Move afoot to keep Bass Park a park | AspenTimes.com
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Move afoot to keep Bass Park a park

John Colson

After hearing from a group of open-space advocates about the need for Bass Park to remain entirely a park, the City Council on Monday agreed to work toward that end.

But the matter may still end up going to the electorate next spring or fall, depending on whether a citizens’ committee can raise enough money to pay for the park.

The city bought Bass Park from the Bass family in January for $3.4 million, paying for it mostly with money from the city’s sales-tax supported housing/day-care fund but also using $100,000 in open-space money. The council’s plan was to ask the voters whether to keep the park as a park or use all or part of it for affordable housing.

The voters two weeks ago rejected all those options, and also turning down a ballot question that would have allowed the city to sell the park to a private developer. Voter approval is needed to sell any property owned by the city.

At Monday’s informal luncheon meeting, the council was confronted by a group of people who want the park to remain open, and to be named after the late Francis Whitaker, a former City Council member and blacksmith.

Whitaker was a strong open-space advocate, and his blacksmith’s forge was for years located right across Hopkins Avenue from Bass Park.

Those at the meeting, speaking one after another, called for Bass Park to be retained as what former Mayor Bill Stirling called “a wonderful, passive, open space.”

Stirling, former Parks Association president Hal Clark and others admitted they had been “remiss” in failing to mount a citizens’ campaign to win voter approval of the tax-hike ballot question that would have kept the park as it is.

But, said former Pitkin County Commissioner Helen Klanderud, “We are all here now.”

A number of options for raising the money were mentioned, including an appeal to Pitkin County to use some of the $50 million in open-space funds approved two weeks ago by the voters, or issuing bonds to pay back the housing fund.

At one point, Mayor Rachel Richards suggested jokingly that the city could sell the Cozy Point Ranch to pay off the debt to the housing fund, at which council member Tony Hershey turned to City Attorney John Worcester and whispered loudly, “Let’s do it!”

Hershey and council member Tom McCabe, who had vocally backed the idea of using the entire park for affordable housing, changed their tune at Monday’s meeting.

“I see that this particular parcel is one of those where that support could develop,” said McCabe, referring to the possibility of widespread citizens support for keeping the park as it is.

It was agreed that a committee should begin studying the matter, with help from city staff, and report back to the council.


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