Letter: Identity crisis for Basaltines
Basalt has been having an identity crisis for a few years now. There are people living there who want Basalt to “be something.” These are people who when they say “I live in Basalt,” are hoping people will think highly of them; or at least not immediately walk away. “Good fishing, I hear.” This is all about status and image.
“Basalt” is a kind of volcanic rock; it is probably a better place name than Silt. Redstone might have been a good name, but it was taken. There used to be a real little town called Basalt, but that was before the four-lane highway went in and before Willits was annexed. If you look at the town borders on Google Maps, they kind of look like a squid (Willits) being chased by a big, earth-moving machine.
The official offices are still on Midland Avenue, but the economic center is Willits. Gone from the old town are the Post Office, the library and the main grocery store. All of the auto maintenance used to be at the 66 Station. These are the main drivers of any small town’s Main Street.
Basalt only started because gold and silver was being mined in Aspen. The Midland Railroad was built to haul that ore. Basalt continues today because of the gold that is “mined” out of Aspen’s lure. (Fishing pun.)
I lived in Basalt when fights would break out between the native miners or farmers and the new “hippies.” The Midland catered to the newbies and the Frying Pan Inn entertained the locals. The Frying Pan Inn had a shuffleboard table and great western music. No artistic, cultural activities could be found. I owned a singlewide trailer in the Pan and Fork trailer park. I sublet the bunk beds in the middle to two school teachers. I built the skirting out of stuff I found at the landfill. That same trailer was hauled away with the others.
Unfortunately for the mostly brown-skinned, low-income people who were living in the Pan and Fork park, they became dispensable. The newly gentrified community was “going a different way.” Nevermind that the park’s residents had long been a source of business in the community, or that these folks performed the essential services that kept both Basalt and Aspen going.
Other Basaltines came to believe that the living conditions were “unacceptable.” But, obviously, the tenants didn’t think so, or they would have moved on their own. Or, people said the park was in danger of a flood. Yes, there might have been flood danger, but that was before Ruedi Dam and before the big diversion on the Roaring Fork above Aspen. A simple retaining wall or berm could have dealt with any “perceived” flood problem.
What did Marlon Brandon say in “Apocalypse Now”? “The hypocrisy!” Basalt is now faced with having to pay back a local philanthropist a couple million dollars that was the key to getting the land. This is the same person who backs a local nonprofit whose mission it is to help the local Hispanic community. If that’s help, keep it.
Unfortunately, some town members are under the impression that the town should use tax dollars to guarantee business owners bigger profits. There is nothing in the town charter remotely like that. Because everybody has been conning each other, and themselves, throughout this process, the town is now over the proverbial barrel with a developer. This developer is a practitioner of the bait and switch; expensive condos now, hotel later.
Also unfortunately, we live in a country that thinks there is patriotic duty to promote growth. Well we’ve got your growth and we’ve also got your global warming. The alternative here is to let that piece of land lie “fallow”. For once, why not just leave the pure enjoyment of a view of a beautiful river? Do we live in this valley because we have a thing for condos, or do we place a value on the natural surroundings? Of course, there are always those thinking, “Great, we can use the river to sell the condos!”
I think this really comes down to a simple moral decision: Are we going to get serious about a future for our kids, or we just going to stroke our own egos?
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