The spirit of Ashcroft is strong
Amid all the things that have gone wrong in the Roaring Fork Valley – the escalation of real estate values, the forced migration of longtime locals downvalley, the continuing expansion of concrete and asphalt into once-wild corners – it’s a pleasure to see a place where big money and commercialization haven’t intruded.Ashcroft is such a place, a piece of Roaring Fork Valley real estate that could have been intensely developed but instead doesn’t differ too much today from the way it appeared before Aspen’s post-World War II boom.Have you been to Ashcroft recently? It’s a beautiful montane valley at the end of the pavement on Castle Creek Road with a century-old ghost town, a nordic ski area, an art gallery named Toklat and not much else. Last weekend, the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies took possession of the Toklat art gallery building, which in a previous life was home to a restaurant and dogsled operation. ACES plans to turn the space into its third node of nature study and interpretation, behind Hallam Lake in Aspen and the Rock Bottom Ranch near El Jebel.ACES, which already has a hand in the management of the ghost town of Ashcroft, is a great fit for Toklat. There’s no better organization in the valley to perpetuate the legacy of land stewardship and conservation ethics that the Stuart Mace family established there beginning in the 1940s.Though Ashcroft won’t be the same without Toklat, which is moving to Basalt, we think ACES is a fine replacement that will preserve the site’s natural beauty while also making it more accessible and understandable to the public. We look forward to seeing what’s next in store for this particularly charmed property.The ACES acquisition is a positive development for the upper Castle Creek Valley, but the future isn’t entirely secure. Right now a bill is pending in Congress that will transfer the 35-acre Ryan parcel into the hands of the U.S. Forest Service. The parcel sits in the middle of the Ashcroft Ski Touring area and was once listed for sale as a trophy home site. Pitkin County and the Aspen Valley Land Trust acquired the parcel for $3.2 million in 2000 but have been waiting since to transfer the property to the Forest Service, which owns all of the surrounding land.The final inclusion of the Ryan parcel in the White River National Forest will be a milestone for upper Castle Creek, and we urge Colorado’s congressional delegation to ensure that the legislation succeeds.It appears Ashcroft and the upper Castle Creek Valley are headed for a bright future in keeping with the Mace family vision. This is a victory for our community – living proof that there’s much more to this place in which we live than slick marketing, industrial tourism and monster-home development.
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