Aspen Times editorial: Businesses, city enforcement need to get serious about bear-trash problem
Despite countless hours of education, outreach and banging their heads against the proverbial dumpster, Aspen cops aren’t getting the message about locking up trash in the downtown core through to business owners.
Well before Aspen police’s community response officers comb the commercial core in the early morning hours, bears already have broken into multiple trash cans.
Trash haulers and property managers usually clean up the evidence before the cops get to the alleys, making it difficult to punish those who are violating the city’s solid waste and wildlife harassment ordinance.
Every business owner in Aspen knows we have a bear problem, which typically ends badly for the animal.
Every time a bear gets rewarded with a human food source, there likely will be a human-bear conflict that will result in the bruin being euthanized, per Colorado Parks and Wildlife policy.
Yet people continue to keep unsecured trash near their businesses out of sheer laziness, and the Aspen police hand out warnings instead of citations that come with steep fines.
Why is this so damn difficult?
If business owners and their employees can’t make securing their trash part of the daily routine — like accepting payment from customers, or locking the door — then they need to be reminded with tickets, which can go as high as $999 and an appearance before the city’s municipal judge.
So far this summer, the APD has issued four citations and a whole lot of warnings.
Aspen City Council last year passed a new wildlife harassment ordinance and made the fines much steeper than they were.
The law was designed to stop people from doing stupid stuff such as feeding bears and chasing them for selfies, which was the case two years ago when a mom and her two cubs were trapped in a tree on the busy Cooper Avenue mall.
This is a huge public safety issue, but also has serious implications for the wildlife/human co-existence that makes mountain towns special.
It’s obvious warnings aren’t enough, so we say no more enabling. It’s time to dole out the tickets with a heavy hand and no longer enforce the rules in a passive manner.
Aspen police should be working under the same ethos as the CPW, which is to eliminate conflicts by eliminating human attractants.
And businesses should be taking ownership of this issue and leading by example.
If enforcement and doing the right thing are not the choices that are made, then the next move will be to publicly shame these people into compliance.
Perhaps we need to add a new weekly feature, much like the police blotter that publishes the names of individuals who got arrested that week.
We’ll call it the “Jeers for Bears” blotter and publish photos of overturned dumpsters and the business owner responsible for each and every one of them.
If warnings and citations don’t do it, maybe some good old fashioned public shaming will.
Lock it up people, or maybe you’ll see your name in print.
The Aspen Times editorial board consists of publisher Samantha Johnston, editor David Krause and reporters Rick Carroll, Scott Condon and Carolyn Sackariason.
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