Marolt: Aspen — overcrowded by design
It’s clear that Aspen is at a perilous historic crossroads. True prosperity at long last or abject financial ruin forevermore are our choices. Like most locals, I have been contemplating this often lately while practicing yoga breathing inside a hot car in heavy traffic.
I am convinced that our lovely, faux Victorian town needs more visitors to keep her alive. If Aspen can attract more visitors than it has now, I can work more hours. By arriving at the office before dawn to meet the increased demand and continuing to work well past sunset, I not only make more money but also commute at times when there is no traffic. Living the dream again!
To this end, big, new, affordable hotels are just what’s needed. This type of accommodation brings fiscally cautious visitors who act as if cold, hard cash is of consequence in their lives. Tourists who spend less than their rich counterparts still require the same amount of service. This means that they are harder to turn a profit on and, thus, we will have to work more hours for the same amount of money we made before. Longer days in the store equate to more commuting in the calm of night.
There are other ways to achieve cheap lodging, too. One of them is to enact a roll-away bed tax credit. A local hotelier would get a reduction in property taxes of $1 per day for each roll-away bed set up in an existing hotel room. For a 30-room hotel with two roll-aways in each room every day of the year, this would result in an annual tax rebate to the owner of $21,900! Three roll-aways per room would be even better! This could essentially turn even a luxurious room at The Little Nell into affordable local lodging. Think of the fun a large family could have sharing a single room with six beds in it for a week!
Of course, we all have heard the stagnant idea of building a parking garage in some mythical mine shaft supposedly beneath Wagner Park. It’s time to dust off that relic of thought and update it to help bring more folks to town without having to tap into a large hole except to drain sewage hookups. Let’s turn the generic, old city park into an RV park.
We could squeeze about 100 bus-size RVs into Wagner Park. Assume that each one houses six passengers so that we put 600 more people onto our sidewalks every day of the year — all within walking distance of everything. Every downtown business will get a chance to haggle with people who understand the value of investing in Winnebagoes.
If we can do this with Wagner Park, we can loosen up with our other parks, too. Why shouldn’t we allow people to pitch a tent and camp in Paepcke, Rio Grande or even Triangle Park, for that matter? A clothesline between trees flying polypropylene underwear and wool socks is the messiest vitality possible, and it creates opportunities for all kinds of new mom-and-pop businesses to spring up around town. I’ll be the first in line to obtain a permit to open a coin-op laundromat/shower facility. If that doesn’t work out, I’ll stack firewood on a street corner and sell that to our new guests.
I feel silly for not knowing this, but are people allowed to sleep in their cars on Aspen’s streets? My guess is that there must be a law against it, because I don’t see anybody doing it, and I believe there are many people who would like to if they could — both visitors and locals alike. Let’s change this, too! I don’t care where they sleep; just get them here.
The goal of making Aspen overcrowded by design gets a bad rap because people don’t understand ultimately why we need to do this. I don’t know whose fault it is that this has never been clearly explained. Luckily, traffic was backed up to the courthouse the other day and I had time to summarize the intent and purpose of operation “Sardines on Our Sidewalks” (SOS).
Basically, the idea is to have every local working so long and hard and dreading the thought of going out in public to fight the crowds that we all end up living in the backs of our offices, shops and restaurants. At that point, we have no commuting problems, no parking issues and no need for affordable housing. This frees up room for even more to come. Then we are assured of never again having a second of peace and quiet. That’s one less thing to worry about.
Roger Marolt has a greater fear of crowds than of penthouse dwellers. Email at email@example.com
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