Roger Marolt: Roger This | AspenTimes.com

Roger Marolt: Roger This

Roger MaroltThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

As far as downtowns go, Aspen’s is right up there. We are eons ahead of the competition, and I don’t think any town in the world can surpass us due to our perfect location and micromanaged growth control that has vacuum-wrapped the town in legal code for perpetual preservation. That said, there’s no harm in thinking about making it better. Here are six ways to do it: 1. Cut down the trees in the mall:Now, I’m not suggesting that we harvest the current crop of mall trees into cordwood and stack it next to the Paradise corner fire pit to burn instead of natural gas. I simply think the current geezer trees need to be replaced with smaller, more user-friendly ones. The Cooper and Hyman avenue malls are mangy and gnarly with old-growth trees. They have turned our malls into places where the sun don’t shine. You can almost imagine the Wagner Park toilets as a gingerbread house and some wart-nosed volunteer handing out bags of bread crumbs at the information booth at the edge of the evil woods.The malls are cold, you can’t see the mountains or the sky when you are in them, and in many places you can’t even see what’s on the other side of the street. The malls were better when we and the trees were younger. At least we can turn back the clock on one group! 2. Put artificial turf in Wagner Park:OK, we don’t need plastic grass over the whole park, but it would be great to put it in the middle where people play and drink wine, and dogs poop in excess. The entire perimeter of the park should remain natural grass so the pooches have somewhere to go.As it is now, the park is fenced off from the time the snow melts in April until Food & Wine decimates it in June. It slowly greens up over the rest of the summer until Ruggerfest destroys it again in September. Then it’s closed in patches for the rest of the fall! Grass isn’t practical or even nice looking in Wagner Park most of the time. It’s lumpy, and it smells bad almost all the time! Give the park back to the people. Turf it!3. Get the gazebo out of the middle of Paepcke Park:I’m not saying tear the gazebo down and haul the scraps to the dump. Just move the thing to the edge of the park. The historic structure has been an impediment to meaningful use of that park long enough. Wouldn’t it be nice if people could actually play games there? The gazebo would be a great place to watch from. Think about it – both the park and the gazebo could be made useful! 4. Get rid of the stoplights:Wow! Wouldn’t this be great, both visually and for vibrancy along Main Street? Tear down the lights, get rid of the crosswalks, and build three pedestrian underpasses, one each at Paepcke Park, Mill Street and down past the courthouse, for crossing Main Street. This would create pedestrian traffic flowing up and down Main between the underpasses; kind of like in Las Vegas, only on a much smaller and more wholesome scale. It would look great, increase downtown vitality and make pedestrians safe again. 5. Get the buses out of downtown:How would we ever get the smelly, dirty, noisy buses out of downtown and maintain our green image? Well, what is a bus? That’s right: It’s nothing but a short train with rubber tires. And, how have we proposed to accommodate trains? You are right again: We would run them up and down the Rio Grande right of way. Pave the sucker and make it a buses-only route in and out of town!This would require swapping uses between Rubey and Rio Grande parks. Rubey becomes a real park with real grass in the center of town and at least a portion of Rio Grande reverts back to the historical transit center it was when it was a train station on the outskirts of downtown. If the rail right of way is too narrow for two bus lanes, a single paved lane could switch directions depending on the rush hour flows.Think of what this would do to make downtown quieter and cleaner. Think how bus commuters could get in and out of town unimpeded. Think of how this would improve the traffic flow on Main Street and Highway 82. 6. Eliminate turn lanes and parking on Main Street:Not all the way along it – just through three blocks downtown. By making left turns and parking illegal from Main Street Bakery to St. Mary’s church, we could maintain four traffic lanes and have a quainter, narrower Main Street and wider sidewalk areas on Main Street through downtown. OK, I just thought we needed something to talk about over coffee for the next 40 years … like we did with the idea of a parking garage underneath Wagner Park.

Roger Marolt also thinks the new art museum should be at least partially underground since artwork and sunlight usually aren’t compatible. Contact him at roger@maroltllp.com.

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