Sean Beckwith: Staying current
“We’re here for the North Star float. Williams, party of 15.”
With everyone polishing up their post-apocalyptic screenplays, I thought I’d offer an unsettling vision of a different kind of future, one where Aspen mirrors whatever town “Footloose” was set in.
Though I’ve never seen the preeminent Kevin Bacon film, I get the gist. Old people don’t like loud music or people laughing and dancing so they outlaw fun. The changes made at the nature preserve — eliminating parking at the take-out and moving it up to the paragliding landing zone — are likely the first of many changes.
Much like Hanging Lake, which I don’t care about because it’s just a hike and there are a million of those in the area, we’ll probably see some kind of reservation/shuttle system established.
I understand wanting to preserve the preserve, but name another float option. And before you name all of these stretches of river, let me reemphasize float. Some people go to the water park to relax in the lazy river, and some go for the wave pool.
There’s always a death or two in area rapids during rafting season so pardon me if I prefer my recreation to be as fatality-free as possible. You have this river waterpark in Basalt with man-made waves. so why can’t the inverse be done?
I liked “Rocket Power” as much as the next X Games-obsessed ’90s kid but sometimes I prefer alcohol in my veins to adrenaline. (Unfortunately, Nickelodeon cut the episode where Reggie and Squid try Twister’s dad’s stash so yet another teaching moment missed.)
The reason North Star is so popular is accessibility, location and difficulty. You can squeeze in a trip before an afternoon shift or after a 9-to-5 without having to bring life jackets or helmets or worrying about river water in your beer. If there was another option*, people might go there.
I know I get frustrated with Stillwater so I can only imagine parks officials are extremely fatigued by the complaints and parking issues. Like, seriously people, how are you shocked that the take-out and put-in are busy between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday?
I can empathize with residents who live on the water about music and trash issues because A. We were taught not to litter in grade school and B. You’re not Kid Cudi, you don’t need a soundtrack to your life. But getting upset that people are laughing and playing around while floating on a river is like getting mad that your house gets pelted by golf balls when you live off the fairway No. 2.
Maybe I haven’t looked hard enough but I feel like if there was a float comparable to North Star near Aspen I would’ve heard about it. Don’t get mad at the people having a good time; get mad at your realtor who opted for that commission check over sharing an all-important detail.
“Oh, by the way, before we close of this multimillion-dollar deal, just wanted to let you know the house is on a stretch of river that is packed during the summer months. But you know what they say, ‘Come for the winter, stay for the eight-week stretch of warm weather we call summer!’”
Unfortunately, there isn’t a real solution to the problem.
If you try to mess with the river elsewhere, people are going to complain about messing up wildlife habitat or a portion of Gold Medal fly-fishing waters.
A reservation system could work in theory but I worry about it turning into a Cloud 9-at-Highlands situation where you’re booking months in advance and even then you have to account for weather holding up.
Asking people to police themselves and respect the river didn’t work because, I don’t know, people suck. There has already been a letter to the editor complaining about North Star and it’s the first week of May.
My solution to Stillwater is pretty much my solution to the Entrance to Aspen: Just leave it. Don’t try to fix it. Educate people so they know what they’re getting into.
If you don’t want to sit in traffic, take the bus. If you don’t want to jockey for parking at North Star, find a different float or a better time.
Occasionally, you’re just SOL. There is no cake and eating it too.
So I’ll leave you with some advice from John Beckwith:
“I’d like to be pimps from Oakland or cowboys from Arizona but it’s not Halloween. Grow up, Peter Pan, Count Chocula.”
*I would get into the lack of public pools in Aspen but who knows if pools are even opening this summer or if the city of Aspen is aware of the concept of a public pool. Also, the W Hotel rooftop pool doesn’t count. I’m not risking whatever international STD is floating around in there just to take a dip.
Sean Beckwith is a copy editor at The Aspen Times. Reach him at email@example.com.
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