Common sense can save Aspen’s character |

Common sense can save Aspen’s character

Rebecca Magill
Aspen, CO Colorado

Why should anyone care about the “character” of this once-quaint mountain town?

What is “character”?

Ask yourself what it was that you fell in love with when you first arrived here. Was it the shopping, the ease of finding a great-paying job, the fancy restaurants, the con­venience of having every little thing you needed right in town?

I remember how astonishing it was that the town was ringed by high mountain peaks; even on a night without a full moon, you could see them all around you.

I remember saying that the only place in town that “smelled like a city” was the 500 block of East Cooper, where the buildings met the sidewalk, which met the curb, and the restaurant-grease smell met the auto exhaust.

It was a daily adventure spotting all the wildlife that abounded ” foxes, raccoons, birds, coyotes, skunks, deer, snakes, elk (just on the outskirts) and even ( gasp!) bears. The tall trees and shrubs that were prevalent made good shelter and protection for many species.

I used to walk around town just to admire the little Victorians, in their crazy rainbow of colors, so lovely in their beautiful mountain setting.

The quiet was amazing! You could wake up hearing bird songs; you could sleep without the roar of traffic.

Who decided this should all be lost? Who decided that all these things that made an astonishing quality of life here and were the amenities that made this an irre­sistible tourist town would be sacri­ficed for the almighty dollar? Who decided to let this happen, whether actively or by ignoring the changes and doing nothing about them? Could that include you?

Please go out today and find a place in town that has been demol­ished. Look across the vacant lot at the view of the mountains. No mat­ter where you end up, there will be one. Admire it while you can, because views of the peaks are going fast. They are priceless, but no one has seen fit to protect them. Instead, the folks with the money and clout to build highest are going be the only ones to enjoy a view.

Everyone else is left with cars and walls.

Do you enjoy the pretty flowers that seem to be everywhere in the summer? Those plants require sun­light and fresh air to bloom. As the buildings get taller and closer together, gardening is becoming an impossibility. The trees are no longer healthy, either. They also need unpaved ground for their roots, which is in increasingly short supply these days. Thus, they can no longer clean our air for us, nor cool our town, nor help with glob­al warming. (A large part of global warming is attributed to loss of trees on the planet.) Anyone who mentions Aspen as a “tree town” is kidding themselves. When you stand on high, on Smug­gler, for example, you may remem­ber that you used to see treetops, not rooftops. The trees that are left are small and/or sickly. (And not long for this world.) And you may want to take special precautions if you try to take a sce­nic walk in the winter. The sunlight no longer shines on the pavement here for much of the day; now the streets and sidewalks are increas­ingly shaded by tall and closely built structures. Remember your amazement that a place with such snowy winters could be so hos­pitable? Now your tires need to have studs and your feet do, too.

I’m sure if you look back, you will remember many things that are part of paradise lost, also.

Is it time to say enough? Where do we draw the line? When the last tree is cut down or dead? The last middle­class person is gone? When the last tourist has pulled out, saying how expensive Aspen is for being “Any­where U.S.A”? How about when the last service worker has quit, because it is not worth paying the price of liv­ing here ” headed for more attrac­tive places, where one can actually live in town, near friends, recreate in clean air, see something other than cars and buildings?

Here’s where the common sense comes in. It’s past time to take a stand. If you are on the City Coun­cil, realize that you are “either part of the solution or part of the prob­lem.” Ditto if you are just a local Joe Blow, sitting on your butt, bemoan­ing these lost things. Not only is this not going to get better without your help, if you don’ t go to the meet­ings, call your friends, call your offi­cials and encourage them, then you can kiss it all goodbye.

Pogo said it best: ” We have met the enemy, and it is us.”

Please do give thanks where it is due, however. The May 27 City Council meeting, when the pro­posed monster building at Cooper and Galena was on the agenda and was denied, was a breath of much­needed fresh air and hope for the future.