Letter: Preserve Basalt’s river park treasure | AspenTimes.com

Letter: Preserve Basalt’s river park treasure

Preserve Basalt’s river park treasure

Dear Basalt Town Council:

On April 14, at the Basalt Town Council Meeting, many mid-valley residents expressed their thoughts and ideas regarding the proposed Lowe Enterprises development plan for the former site of the Pan and Fork trailer park and adjacent area. I attended the meeting, and, as a member of the Downtown Area Advisory Committee, felt I should weigh in as well regarding the proposal at hand. Although I did speak briefly, I did not provide much detail regarding the major points that I wished to emphasize in front of the resident attendees and the council. Through this letter I will provide such detail regarding my views on this matter.

First, the Lowe proposal fails to honor the very first principle of the Downtown Area Advisory Committee: connectivity between downtown Basalt and the Roaring Fork River. The Lowe proposal serves to interrupt this significant connection by reducing the park entrance area from Lion’s Park and vice versa. In short, Lowe reduces the flow.

Secondly, the Lowe proposal fails to honor the second principal of the Downtown Area Advisory Committee: the Big “V”. The Big “V” stands for a combination of view plane and vitality. The view plane at hand, in the shape of a “V”, starts at the corner of Midland Avenue and Midland Spur and gradually widens until it reaches the Roaring Fork River. Under the Lowe proposal, the width of the view plane is reduced by half by the time it crosses Two Rivers Road heading west toward the Roaring Fork River. Then, the view plane gets further reduced by the proposed Lowe Hotel, which literally gobbles up a section of the park that would frame the sunset. What forces the Lowe Hotel to encroach on to the park space? Two sets of free-market condominium complexes between the Rocky Mountain Institute building site and the proposed Lowe Hotel. Furthermore, the Lowe Hotel and associated development impacts ultimately reduce the active park event space from roughly two acres (86,000 square feet) to less than one-half acre (20,000 square feet). Such a small space would greatly reduce the vitality of the park. For space comparison purposes, Sopris Park in Carbondale has active park event space of roughly four acres in play during Mountain Fair — eight times greater than what the Lowe plan allows for Basalt’s downtown river park!

Third, Lowe Enterprises attempts to mitigate the reduction in the size of the river park by referencing the pocket parks scattered throughout the town of Basalt. Those parks are wonderful, but they have nothing in common with the concept of a downtown park on the river for the masses. This park is a one-of-a-kind location in the entire Roaring Fork Valley with the potential to restore Basalt’s identity as a river town. No one has seen the Roaring Fork River from this perspective for more than fifty years. This perspective — a broad, open park, flowing into the river — should be protected from development so that all residents and visitors can enjoy this gem for many years to come.

Fourth, if we allow the Lowe Hotel and associated development to reduce the size of the park we are at risk of the park becoming a Lowe Hotel park instead of a town community river park. Conflicts most likely will arise on a regular basis between hotel guest expectations and community park activities. What happens when a frisbee lands on a hotel guest’s lap? What about town sponsored events causing hotel noise complaints? What about Lowe Enterprises plan to have the park bandshell facing the hotel and interrupting the park-to-river view plane? It does not appear as though the Lowe Hotel will be compatible with town river park activities.

Fifth, the town of Basalt and the Roaring Fork Community Development Corporation are the two owners’ of the property under review. On the Roaring Fork Community Development Corporation website, in the About Us section, contains the following language, “In a democratic society, such (public) gathering places aren’t just niceties, they are practical necessities that give citizens places to “rub shoulders” together and exercise their community and democratic skills. Roaring Fork Community Development Corporation works to ensure private and public projects are “places for people” by incorporating people centered design and raising additional funding as necessary.” In view of this language, maybe the town of Basalt needs to reconsider whether Lowe Enterprises is an appropriate entity to become the developing partner in a three-way relationship with the town of Basalt and the Roaring Fork Community Development Corporation. Lowe Enterprises development plan seems to be on a different plane than the town of Basalt and the Roaring Fork Community Development Corporation. Furthermore, based on their public comments, Lowe Enterprises has their own doubts about the viability of their proposed hotel at this location.

Sixth, a joint venture between Basalt and the Roaring Fork Community Development Corporation to build a cultural events center on the site instead of condominiums and a hotel, ought to be considered. This kind of development would appear to be more in alignment with the town’s needs and the Roaring Fork Community Development Corporation’s goals. It also would be a better fit with the entities approved for development next door — the Rocky Mountain Institute and the Roaring Fork Conservancy. Think of the possibilities; performances, exhibits, crafts, workshops, classes, seminars and so on. This center would fill a void in Basalt and the mid-valley while also drawing people into the river park and downtown core.

Finally, we should all really reflect upon what we have discovered here this spring. For more than 50 years, the town of Basalt has had a treasure between its downtown core and the Roaring Fork River. Now that the treasure has been uncovered, it should be cleaned up and then showcased in all of its natural beauty, not just for us, but for future generations to come. Not just a park, but a true legacy park on the Roaring Fork River in downtown Basalt.

Greg Shugars


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