Letter: North Star took years to protect | AspenTimes.com

Letter: North Star took years to protect

EKS Events in Aspen needs to hear from the public loud and clear. If you missed the story in The Aspen Times on Aug. 1 (“Event planner disregards North Star Preserve rules”), the events-planning company ran a commercial float trip of nearly 70 people through North Star Nature Preserve despite a clear explanation from the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails ranger that doing so egregiously violates the management plan. That sort of attitude is insulting to the many, many people who made the preserve possible and contradicts the conservation ethic that has kept the river corridor intact.

The North Star Nature Preserve is still a healthy river filled with wildlife through the efforts of hundreds of people, including private landowners, the city, the county, federal agencies and the Nature Conservancy. There was a time when part of the preserve was zoned to have 1,500 houses built on it. Picture that! In the early 1970s, the county downzoned the area to AF-1 (agricultural and forestry), and the number of buildable units became 36. Then the Smith family, who owned a large part of what is today’s preserve, worked with the Nature Conservancy, the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund and the county to set aside 175 acres as a preserve. The county took title of the land in 1978. In 2001, the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails program and the city of Aspen joined together to acquire an additional 70 acres from the Smith family. The Aspen Center for Environmental Studies added another 65 acres to the refuge to complete the map.

The point is, the North Star Nature Preserve took years to protect in its current form, clear foresight and the efforts of lots of smart men and women, many of whom were volunteers. So to see a commercial operation such as EKS Events flagrantly violate the spirit of that beautiful place (if not the law) should stir the ire of everyone who loves the water and the wildlife along the corridor.

Let’s see that the work of the visionaries who gave us a spectacular preserve doesn’t end up being just an endless string of loud revelers floating through the habitat of already compromised species among the birds, fish and mammals. And let’s see that opportunistic concessionaires don’t cash in on nearly 50 years of thoughtful conservation work.

Mark Harvey