Welcome to Aspen
In my travels, limited as they have been but which, over the course of almost seven (gads) decades, have encompassed a good deal of territory, I have never presented myself at the doorstep of a local chamber of commerce in any city, village or destination resort.
This is not to say that I don’t do my research ahead of time if I’m planning to spend a substantial amount of time in one location, but that’s the point. If you’re planning ahead, you research the destination before you leave; if you happen upon a little Nirvana in the course of a road trip, you might stay on for a weekend or a week (or, in the case of Aspen, go home, pack up your most precious belongings and move here forever), but in no case would you feel impelled to visit the local chamber of commerce.
To me, the function of a chamber of commerce (or, as we in Aspen fancify it, the Aspen Chamber Resort Association) is to encourage visitors to come here and make it easy for them to make reservations at lodging in various price ranges. In our Internet world, this function does not require a physical presence in Aspen, certainly not in downtown Aspen and probably not even tucked down by the parking garage.
How many tourists drive aimlessly into town and think, “Gee, this would be a great place to visit” but move on because they couldn’t find our chamber of commerce? A more likely scenario for “normal” travelers would be, “A dollar an hour for parking? Let’s push on to Leadville!”
I can’t see a whit of difference between the chamber of commerce, aka ACRA, office tucked down by the parking garage over an ACRA office tucked next to the bank (don’t even ask me what bank, after all its many transmogrifications), which is hardly on the beaten path any more than its present location. Who will go there? Why?
It’s a little local pocket pseudo-park, but that’s not my objection. I’ve never seen a human being in that “park.” Nor do I object to infringing upon the highly touted but totally unused circle of “community space” behind the library for practical purposes. But for ACRA offices? No! Subsidized high-end housing? NO!
If we want to see some heavy-duty action at the parking lot chamber of commerce, we should heed those who say we should make a big deal out of welcoming our visitors to Aspen by putting up signs at each end of town saying, “THIS WAY FOR FREE PARKING!,” herd them down to the parking lot and give them all a free parking pass good anywhere in Aspen. That is, if we’re serious about the “Howdy Pardner” approach.
I see that the post office has called out the cavalry again, this time coming down on postal delivery people for handing out dog treats. Come to think of it, that junk mail recycling bin takes up a lot of prime space in town – we could house a lot of employees in that corner of the forest.
Su Lum is a longtime local who thinks we need some clean sweeps. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.