Holly McLain: That’s a park, not a wetlands in Snowmass Village

Sara Tie from Connect One Design marks up a map near the wetlands during a Snowmass Village Planning Commission site visit of Snowmass Town Park on Tuesday, July 12, 2022.
Kaya Williams/The Snowmass Sun

Town Park wetlands? If you build it they will come! They will come with dogs off leash to jump in the pond. They will come with children to picnic on a man-made beach.

They will come in larger numbers because our Roaring Fork Valley is growing, as Highway 82 traffic is becoming a slow crawl from Aspen to Glenwood for workers to service the booming pleasure grounds nestled in our mountains. 

A wetland is a distinct ecosystem that is flooded by water. If the town of Snowmass Village chooses to disturb their natural wetlands with walking paths, raised boardwalks, bridges and a beach at the originally man made pond, then this natural area will turn into a human byway and amusement park.  

Many native species will leave. Some species will stay, because they have adapted to humans, but the rare, more shy creatures will flee. 

Ecological resilience is the capacity of an ecosystem to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change, retaining the same function, structure and identity. Impacts of construction disturbances caused by this town water park and the human intrusion that follows will remove any semblance of a true natural wetland. 

Snowmass Creek water is clean and clear. I know, because I owned Moon Run Ranch in Old Snowmass for 47 years. Snowmass Village takes water from Snowmass Creek by right. The town prizes this quality water, which is pumped up from the bottom of Snowmass Creek to the village. The Snowmass Capitol Creek Caucus, of which I was a member, has fought for years to protect stream flows in Snowmass Creek for aquatic life sustainability. 

The quality of Brush Creek water has always been poor. The soil combination of shale, clay and low stream flow compromises the quality of this urban streamwater.

The proximity of the Snowmass Club Golf Course and Snowmass Water and Sanitation and other urban village sources likely contribute to water runoff of excessive levels of unwanted nutrients.

The Town Park’s man-made pond was improved in 2007 to serve as a filter for sediment and as a catchment retention-containment pond that collects sludge and silt, and is now clogged by bull rushes.

The true wetland, below the pond, is a winding course of small seeps and streams protected by native vegetation and which sustains an abundance of biodiverse life. It also filters the water headed downstream to the Roaring Fork River. 

Dogs off leash are a major problem in the wetland area. It has been reported that dogs have been swimming in the man-made pond. Perhaps the town of Snowmass Village should create a dog park for residents and their animals, which will offset damage done to our natural wetland environment.  

It makes sense to clean and establish a healthy pond, leaving native grasses and some bull rushes near the outlet. If the Town Council votes not to disrupt the natural wetlands, the wildlife will stay!

Holly McLain’s family built the second home on the developing ski mountain in the town of Snowmass Village in the early 1970s.