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Park survives recent Jazz Fest

Janet Urquhart
In order to protect the grass at Rio Grande Park, a temporary roadway is built to accomodate a PSI crane and other heavy machinary removing the skeleton of the JAS tent Thursday morning July 1, 2004. Aspen Times photo/Paul Conrad.
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A weekend of groovin’ in the grass didn’t kill it this time.Despite much-dreaded rain, Rio Grande Park survived this year’s Jazz Aspen Snowmass June Festival – literally.As crews prepared to dismantle the skeletal remains of the 3,000-seat tent Thursday, Jeff Woods, head of the city’s Parks Department, surveyed the grounds with a satisfied smile.”I was actually pleasantly surprised when we came out of this,” he said. “We were very nervous because of what happened last year.”

The Parks Department was forced to rope off much of the park all summer long after last year’s festival, leaving some City Council members reluctant to allow the event’s return. Damage to the grass was estimated at $20,000 – most of it in Parks Department labor.This year, look for some sections of the turf to be roped off for a few weeks, said Steve Slack, parks supervisor.”We can get this park back this year,” said Slack, just before barking at an individual who was about to walk across a particularly damaged spot.Slack takes park care personally.When a giant crane showed up Thursday morning, after a night of rain, to help dismantle the tent frame, Slack stood his ground.

“I was prepared to throw my body down in front of it, this grass was so wet,” he said.The crane operator headed to a job in Woody Creek, agreeing to return in the afternoon.Woods estimated this year’s cost to repair the park at $5,000 – far less than the $40,000 the council agreed to absorb as its contribution to the festival.The parks crew, including Slack and Steve Jaworski, worked closely with festival organizers and The Wright Group, the company that erected the tent and took it down. Jaworski was at the park from morning ’til night during the actual festival.

“This year, the council was pretty clear – they wanted us directly involved,” Woods said.After a couple of days of Parks Department personnel harping on their every move, even the tent crew took grass care to heart, according to Slack. “They took ownership in the park, too,” he said.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com


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