Wilk" Wilkinson

Allyn Harvey

In the end, Wilk walked away with $15 million and the county saved most of Smuggler Mountain from becoming another Red Mountain. Getting to that end, however, was quite a journey.

George “Wilk” Wilkinson spent the last 20 years attempting to develop Smuggler Mountain. He’s lost two homes up there: one in 1994 to a country demolition crew and one in 1999 to a mysterious fire. In 1994, he refused to sign an agreement with the county that would have saved his home because he didn’t want to give up his right to sue.He met resistance from Pitkin County to every idea he came up with for developing the 220 acres he bought in the mid-1980s. But Wilk was just as stubborn as the various boards of county commissioners about what should happen with the mountain. At one point, he locked the gate on Smuggler Mountain Road, claiming private ownership of the road that is one of the most popular short hikes in the Aspen area.

Wilk also turned down at least two offers for millions of dollars, one in the mid-1990s from Pitkin County and one a few years ago from the city of Aspen. Negotiations in 2004 broke down after Wilk declined the city’s $12 million offer, saying he wouldn’t sell for less than $21 million.In the end, however, Wilk and Pitkin County were able to put aside their mistrust and reach an agreement. According to his friend and real estate broker Shellie Roy, Wilk turned down more lucrative offers from private developers in order ensure his property was preserved.

The deal between two old adversaries, which closed last week, means Smuggler Mountain will forever be open to the public. That makes George “Wilk” Wilkinson one of the newsmakers of 2005.