What’s in a name? Lots of confusion
Call it West Basalt. Call it El Jebel. Call it just plain screwy.
Whatever it’s called, there’s a small portion of the midvalley that falls into a nomenclature no man’s land.
The identity crisis surrounds an area that includes the Movieland complex, City Market, the Orchard Plaza businesses, and the new Willits development.
The awkwardness of naming the area plagued the Basalt government staff during work on a new town master plan. Town manager Tom Baker informed the Town Council Tuesday night that the staff settled the debate by deciding on West Basalt.
That might work well for official town documents, but not for anyone else. For example, the City Market that’s technically in West Basalt calls itself the El Jebel City Market. Plus it’s got an El Jebel/Carbondale telephone number.
To really confuse matters, City Market has an El Jebel address but it’s actually located off a Basalt street.
Then there’s the new development just upvalley from City Market. It was first known as El Jebel Junction, then as Sopris Meadows. It’s now known as Willits.
Willits is officially within Basalt’s limits and realtors are touting it as “small-town living in Basalt.” But as massive as the project is, it could easily carve out an identity separate from either Basalt or El Jebel.
Much of the confusion in the area stems from Basalt’s unusual municipal boundaries. Think of a barbell loaded with weights. Basalt proper makes up the set of weights on the east side. The Willits project and City Market complex comprise the west side. They’re connected by a thin bar running down Two Rivers Road and Highway 82.
Basalt created West Basalt with what’s known as a “flag pole” annexation in 1994.
The roots of El Jebel go back to the 1890s when a sprawling “luxury ranch” of that name was settled by Henry B. Gillespie.
Gillespie was a silver mine promoter on a level that would put even the most bombastic of modern-day realtors to shame, according to historical accounts. He was an early owner of the Spar mine on Aspen Mountain, but he built a small fortune promoting the Mollie Gibson mine on Smuggler Mountain.
When Gillespie died of malaria in Dutch Guinea in 1903, he was labeled “the father of Aspen” by the Denver Rocky Mountain News, according to “The History of a Silver Mining Town,” by Malcolm Rohrbough.
While that’s debatable, he’s clearly the father of El Jebel. Or would that be the father of El Jebel/West Basalt?
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Mario Ruiz came to Aspen Highlands from Bariloche through the ski patrol exchange as part of the Sister Cities program last winter. He quickly ingrained himself with the Highlands patrol. Ruiz was killed July 27 in an avalanche while working at his home ski area. The Highlands patrol is raising funds for his family.