Andersen: Yes: Open Space, Basalt Park |

Andersen: Yes: Open Space, Basalt Park

When authorities shut down Central Park this summer because of the crush of unprecedented crowds seeking sanctuary from city stress, it said volumes about the importance of planning enough open space and parks.

The Roaring Fork Valley is not New York City. But unprecedented growth pressures in Colorado make open space and parks critically important to our communities far into the future.

Already blessed with expansive public lands, we are equally blessed with visionary conservationists who have understood the value of the land. Not only do we locals benefit, so do vacationing city folk seeking an antidote to high density, fast-paced, stressed out lifestyles.

Voting “yes” on reauthorized funding for Pitkin County Open Space and Trails, and “yes” on purchasing the Basalt river park are “yes” votes for accessible public lands that guarantee places of respite and recreation for generations to come.

Accessible public land is unique to democratic cultures and needs protection as privatization of the commons threatens public access and development pressures expand urban boundaries. Demand for parks and open space will only increase as Colorado is expected to double in population by 2050.

Anyone who has lived in the Roaring Fork Valley long enough to witness the boom of the midvalley recognizes that open space, trails and parks should be aggressively established as relief valves for urban growth.

Imagine explaining to your grandchild that we once had the opportunity to preserve beautiful open lands and parks, but that we paved paradise for another parking lot.

This is our watch. It is our time to set aside open lands and establish parks while we still have the options. It is our turn to protect the future from values based solely on monetary expediency.

The land underscores all else — water, environment, economy, recreation. We live on it. We walk on it. We eat from it. We come from the land. We return to the land. We protect the land because the land is all. We are dependent on the land and the land is dependent on us.

Human endeavors give the land significance by revealing humanity’s critical role as co-dependents with all of life. The land provides us sustenance. In return, we act as responsible stewards. A caring relationship with the land is an ethical necessity.

Open space and parks should define our legacy. They should become the inheritance we leave our successors, whether they be our children or visitors who praise our foresight in voluntarily giving tax dollars to consecrate land for public uses.

In the 25 years since Pitkin County Open Space and Trails was established by voters — and reauthorized in 2006, by 72 percent voter approval — it has preserved through inclusive partnerships over 18,000 acres of scenic open space, wildlife habitat and agricultural landscapes — and built many miles of user-friendly trails.

Synonymous with this achievement are “founding fathers” Tim McFlynn and Connie Harvey, whose values and commitment are written in landscapes enjoyed by thousands today. Supporters have included many of Aspen’s most prominent conservation visionaries, people who looked to the future, not to their bank accounts.

“What we do is more than a job,” said former open space and trails Director Dale Will. “It’s a cause. And that’s unusual in government.”

In Basalt, the river park has become a flash point for division and acrimony. How sad that a potential amenity should evoke disharmony in a town that needs unity if it ever hopes to become a solid community.

Creating the biggest park possible at the former Pan and Fork offers Basalt a central feature with the prominence it deserves, a place of gathering for music, art, picnics, events, a place for all generations where old animosities might just dissipate.

Trading thematic developments for a beautiful park is an act of humility, generosity and foresight. It says that Basalt is willing to invest, not just in private commercial density, but in natural beauty for the most people.

Parks are cornerstones of communities, cherished places where children play and families meet. The river park should be as large as possible to accommodate residential growth at Southside, Willits and suburban satellites we haven’t seen yet.

Vote “yes” for the land.

Paul Andersen’s column appears on Mondays. He may be reached at