Neglected Fryingpan residents getting sick of this garbage |

Neglected Fryingpan residents getting sick of this garbage

Scott Condon

Twenty-three families living year-round in the upper Fryingpan Valley have discovered that waste is, indeed, a horrible thing to mind.The families lost their longtime trash hauler last month. They found a temporary substitute but appear destined to be stuck without service starting in September.Lea Vasten, a resident of Thomasville, senses environmental disaster.”It’s going to end up in a ravine somewhere, that’s what I’m worried about,” said Vasten, who was born and raised in the valley, and retired there with her husband after moving away for 30 years.The upper valley lost its longtime hauler, VIP, last month. The company gave customers a one-week notice that it was stopping service, in part because it couldn’t afford to supply them with bear-proof containers. Pitkin County passed an ordinance last year that makes the use of bear-proof containers mandatory.Ironically, a problem created in part by a regulation designed to prevent bears from getting into human food sources could lead to a bigger problem of that type, Vasten said. If people don’t have garbage service, their limited options of waste disposal may create more bear issues.Vasten said none of the three other residential garbage haulers is willing to add upper valley residents as full-time customers. Waste Management agreed to collect trash from a few strategically placed Dumpsters every three weeks or so through the summer. Come Labor Day, the residents are on their own.Vasten said representatives of all three companies were polite to her but unyielding on the issue of serving the upper valley during winter. They said snowy roads and the effort needed to serve the area didn’t make it financially feasible.Thomasville is 25 miles east of Basalt, on the far side of Ruedi Reservoir. The narrow road is often icy during winter.Wally Graham, an owner of Waste Solutions, said the long distance combined with the sparse population make it tough for a small company like his to serve the area.Vasten said Waste Management and Rocky Mountain Disposal took similar stances.Tony Vagneur, a valley native who formerly managed one trash hauler and operated his own company, said he never ran service beyond the Seven Castles area, about seven miles up Fryingpan Road. It takes a half day to run a truck up to Thomasville and Meredith, he said.”I hate to say it, but you can’t charge people up there enough to break even,” Vagneur said.Pitkin County Commissioner Dorothea Farris, who represents the Fryingpan Valley, acknowledged that residents there are in a tough spot, but she said Pitkin County isn’t in a position to offer relief. The government shouldn’t provide services that are available through the private sector, Farris said. But if no hauler is willing to serve the area after Labor Day, that may force the county’s hand.”Something has got to be done,” Farris said. “We can’t just allow trash to be thrown everywhere.”She also noted that it’s critical to deal with trash properly in the rugged, sparsely populated area surrounded by national forest – and prime bear habitat.Other semisecluded areas face the same problem. Glenn Horn, a homeowner on Little Annie Road, said he and his six year-round neighbors deal with their garbage individually, without a hauler. He hauls trash seven miles or so to town every day. Others in his neighborhood take it to the landfill once a week or so.Horn said he figured a Dumpster for the neighborhood would just invite bear problems.Farris said upper Fryingpan residents might have to deal with their garbage themselves, hire someone from their area to haul it to the landfill or keep trying to work out a deal with a hauler. She said she feels the county should assist only as a last resort.Vasten said the garbage will be a top topic at the Fryingpan Caucus meeting June 13.The residents of the secluded part of the valley are independent by nature, and they’ve made the choice to live far away from most comforts of civilization, Vasten said. But they are also feeling a little neglected.The school bus service stops 15 miles from Basalt, requiring families of six kids in the upper valley to find transportation to the rendezvous spot. The county television translator service’s fate after next year is unknown. There is no cell phone service and limited law enforcement.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is


See more