Letter: Petitions give us a chance
January 11, 2016
It is rare that a community like ours has the opportunity create a world-class river park. Yet here we are with that opportunity in a town that boasts not one, but two world-class rivers. The Pan and Fork River Park proposal put forth by our friends and neighbors creates a 4.7-acre park that provides unparalleled access to the Roaring Fork River — the heart of Basalt as I see it.
As a photographer and writer who has documented the degradation of the Colorado River from its source to its dried delta in Mexico, I can attest to how important it is that we celebrate and protect our river, one of our greatest assets. The Colorado River has been dammed, diverted and in many areas completely industrialized to such a point the river runs dry. Through my work, I have also been fortunate to witness rivers and their relationships with communities around the world. So I have seen firsthand from the Ganges to the Amazon that when communities embrace their riverfront properties and those flowing arteries for the public good, shorelines explode with vitality and economic engines ignite. Put simply, people like rivers, especially when offered welcoming, safe environs to engage with them.
I've also seen too often how communities turn their backs on rivers and/or develop them for the highest bidders only. They inadvertently create dead spaces that become ignored or only seen privately.
As a former Basalt Town Council member and longtime resident of our community, I see the citizens' committee for a Pan and Fork river park proposal as a way to offer a large, useful public space where we can host events and develop a stronger relationship with the relatively pristine Roaring Fork River. The benefits would be exponential.
The citizens' committee also has created an opportunity for a half-acre of commercial development on the portion of the property in question between the new Rocky Mountain Institute building and the intersection with Midland Spur. It bars most residential development, which will keep the public lands that Basalt already owns and will purchase if the petition is approved by the electorate open to the public.
The problem with the 75,000-square-foot condominium complex that has been proposed is that it will privatize the surrounding lands, de facto. People just don't walk into spaces that are perceived as somebody's back yard. All of the property around the condominium complexes will feel like its private, even if it isn't. I've seen this happen over and over in communities abroad and along our local Colorado River.
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The petitions give us a chance to secure the property and allow for smart commercial development for $3 million. With support from open space programs in Eagle and Pitkin counties, we could end up buying for considerably less, for a song.
Please urge the Town Council to forward this smart citizens initiative to the voters in the upcoming April election.
Pan and Fork River Park Committee
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