Editorial: Snow-polo event wasn’t properly vetted
December 13, 2013
Weather forecasters say the likelihood of significant snowfall over the next week is not good. That spells less-than-positive news for the Aspen Valley Polo Club, which faces the prospect of arranging for snow to be trucked into or made at Wagner Park for its annual two-day tournament that starts Thursday.
Neither option is good for the environment, critics contend, and we would have to agree.
Frankly, it's surprising that the event is still part of the local lineup. The sport itself is risky for the animals' well-being — a mare had to be put down in 2011 after suffering an on-field injury — and harmful to the fields upon which it is played. Community support is lackluster; you won't find thousands of people lining the edges of the park to watch the action as they do during the Aspen Ruggerfest.
At a recent City Council work session, Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron displayed common decency in opposing the event. Tapping massive amounts of water to make snow in the park, or using large trucks to transport large amounts of snow from the Lift 1A area, "speaks against our core values in this community," Skadron said. A majority of council members must not have seen it his way and decided to give snow polo the green light for another year.
That approval came with conditions. There must be a compacted snow base of 6 to 8 inches. If additional man-made snow is required, then Aspen Skiing Co. will provide it, taking municipal water from nearby fire hydrants and blasting it over the field. That's the preferred option, but if temperatures won't allow for such an operation, Skico will haul it in from the base of Aspen Mountain's west side as previously noted. To lessen noise impacts, the council required that such work be conducted between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
So don't be surprised to find that Wagner Park is closed most of next week in order to ready the field for play. A stadium has to be erected, and organizers will work to ensure that the snow base is deep enough to prevent or minimize field damage. Of course, none of this would be necessary had the council done the right thing in the first place by properly scrutinizing the issue in November and weighing the pros and cons of approving the event.
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Six months into the new council's term, it seems, scrutiny doesn't appear to be part of the entity's basic makeup. While shorter meetings are somewhat of an improvement compared with the lengthy manner in which previous councils conducted business, full discussions are warranted when it comes to decisions that could be detrimental to community property.
Put simply, council members erred with regard to the snow-polo application by not giving it enough thought early in the process. We hope they won't make the same mistake in 2014.
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