Guest column: Young and community-minded | AspenTimes.com

Guest column: Young and community-minded

Elizabeth Mullen
Guest column

People come to this valley for the character, the charm, the topographic beauty and, of course, the roommates — piles of roommates. In Aspen, it is said that you have either three houses or three jobs. Who has time to ski?

Growing up here, I have witnessed a lot of change, but recently things are starting to look the same. The character is being bleached from our valley as local businesses are replaced by high-end chain stores. Charming communities are vanishing as second-home owners turn residential neighborhoods into ghost towns. There is a housing crisis while numerous properties stand vacant for the majority of the year. Scenic ranches are being transformed into subdivisions. Wait — this is old news. You're not rich. There is nothing you can do. Good news: You're wrong.

Currently, there is a priceless opportunity to transform Basalt for future generations. A large portion of downtown Basalt is ripe for development. We can come together as a community and use our collective voice to ensure that Basalt serves local interests. With Basalt's small population, a single vote holds a lot of weight. You don't need to be a multimillionaire to have a voice, but you do need to vote to make a difference. You can change outcomes for Basalt.

My husband, Christopher, noticed that many of the younger generations are not attending Basalt Town Council meetings. This is the demographic that will have to live with the consequences of the decisions that are being made now. We want to inspire people to have an active voice in their future. As a result, we combined our strengths, and Midvalley Visionaries was formed. Midvalley Visionaries' focus is engaging the younger demographic in the community through fun, enlightening and family-friendly meetings and events. If people are invested in their community, they are more likely to vote.

Midvalley Visionaries is rapidly gaining traction. Although we are a new group, our meetings have already grown from five to 25 people. KSNO radio has interviewed some Midvalley Visionaries and featured them several times on the air. Our best advertising has been word-of-mouth, and we are getting the word out.

The younger generations are our best resource to find creative solutions for pre-existing problems. Midvalley Visionaries wants to offer them an avenue to be heard. There are so many brilliant, innovative and resourceful younger people in this valley who can strengthen our community and make the valley thrive. Midvalley Visionaries envisions Basalt as a vibrant, self-sustaining community where people can afford to live, work and play for generations to come.

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We realize that time is precious for our demographic between busy careers and developing families. We want to make community involvement accessible and valuable. Our social events are networking opportunities where people can meet their fellow community members and spend time with their families while discussing relevant issues. We also invite local business owners to chitchat about specific topics in an informal setting. These social events generate revenue for local businesses and educate the community about the Roaring Fork Valley's unique attributes and issues.

Our meetings follow an agenda and focus on getting things done. While Midvalley Visionaries is not a position-based group, we will have measurable goals developed by our members. We want our members to know that their time is spent in a productive manner. We will act as a shortcut to the Town Council by having updates on issues discussed during council meetings. Local organizations and businesses will give presentations on their experiences in the valley. We want to collaborate with and learn from our fellow valley organizations. Our meetings will conclude with a strategy session where people can generate ideas, debate topics and provide input.

The valley is rapidly becoming unsustainable for the local population. When I was growing up, Basalt was considered a long commute, and now people are commuting from New Castle to work in Aspen. Eventually, the commute is no longer worth the time away from family. My husband and I would like our daughter, Elle, now a toddler, to be able to live in the place where she was born and raised. Stay local, and be seen and heard in Basalt. Come join us. Our next social is at 6 p.m. on Dec. 15 at Tempranillo.

Elizabeth Mullen can be reached at midvalleyvisionaries@gmail.com.