Letter: Willits is Basalt
There has been a lot of talk about reviving downtown Basalt. As far as I can tell, Basalt is doing great. It’s never been better. There are lots of great restaurants, a few small retail shops, three gas stations (Aspen is about to have only one), a couple of banks, a pharmacy, the best pork green chili in the valley, hopefully someday a big beautiful riverside park, and thankfully the funkiest barber shop in the state, also the hill area with its old structures and unique neighborhood. However, it is more than that. Basalt also contains Willits.
Willits has been growing every year, opening more and more retail space. Would I rather see the old open field where Willits is now with the one pink stucco house and the herd of elk hanging out all winter? Sure. But the midvalley was begging for more services, and the reality of the situation is that it had to be built in one form or another. We now have City Market, Whole Foods, Bristlecone Mountaineering, a slew of restaurants, stores, a medical center and a big hotel. Development will continue in Willits, creating more and more of a tax base for the town of Basalt to rely on. Since 2010, the town of Basalt’s tax revenue has increased 50 percent from $3.15 million to $4.65 million, and with more expansion will come more tax revenue. Do I like Willits? Yes I do. It provides great services that can be easily accessed. However, it is a designated sacrifice area, if you will, a dense commercial area that brings in a lot of business yet doesn’t spill out into every facet of our world. It has been sacrificed for that purpose, and it is working very well.
Let’s keep downtown Basalt different. Let’s work on keeping Basalt a small town with a small-town atmosphere, a haven from the overbuilt world around us. I’m not saying that Basalt should or will remain the same. It won’t. However, we can keep it from becoming Aspen junior or a Willits annex without losing tax revenue. It’s not that the growth won’t happen, but let’s save what we can while we can. Keep the Pan and Fork as a riverside park. Don’t let it get away. Don’t let Basalt become Everywhere Else, USA.