Open Space program gets an extension |

Open Space program gets an extension

Pitkin County voters Tuesday enthusiastically endorsed another 10 years for the county’s Open Space and Trails program.

Of 3,553 voters who cast ballots on the issue, 2,445, or nearly 69 percent, voted to reauthorize the program with an increased tax rate. That’s a ratio of 2.21-to-1. Every one of the county’s 16 precincts favored the program, as did early voters and absentee voters. The only category in which the program won by a narrow margin was absentee ballots.

The successful 9-year-old program was reauthorized for a second 10-year period, starting next year. The program has been responsible for preservation of 6,766 acres of open space, acquiring 20 miles of trail right of way and the construction of several trails, including the Basalt-Old Snowmass Trail.

When the tally for the final precincts came in at 9:48 p.m. last night, Dale Will, director of the Open Space and Trails program, was at home. Will credited the citizens committee that drafted the ballot language and ran the campaign for the impressive victory. He expressed optimism and enthusiasm for the program in the coming years.

“I know we’ll accomplish a lot in the next ten years,” Will said. “I’m really glad to be here and be a part of it.”

“Now we can focus on the long term,” he continued. One of the major projects Will said he’s hoping to get going on is a trail in the former rail corridor from Woody Creek to Emma.

Tim McFlynn, a leader in the citizens’ effort to reauthorize the program this year, was one of the program’s founders in 1990. McFlynn dedicated the program’s victory at the polls to other open-space pioneers.

“The true father of open space in our valley is Francis Whitaker, who passed away last week,” McFlynn said. Whitaker was an advocate of preserving valley-bottom open space as a member of Aspen’s City Council, he said.

McFlynn then went on to praise another early leader, one who championed the idea of people taxing themselves to preserve land.

“Connie Harvey was the one person who was the impetus and inspiration for this program,” he said. “The rest of us [voters] were just acknowledging the wisdom of her idea.”

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