Survey says Fourth of July tradition in Aspen should include a parade
City is asking community to weigh in on myriad issues to gauge public opinion on a host of projects, plans and events
Unlike many issues in which Aspenites are split almost down the middle, recent survey results show overwhelming support to continue the traditional Fourth of July parade.
Of the 387 respondents to a survey on re-imagining Aspen’s Fourth of July celebration, 311 of them, or 80.6%, said a parade should be part of it.
The city and the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, which co-produce the Fourth of July celebration, canceled the parade the past two years due to the pandemic.
This past Fourth of July, the city and ACRA did a stationary parade in which streets were closed to cars for a few hours and people walked around the downtown core.
Aspen’s elected officials have expressed concern about environmental degradation and quality of life for residents due to the tens of thousands of people who come for the festivities.
With a pause in the traditional celebration and those concerns being made public, the city asked people to weigh in on its online platform, aspencommunityvoice.com, on what a “reimagined 4th of July” should look like.
Just over 78% of the respondents were Aspen residents.
Almost 300 of those surveyed said they want traditions to continue, and they were split on whether they cared if Fourth of July activities were carbon neutral or environmentally friendly.
When asked if Fourth of July celebrations should attract local residents, 335 people said they definitely agreed and 188 felt the same about attracting visitors.
When asked if the Fourth of July should offer events that large crowds can watch, almost 200 people supported that.
The most common words used to describe the Fourth of July in Aspen were “parade, tradition, fun, community and patriotism,” to name a few.
Sixty-five percent of people responded that they would participate in focus groups on the subject, to be held this month.
Mitzi Rapkin, the city’s communications manager, said 20 people are signed up to be in the focus groups, which will span five sessions and dive deeper on what Fourth of July in Aspen will look like in the future.
“What does it look like magnified, we’ll ask,” she said. “What is the vision … on July 5 next year, what will have made it successful?
The work and determinations from the focus groups will be handed over to a committee made up of city special events representatives, as well as ACRA and elected officials.
The committee will refine the focus groups’ work and send it on to City Council and ACRA this fall.
Council and city staff are relying heavily on public opinion these days, as there are multiple surveys covering myriad topics on the municipal government’s online platforms.
In recent months and currently, Aspenites and visitors have been asked to weigh in on a management plan for Marolt Open Space, the quality of the operations at the municipal golf course, Fourth of July, if tennis courts should be replaced by pickleball courts or vice versa, the necessity of a pedestrian and bikeway on Lake Avenue, the importance of child care in the community, the intersection at Spring Street and Cooper Avenue where a living lab is running; and a safety and mobility plan for bicyclists and pedestrians in the downtown core, among others.
The city also has hired an outside polling firm to gauge support from Aspen voters on a potential ballot question that asks whether to repurpose Wheeler Opera House real estate transfer tax revenue for other arts uses.
Meanwhile, ACRA just finished a survey asking people to share their feelings about tourism and quality of life issues.
A total of 1,284 surveys were completed, and results will be shared in the fall, according to ACRA President and CEO Debbie Braun.
Also this fall, the city will conduct its annual citizen survey, although this year the name has been changed to a community survey and will include people who live outside of Aspen.
When it comes to the city’s surveys, some are more tailored to specific users and others are broader, which is by design, said Denise White, the city’s director of communications.
“We are trying to get specific information for council to make decisions and we want to target some specific groups for staff,” she said. “I do feel like these are good tools to gauge the community, and we are seeing people engaged on the website.”
While multiple projects are open for feedback right now, the city continues to see a good response rate as people’s ideas, questions, and questionnaire responses roll in, she added.
“Questionnaires are just one way for the city to listen to our community,” White said. “We’re also using pop-up events, public meetings, and focus groups for outreach to meet people where they are at or take a deeper dive into an issue.”
It’s not that elected officials can’t make decisions on their own and without checking in with constituents on every issue, but on certain ones it helps to know what people are thinking.
“For council and their role of providing higher direction for the city, this outreach serves as a check-in on specific issues to help guide that policy development,” White said. “For staff, who also seek input, the information collected helps them in making recommendations to council or gain the feedback they need to refine concepts and plan for implementation.
“Engagement is designed to incorporate a feedback loop where we listen to the community, then check back in to make sure we heard them right before taking the next step forward.”
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