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Voters applaud recreation plans

John Colson

If Tuesday night’s open house offered an accurate indication of voter sentiment, it is likely that a proposed $13.8 million bond election for recreational facilities will pass overwhelmingly.

Of the 100 or so people who crowded into the Wheeler Opera House lounge Tuesday evening, the vast majority seemed pleased with the city’s plans to build an array of new facilities and fix up some existing ones.

Some expressed concerns about particular aspects of the overall plans, but most seemed to be in general agreement with local architect Michael Lipkin, who said, “I don’t think it’s an inappropriate amount of money for this community to spend on this kind of stuff.”

Still simmering in the background, however, is the question of what the city will do about objections from the Castle/Maroon Creek Caucus to such things as lights at the athletic fields at the Iselin/Rotary/Moore parks complex on Maroon Creek Road, and concerns about the size of a proposed ice rink complex. Because the caucus is outside the city, most of its members cannot vote in the May bond election, but city officials have said they want to take the caucus’s feelings into account in their plans.

But most of those questioned by The Aspen Times Tuesday night said the overall package is a good one, especially since it does not involve new taxes.

“Aspen should have great facilities,” said local resident Mike Maple, noting that other, similarly sized towns in Western Colorado have newer, much nicer recreational facilities than does Aspen.

Steve Wickes, whose Meadowood neighborhood is part of the Castle/Maroon Creek Caucus, said he supports the plan in general, but that he particularly likes the $4 million swimming pool across Maroon Creek Road from the public schools.

“Our pool is an embarrassment,” he said hotly, noting that the local swim team must travel to other cities to compete in swim meets, because Aspen’s pool is too small and inadequate to hold meets here.

As for the caucus’s position, he said, “sometimes opposition makes a project better.”

He said he is hoping for “a little bloodshed, a lot of improvement, and no lingering grudges.”

John Sweeney, a Red Mountain homeowner, said his only criticism of the plan is that the pool, as currently envisioned, seems destined to be an indoor pool.

“I want to see the pool more open,” he said. “I’d like to see an indoor/outdoor pool.” He said the summertime views of the Maroon Creek Valley should be incorporated into the pool design, not blotted out by walls.

As for the caucus’s opposition, one member said Tuesday night that his questions have yet to be answered.

“I’d like to see a few more specifics,” said caucus member Larry Slater, who has twice appeared at Aspen City Council meetings recently to voice the caucus’s concerns.

Slater has demanded that the city provide more detail than the general drawings displayed at the open house, particularly with regard to lights, the size of the pool and rink, and the parking and transit alternatives for users and patrons.

Officials have said they want the voters to approve the “vision” of the recreational projects, before getting down to the expensive and lengthy process of hammering out all the details.


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