Getting crowded in here
September 14, 2006
Last week, I flew out of Aspen, as I often do, on a Mesa Airlines Dash-8. It is a flight I enjoy and from seat 1-A it is easy to get a good overview of the valley below. Takeoff skys you out over the entrance to Snowmass, and one can see the infrastructure construction below leading up to the new base village. Over Brush Creek and into Wildcat there is a great view of large tracts of land, dotted with ponds, tennis courts, swimming pools and equestrian facilities, all designed to make living in the mountains a little more palatable for those who like life in 15,000-foot homes with perfectly manicured, man-made surroundings A little further afield the flight takes a turn to the north, and the magic of Sopris is almost close enough to reach out and touch. This may be my favorite part of the valley, and as you gaze down on Sopris Creek and the surrounding area, it is a jumble of color as the aspens are beginning to highlight the rich reds and browns of the sage brush.But just as the turn reaches its apex the view changes dramatically. You are now high enough to see the Basalt corridor as it runs, first into El Jebel, then down to Carbondale and finally to Glenwood Springs. It is somewhat jarring at first because one thinks of these communities as separate, though somewhat in close proximity. But what one realizes from looking at it from this perspective is that our valley has a ribbon of development that runs right from the North Star Preserve to the Colorado River.It is a little disconcerting to actually see, for it is physical confirmation of what we already intellectually know: It’s getting crowded in here.That should come as no surprise. After all the population of America is, as of yesterday at 7:15 a.m. local time, 299,731,786. Nearly 300 million folks now live in the USA. In 1968 the population passed 200 million for the first time. And now, in less than 40 years, it has increased by nearly 50 percent.Add to that the increasing wealth of the upper reaches of American society and our uniquely beautiful location, and it is easy to see why Aspen/Basalt/Carbondale/Glenwood are likely to all merge into Aspen Wood sometime this century. And if Edwards and Newcastle and Silt continue their expansions as well, we will all be cheek to jowl with Vail Junction.As long as the population of the world continues to grow we will see even more rapid growth here in our little paradise. It is unfortunate, of course, but inevitable. So enjoy the space you have while it is still here. In another 40 years the view out the window will again be very different indeed.
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