Letter: A bloated pork-barrel park not the answer | AspenTimes.com

Letter: A bloated pork-barrel park not the answer

Last week the Basalt financial consultant finally offered up what the park supporters had been asking for the past year. He presented many different ways to finance the river park without raising taxes.

A bloated pork-barrel improvements plan was presented two weeks ago under the guise of being the “Citizens River Park Plan” for a staggering amount of $7.97 million, which equals $2 million per acre of the Pan and Fork site! Most of the expenditures have nothing to do with the public’s vision for the park and the Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. parcel, as it includes many items lobbied for a year ago by the same architects who represented the proposed developer and then the town. The plan does not represent current public sentiment that put the pro-park Town Council in place.

The plan also would make Basalt beholden to a developer group and push it down the expensive, character-changing, big-development path. The newly elected council has not approved or recommended any of the bloated pork-barrel plan and budget, yet hypocritically some of the developer supporters are already blaming the council for the plan they themselves set in motion a year ago. Many items in that plan should be removed, including $830,005 for “transformation of Two Rivers Road East” that would move the bus stops about 100 feet from their current locations. That plan eliminates 20 parking spaces, forcing the need to construct and participate in an expensive underground parking facility. The lost value to the town of those spaces would be a true loss of value to the town of another $1 million. So these item alone equal a $1.83 million unnecessary expenditure in the wrong direction.

Other urban-flavored things that the plan includes that many feel distract from the park that should be removed from the plan are: $180,000 for a fishing dock for Old Pan Park — an unnecessary improvement to a different park; $300,000 for lighting in and outside the park from the Rocky Mountain Institute building to Homestead Drive — many feel the park does not need to be lit, as it would add to light pollution; $2.07 million for an ambiguous-use food-concept building that many council members already have said is not appropriate; and 75 percent of the $4.31 million “parks design” budget for costly and unnecessary items such as concrete walks and terraced seating that would limit and detract from the use of the park.

The stage is set for a developer to “rescue” Basalt from this fake problem unless the public and council see the illusion for what it is and take action. The town should simply use its zoning powers to make 70 percent of the Community Development Corp. parcel open park in exchange for granting commercial zoning on the remaining 30 percent of the parcel to end this game of charades. A $1.1 million real people’s landscaping plan should be undertaken for the 4 acres so it is ready next spring.

Mark Kwiecienski


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