It is not too late
October 27, 2002
As you gaze west from the Pitkin County Courthouse, you realize that Main Street ends in greenery. These are climax narrowleaf cottonwoods, some of them nearly a century old.
Growing from a blur of foliage into tall individuals as you approach them all the way to 7th Street, they are part of our daily scenery that may not consciously register. Psychologically they close Aspen’s most traveled street in vegetation, giving a sense that the town is embraced by nature.
The trees are part of the community’s background, underlying music you don’t notice until it stops. But the music may indeed stop. All of these cottonwoods are in the path of the straight shot and will have to be felled if the new alignment goes through.
I have such detailed awareness of these trees because I own them. For the last 34 years it has been my privilege to live under them, to let them serve as habitat, to turn out books in a historic cabin.
Some will know the house from a spread in The Aspen Times Weekly last July. It was designed in 1947 by Fritz Benedict, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright and the most prominent Aspen architect of the postwar period, and the house is on the Aspen Historic Register. Believed to be the oldest surviving building by Benedict, it would also be wiped away if the straight shot comes through.
I have a lot, then, to lose if the direct alignment passes, but the straight shot is the kind of solution through collateral damage that I would oppose no matter where I lived. We don’t solve our problems by ramming asphalt though parks.
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We don’t mitigate impacts by squeezing a transportation corridor through a tunnel. In a stumbling economy, we don’t throw over $70 million at a rich town whose citizens are battling over whether they even want the money.
Though I have much at stake personally in this election, in the wider context I like to think that I am helping defend the kind of alternative town that so many of us came here for, culturally rich and permeated by nature.
The loss of one more historic building might not be noticed, but the felling of trees visible for the entire length of our principle street ? by their replacement by four lanes of metal, stoplights and combustion ? is a far more public tragedy. This is the kind of unforeseen consequence that Aspenites will be appalled by when it is too late.
But it is not too late. There is an upcoming vote and the power is in your hands. You can decide to retain the S-curves and maintain the beauty and integrity of our town.