Andersen: Blocking rivers and building cities |

Andersen: Blocking rivers and building cities

There are two fundamental human impulses that cast doubts on the human condition. One is the “Mine! Mine! Mine!” syndrome of private-property obsession. The other is the burning desire to urbanize rural landscapes.

These age-old traits are on my mind because both of these impulses are at work in my neighborhood. The first is seen in the offensive gesture of a nearby property owner who has fenced off a section of the Fryingpan River. The second is Ace Lane’s looming Tree Farm dystopia in El Jebel.

The blocking of river access in Colorado has become a dubious trait for certain landowners who view their property rights as sacrosanct and inviolable — especially along beautiful, flowing streams. Somewhere in their human development arose an inability to share what they have with others.

This landed gentry go to great lengths to fence, gate and lock their properties against the masses, closing off long sections of river and signing them with “no trespassing” salutations.

This tactic has been taken to extremes in the case of Meredith Long, identified in the Aspen Daily News (“A thin line on the Fryingpan,” June 7), as a “prominent art dealer from Houston” who owns the Seven Castles Bend estate. Long’s private-property fixation is beyond irksome.

Disclosure: I live at Seven Castles across the valley from Long’s trophy home and bucolic meadows, and so have been witness to an unfolding conflict that now has Long trespassing his will on public lands.

Long’s agenda first came to my notice with illegal fencing that was later removed. Then came the planting of thorny hawthorn bushes (a non-native species) on public land. Now Long has had his minions string up wires within the river right of way to block access and snare fishing lines, a less-than-neighborly gesture.

Signs he’s had posted on public land on the Frying Pan Road right of way warn that Long’s private property begins 6 feet inside the river. These notices give an impression that is both impolite and hostile, and many neighbors look upon Long’s postings as obnoxious, arrogant and selfish.

As if his 34-acre estate and riverfront property are not enough, Long insists on pushing up against a public thoroughfare with malice toward all and charity toward none. This mentality is both churlish and childish, and I regret that such negative energy is part of my otherwise beautiful view plane from across the valley.

My only consolation is that my home at Seven Castles looks down from a superior vantage on Long’s. From my porch I may survey his glorious estate, described by a mostly vacant home that idly consumes energy resources behind fences that guard a riverfront fiefdom from the unwanted advances of the lowly public.

Another prominent property owner in my broader neighborhood is Lane, who is determined to urbanize El Jebel into the next exurban obscenity. In addition to the “Mine! Mine! Mine!” mentality, Lane is proposing the tried and true “More! More! More!” approach.

It is, of course, Lane’s right to manipulate his property into the midvalley’s death knell, but the idea of building a new commercial center there is of doubtful sanity. All it does is provide a recipe for more traffic, more noise, more air pollution, more fouling of the Roaring Fork Valley and more empty retail space.

Adding to the already soulless big-box blasphemy described by Willits across the highway, Lane plans to ramp up all the ills and pitfalls of urbanization. Here is the case of a developer bent on a capitalistic crusade to stamp out the last remnants of rural character in the midvalley.

How fitting that the Eagle County Planning Commission gave its nod of approval to this cancerous eruption of commercial and residential malignancy. It evidently desires to transplant the sprawling Eagle Valley into El Jebel by giving Highway 82 the same soulful appeal as the Interstate 70 strip.

Welcome to Anywhere, USA, home of homogeneity, lockstep consumerism and droll predictability. Welcome to a community where rivers are blocked on public lands, where private property rights trump public interest and where the corrupting influences of myopic self-interest rule.

Paul Andersen’s column appears Mondays. He can be reached by email at

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