Letter: Basalt revival

With the election over and spring pressing forward, there’s no time for regret, no time for gloating (and no time for recounts) but only a moment for Basalt to move forward with its new Town Council. The addition of Auden Schendler, Katie Schwoerer and Jen Riffle — all bringing considerable talent, brains and endless energy — to the current council offers the town a chance to reimagine itself, bind up some old wounds and take strides toward a terrific future.

Some of the issues defining this election will still remain front and center: the economy, downtown vitality, housing, day care and the Pan and Fork park. There is common ground in Basalt in that most people want many of the same things: to make a living, to visit with one another in community spaces, to have some respite and nature within walking distance, to have a place for their children to play and grow, and to feel safe and energized throughout the entire town.

Since much of the election centered around the Pan and Fork park, maybe that’s a good place to start the conversation. But that conversation should be broadened and not just revert to the dead and false argument of all-park versus all-development. Few of the rational ones on either side proposed either scenario, though the election brought out those extremes in election hyperbole. Instead, the Pan and Fork Park should, in my opinion, be discussed in terms of the entire town and especially in conjunction with the redevelopment of its center. Given that there are a number of units in play near the gas station and what was formerly a grocery market, the “urban” center is ripe for good, smart development that realizes density and joins the town’s south side with its north. Done right, the redevelopment of the town’s center might offer some of the pocket parks, residential units, employee housing and retail that some of the electorate wanted for the Pan and Fork.

And then the Pan and Fork could become an outstanding “campus” that celebrates the arts and education, offers nearby recreation, gives market space to farmers, brings Basalt kids a chance to play hockey by the river and swim in the summer, and offers a venue for concerts, weddings, dances, bonfires and whatever else townsfolk can imagine.

The Rocky Mountain Institute sitting there on the north end — in a new, energy-efficient building — and its young brain trust practically beg Basalt to do something better and more interesting than Cherry Creek and Commerce City humdrum retail.

With this town’s deep talent of creative people and a new council, a heck of a lot could be done to give Basalt its own identity in the Roaring Fork Valley, really become the river town that it should become, bring back some energy and improve the economy.

It will never be done with stale arguments and pessimism. But a broader, more interesting future is in the cards. Let’s — all of us — get behind this new council to realize the potential of this place.

Mark Harvey