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Carroll: The outrage can be found wearing spandex

One of the obstacles faced by journalists here and everywhere is getting people to talk — on the record — about a controversial issue affecting or troubling them.

Readers and residents often give us tips about a questionable dealing, decision or practice, but in many instances, they refuse to be interviewed, and when they do consent, they carefully script each word so they don’t risk rocking the boat or offending anyone.

When that happens, we’re often left jotting down quotes from the talking heads, elected officials, bureaucrats and spin doctors, which results in stories that may be interesting, but they’re usually not nearly as compelling, thought-provoking or human as when the impacted parties actually say how they feel.

Thankfully that’s not the case with cyclists. Last week, we reported about a recommendation from the Colorado Recreation Resource Advisory Committee — which is about as obscure a body of officials as you can find this side of the Sub Task Force Tasked With Creating New Task Forces — that would impose a fee on cyclists riding Maroon Creek Road to Maroon Lake.

Often when an issue emerges that smacks of a travesty of justice, the little man getting trampled, or government or big business gone awry, newspapers will ask ourselves, “Where’s the outrage?”

We didn’t need a GPS to find the outrage after news broke of the fee suggestion. The outrage came to us in letters to the editor and voluntary interviews with cyclists. There was no word-mincing, hedging or waffling in sight. Instead, the cyclists were direct, vocal and about as pissed as the original tea partiers in Boston upon hearing of a tax on their precious beverage — not to mention their IRS-profiled successors.

This is a good thing. Not because it makes for more interesting news stories — OK, maybe a little — but because people were actually willing to take a stand at the risk of offending the decision-makers and influencers.

No doubt, this would have been a dogfight between local outdoors enthusiasts and detached committee members who should spend a little time here before messing up what’s been one of the perks — not privileges — of living in or visiting Aspen.

That was until Monday, when White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams told the Times that a fee is off the table for now.

We were probably past due for yet another high-profile squabble with the feds (where have you gone, Drug Enforcement Administration?). But after Fitzwilliams’ statement late Monday, it appears that all will be simpatico in the local cycling community.

That same community should be applauded for its swift response to this polarizing suggestion from the Colorado Recreation Resource Advisory Committee.

As usual, we’ll be covering any new developments, should they occur, from the sidelines. As for those readers sitting in the stands, take note that speaking your mind does not necessarily make you crazy or rabid, a loose cannon or a radical.

It often just means you’re bravely standing up for what you believe despite high stakes and the potential for fallout.

Rick Carroll is editor of The Aspen Times. He takes comments, complaints, questions and news tips at rcarroll@aspentimes.com.


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