Reckling: Woody Creek’s character is at stake

Woody Creek has had its fair share of fending off development and negative trends in the past few months. There was an oversized driveway swath that was being proposed along the scenic road to Lenado that would have provided private access to, yet another, monstrous faux-chateau.

Currently, a gargantuan 18,000 square feet of greenhouse and additional structures is up for consideration before the Board of County Commissioners. Last but not least, the U.S. Postal Service is considering closing the Woody Creek post office, which threatens the community’s wellbeing.

Thank goodness, after some proper research by an enlisted outside attorney, it was discovered that the objectionable driveway plan was unnecessary due to a pre-existing historical access. Somehow, this convenient truth was an oversight on the part of the property owners, as well as their legal counsel. This atrocious application was almost approved. Whew! The folks of Woody Creek, its abundant wildlife and all those who enjoy the lovely bike ride or winding drive to Lenado really dodged a big one.

As for the ongoing issue of industrial greenhouse construction, so immense are the plans that they surpass the size of homes allowed (two 9,000-square-foot greenhouses are proposed for a bucolic roadside property off Lower River Road), that a pernicious misstep looms before the Board of County Commissioners. Community outcry has been fierce, and the fact that 93 percent of the Woody Creek Caucus voted no on this proposal has inspired our county commissioners to schedule additional time to assess this request. If you’d like to keep your neighborhood free of super-sized greenhouse structures that glow brightly in the night, your attendance at the Pitkin County BOCC meeting in Aspen on Dec. 18 is an effective way to fortify your area against such undesirable developments. To allow drug industry agri-factories to be built in our rural, residential neighborhoods would be a shameful failure. Large-scale grow operations belong in pre-established business zones where the lights already are bright and traffic abounds.

The concern is not so much for what is to be grown inside these commercial-sized structures (medical-grade marijuana), but it is more the blight these obtrusive growing-temples will leave on our legendary landscape. If one applicant gains approval it sets a precedent for all who follow. The county commissioners will feel obligated to pass all such applications in the interest of “fairness.” Imagine countless greenhouses erected all over this valley, their high intensity lights blaring away in the nightscape, fading out the bright stars of the Rocky Mountain heavens, further confusing wildlife with their unnatural glow, more construction and added traffic to peaceful neighborhoods. Talk about a bad greenhouse effect! In addition, ancillary storage and mechanical buildings would interrupt a landscape that we’ve already cluttered enough.

The third debacle for Woody Creek involves the pathetic attempt to salvage the U.S. Postal Service by shutting down rural post office locations. The Woody Creek post office, established in 1920, is on the chopping block, and the beloved postmistress has been pressured to move to Old Snowmass (next in line for the guillotine). Thereafter, all Woody Creek packages and mail are to go to Basalt for pick up by Woody Creekers. Woody Creek’s 81656 zip code will be terminated and become 81611. Inconvenient? Yes. More importantly, it leaves the elderly and infirmed isolated and cut off. There are citizens (throughout the entire country) who rely on income, medical prescriptions, contact with family and loved ones via mail. Ability to vote would also be impacted because many voting ballots depend on Post Service delivery.

Of all the U.S. population to withdraw postal service from, rural American towns should be last. It’s another poorly thought-out plan by the federal government that failed to study the economic and cultural impacts on small communities. These are people who have very little or no broadband access due to remote or mountainous locations. Besides, federal law requires the Post Service to provide “a maximum degree of effective and regular postal services to all Americans.”

In Small Town, USA, where the mail service is still a vital social artery, the post office is not just a mail pick-up location; it’s where people go to socialize with their friends and neighbors. It is where people come together to discuss community projects or issues. The importance of the post office as a physical and historical marker of community is iconic Americana. It is in the national interest, for democracy, education and commerce to have universal connectivity for all citizens.

Woody Creek is a rural gem in jeopardy of losing more of its cohesiveness and unique character with every “proposition.” Much of its essence has already faded with the demise of serious ranching and farming practices. The persistent ploys for development, cozening property owners and a weakness for dollar signs can lead to regrettable decisions. To allow colorful cultural hamlets like Woody Creek to fall into conformist monotony would be…well, it would be very sad, an irretrievable loss.

Margaret Reckling lives in Woody Creek and welcomes your comments at


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