Letter: Keep open space a priority in Pitkin County

I had the outrageous good fortune to have been born and raised in Pitkin County. I am now 26, and when I challenge myself to reflect on the aspects of my childhood I value most, I find the location and my access to natural places right at the top of the list. I am incredibly lucky to have had the opportunities I did to interact with natural areas, learn from them, explore them, and grow to respect them. Much of this was made possible by the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails program.

I currently do not live in the Aspen area and I truly miss the ability to get out on the trail after a day in the office, or to take a walk in woods without first spending an hour in the car. I believe these adventures into natural places are essential to a healthy and balanced lifestyle. As a young person in today’s world, one where social and educational pressures can provide enormous weight, the need for a release valve is essential. Especially for young adults living in the greater Aspen area, the protected open spaces and the ability to enjoy them, offer many outlets, educational opportunities, and enjoyments.

As I have grown older and begun to fill in a larger picture of the world, I realize more and more that the ecological diversity of Pitkin County is one of the qualities most valuable to its exceptionality. The Open Space and Trails program, over the years, has protected some of the most vulnerable, diverse, and ecologically important areas in the region. Without proper management of these areas the ability for our local ecosystems to combat the effects of climate change would be dramatically lessened. These protected areas are the heart and soul of the great ecological value that Pitkin County has, something the area would not be the same without.

These are but a few of the reasons the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails program is vital to the wonderful and astonishing area in which I grew up. Especially as young people are concerned, there is no substitute for the OST program. As we face challenges related to climate change, population growth, and human encroachment of natural habitat, we must remember what has made Pitkin County so great for so long. The colossal task of protecting natural areas while balancing human access is the heart and soul of many of the obstacles we face in the near future. We must seize every opportunity we have to preserve places where our children can discover, explore, learn, and be inspired by nature. The Pitkin County Open Space and Trails Program is an excellent program, which will help ensure these values are well represented in Pitkin County.

Gaelen Means