Paul E. Anna: High Points
July 10, 2009
Back in the day, in the 1960s and ’70s, Los Angeles and San Diego were two distinct and unique cities tethered together by a freeway. Today they are, with the exception of the military base Camp Pendleton, essentially joined together at the hip due to the sprawl of Los Angeles to the south and the equal sprawl of San Diego to the North. San Angeles, or Los Diego. Take your pick.
I mention this because over the last three decades, there has been a seemingly ceaseless pattern of growth in the Roaring Fork Valley. Is it possible that there could be an Aspen Springs in our future as Glenwood and Aspen become less distinct and the territory between them simply fills in with homes and businesses?
Well, I spent a good chunk of the month of June running up and down the valley and, while there is clearly linkage, I think it is safe to say that the Roaring Fork is still a valley of separate and distinct communities. And that clearly is part of its charm.
The bright side of the economic downturn has been that construction has slowed almost to a halt. For some, that is obviously not good news. The people who work in the construction industry are hurting and deserve sympathy. Also the holes in the ground in places like Willits and the new Snowmass Village look like they will remain cisterns for the rains for weeks and perhaps years to come.
But it was time for a slowdown and it was clear that the only thing that could stop the constant construction was a lack of cash in the pipeline.
Obviously, Aspen has been the economic engine that has been responsible for much of the growth in the valley. One can make the analogy that Aspen has been like a big city that spins off suburbs for those who have a financial stake, either through a job or an investment in that big city. The same dynamic that has spawned the growth in Basalt and Carbondale plays out in other ski areas across the Rockies. As Vail goes so goes Edwards and now Gypsum and Eagle. As Sun Valley grows so do Ketchum and Hailey.
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But now it has all slowed down.
Today we have the opportunity to catch a breather. Aspen, Snowmass, Basalt, El Jebel, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs all have a chance to take a look around and see if they like the view. Hopefully, we all will say, Yes, it’s beautiful here. And our local governments will respond by beginning to establish some planning for the future that will allow all of these communities to grow thoughtfully while maintaining their individual character.
Glenwood Springs is a great place to enjoy the Colorado River and shop, dine and stay. Carbondale has done a terrific job of organically growing into a place that now stands as a unique mountain community. Basalt is continuing to evolve in its own right into one of the best towns in the state. And of course Aspen maintains it’s rightful place as the premier mountain resort in America.
Let’s use the downturn to look at how great these towns are and give them a chance to just be for a bit. They are better as individual towns than part of one massive development.