Why are our leaders so quiet?

I have lived and worked in Aspen for over 35 years. Our family lives off of Ute Avenue in the East End, and my two children and I walk and bike almost everywhere we can. We truly love this valley, our mountains and our community.

In Aspen we have been so fortunate. Much of what we’ve hoped for has come true. We added to the open space inventory. We built hundreds of resident homes. We spent $45 million on the High School upgrade addition, $18 million on the new recreation, skating and youth center, another million on the new trail’s bridge. Our community amenities are extraordinary. Much of them were bonded, backed by our good fortunes and belief in the future.

However, I have to believe that there is an economic limit to our small town’s ability to take on every problem. We must set priorities, weighing and balancing where our remaining resources and energies will go.

In those tightly restricted areas of Open Space spending, I am told that the city and county have some $1.5 million presently in combined liquid assets. I hear that they have between them some $22 million in approved additional bondable resources. With many deserving candidate properties for these funds, the choices will not be easy.

Two large parcels come to mind immediately as non-negotiable, must-be-saved properties: Shadow and Smuggler mountains in as entire forms as possible. Both are in the county, both maximally impact the city. Both are assets most any community would pay fortunes for: immediately accessible recreation on visually pristine greenbelts.

Acquiring Smuggler, I am told, is in process, but will take some years, more litigation and loads of money. Public access to Smuggler is already terribly limited by development.

Shadow Mountain, its Friends tell me, is under speculative assault right now, with four more carelessly approved lots on the front burner today and a major, ridiculous development application waiting to go before the city near 5th Street and Hopkins. I believe the Midland trail that meanders across the base of Shadow Mountain is the second busiest link in the whole system.

Like California oceanfront property, Smuggler and Shadow Mountains are being cut off from us by necklaces of lower private property – all saying “no trespassing, enter elsewhere.”

Isn’t part of our city and county Open Space committees’ mandate to keep us informed of what lands and trails we are most in danger of losing? If not, it should be. Aren’t they the publicly chosen advocates and defenders for these endangered spaces?

When possible, I watch our government meetings on GrassRoots. These are all our fellow citizens trying to be reasonable, trying to find the balance. It must be so tiresome. All the pressure is toward more development, more infill, and more density. So the balanced, reasonable compromises always move in those metastasizing directions.

Where are the current local heroes of stasis and conservation? Who among our elected officials and appointed boards will risk thunderous applause, by standing and saying, “These must be public lands?” After all, when did we who live and vote here ever say no to important open space, our favorite trails or the funding burden they require?

I often hear our elected officials saying, “We are working on it,” and, “These are good ideas,” and, “We wish we could find a way.” So what is the problem? Citizens work best with their leaders at the front. Why are our elected and appointed sons and daughters so quiescent? So very quiet?

These are parks that need to be born. Funds for open space have been voted on. Let us hear, loud and clear, from both the city and the county, “These must be public lands.” Then we will know that you heard us. Our town is too beautiful to surround it by frivolous development.

Karinjo De Vore