Letter: What is Basalt?

I’ve been knocking on doors and talking to a lot of folks in this town recently. What I hear most commonly is a lament about Basalt’s lack of oomph, lack of excitement or any common “sense of place.” I hear that Basalt lacks an identity. What, people ask, is Basalt?

Aspen is, well, Aspen, great in its own way. Thankfully Basalt won’t ever be Aspen. Carbondale, based largely on its Mountain Fair, has managed to establish itself as a cool, lively, funky mountain town. Basalt isn’t, and shouldn’t try to be, Carbondale or Aspen, but we must find ourselves our own identity in some other way.

I think back over the years I’ve lived here and remember Basalt’s own attempts at establishing a summer festival. We tried River Days for a few years. A good concept, but if you’ll remember, at that time there was really no way to see, much less access, either of our two gold-medal rivers flowing right through the heart of Old Town. For many reasons, that concept faded into memory. So, too, did the connection with our rivers become a distant memory.

Right now, we are at a critical juncture. We have the power to establish a lasting, visible and lively connection to our river. With our vote this election, we have in our hands the ability to change the face of Basalt and establish its own special identity forever. It truly is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

We also have the potential to miss this chance, one we will not get again.

This winter, more than 410 Basalt voters signed and presented the Basalt Town Council with a petition for the purchase and preservation of the legacy riverfront parcel we know as the Pan and Fork. This unique piece of land is right in Old Town Basalt. The petitioners want limited, compatible commercial development that promotes activity on the riverfront. They desire connecting the entire town, through trails and open space, to Willits, to Southside, to Elk Run and beyond. The signers have vision and an understanding that this parcel could be the epicenter of vitality.

Wise use of this riverfront land promises to re-establish Basalt as a true river town. If we are smart, Basalt can entice town residents and visitors to come and enjoy all that our town has to offer. It starts with this incomparable riverfront amenity and then flows into its restaurants, bars and shops.

Sadly, this petition was simply dismissed by the current Town Council. This election, we have a chance to reverse this shortsighted approach. We have a perfect opportunity to move forward with the vision of residents who signed the petition.

Only by establishing a majority on the council does Basalt have any hope of preserving its legacy with the Pan and Fork. Please consider candidates who strongly support the Pan and Fork park concept. Vote for Basalt’s future identity. Vote for Jacque, Jenn and Katie. And I’ll meet you at the park!

Tim Whitsitt