Try this bear solution
September 18, 2009
Since long before the beautiful red Popcorn Wagon was transformed into a crepe-less, immovable eyesore of gleaming steel, juxtaposed harshly by both the soulful Wheeler Opera House and the fountain, bears have been roaming the streets of Aspen.
Before billionaire second-home owners were introduced into the Aspen ecosystem, and even before someone had the idea of permanently leashing dogs and picking up their feces while still moist and steaming, bears were climbing trees undisturbed. Before the roots of parking meters had expanded to neighborhoods from the downtown core as part of the same organism, like the ever-expanding grove of aspen trees up Conundrum, big black turds full of berries peppered the sidewalks of the Old West. Clearly those days are rapidly drawing to a close.
While one can’t even get a little shuteye in one’s own car on the streets of Aspen without being told to move along by the boys in blue, it’s no problem to literally pull up a chair at the base of a tree with a bear in it and loiter there all day long, nestled near the police tape 20 feet away. It got me thinking – how to turn lemons to lemonade.
Before the City Council approves the chemical sterilization of natural sources of bear food like the cranberry trees in front of the courthouse, and before some harebrain gets the idea of mitigating tragic bear kills with some sort of carbon credit equivalent equation, why not get back to another long-standing, however forgotten, Aspen tradition – namely, of having some fun? Surely if an uptight resort town like Sun Valley, Idaho, is imaginative enough to turn the annual migration of sheep – by ranchers who have been grazing them on BLM lands to the bone for pennies on the public dollar of what feeding sheep actually costs – into an offseason extravaganza called the “Trailing of the Sheep,” we could certainly exploit our bear population in the same vein. I have personally witnessed the sheep in Idaho being expertly herded by unleashed dogs past the empty boutiques on Main Street, while dumbfounded lowland rusticators rent hotel rooms and line the streets like a parade route to marvel at how few black sheep there are nowadays. It has become such a successful event during the shoulder season there that the tourists have almost forgotten the absence of nightlife and how much the skiing sucks – so they often return!
It’d be easy. It would be a sort of “Running of the Bears.” We could line up open dumpsters along the pedestrian mall, each one filled and sponsored by a local restaurant. The usual maze of police tape and fenced barricades could be placed along the pedestrian corridor and around Wagner Park. These high fences would have windows that could be opened at will. The idea would be that whatever restaurant dumpster drew the most bears would be “voted” Restaurant of the Year. After all the food is consumed, the bears would then be chased by drunken tourists down the mall into the park, where leashed dogs and their second-home owners would be doing their business. It’s common knowledge how a sow reacts if you get between her and her cubs, but if this season has taught us nothing else, we now know it is nothing like the danger a bear incurs when it steps between a watchdog and its Pooper Scooper Person! To wit: Each Pooper Scooper Person in Wagner Park will be issued a chair, and the Pooper Person/leashed dog team able to nudge the most bears through the fence windows wins a gift certificate for a blowout locals’ party at whatever restaurant the bears chose as Aspen’s finest – whether it is Cache Cache or New York Pizza matters not.
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Any bears caught defending themselves by giving little scratches to participants would be shot immediately by our vigilant cops, which is fine because they’re all gonna get shot eventually anyway so we might as well have some fun and fill the coffers of local retailers while we’re at it – right? Bearskin rugs for everyone!