Pitkin BOCC: Don’t open Pandora’s box

Like Pitkin County commissioners originally thought in courageously creating Rural and Remote Zoning, enough is enough in terms of excessive backcountry development, recently reiterated by commissioners in regards to opening Pandora’s Box.

We’ve commonly heard an “embarrassment of riches,” referring to over 5,500 acres of terrain, including expansions into Highland Bowl and Burnt Mountain. We have don’t have lift lines, except “iconic” powder days. Snowmass is the third largest area in North America boasting incredible intermediate terrain. Where’s the real need for more? ASC should replace Gent’s Ridge chair with a high speed quad to improve skiing and respect the environment.

We experienced a crazy summer, including record tourism, traffic, toxic pollution, high stress and low valley morale. In our town of 7,000, we have almost 1,000 construction sites and many to come, including the 1A project; a significant expansion of Aspen Mountain. We cannot afford to keep stacking logs on the fire, when considering climate change.

Everything is connected, including our global environment and local ecosystems. I passionately share this as a 25-year guide, who teaches canoeing in our nature preserve and guides snowshoeing on Richmond Ridge. What happens on the ridge doesn’t stay on the ridge. Tree removal, destruction of wildlife habitat and avalanche bombing will affect the Roaring Fork River watershed, also an elk migration corridor. Almost all animals relate to this riparian zone.

Is getting caught up in a ski area arms race what makes Aspen truly special? Or is it our array of richness, including environmental stewardship? Let’s search our hearts. We have an opportunity to put action behind the words in our charter regarding managing open space, “protecting significant wildlife habitat; preserving historic agricultural and ranching activities; protecting riparian or wetlands areas; protecting other public lands from the impacts of development.”

Erik Skarvan