Stone: Pride and Prejudice and zombie ideas for Wagner Park(ing)

Andy Stone
Stone’s Throw

For some reason, sheer carelessness, I suppose, my summer reading list did not include “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance — Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!”

Fortunately I can catch up because here in Aspen we have an apparently endless supply of zombie ideas, ideas that, as Paul Krugman once wrote, “keep being killed … but nonetheless shamble relentlessly forward.”

I am not talking about the classic undead “solution” to everything that’s wrong with Aspen: building a four-lane highway right straight into the middle of town. (Personally, I favor an eight-lane — no, make that 16-lane — highway. If we’re going to mess with it, let’s settle this town’s hash once and for all.)

No, today I’m thinking about the garage of the living dead, also known as the Wagner Park parking garage.

That is, of course, the brilliant idea that we desperately need to dig up Aspen’s central green space in order to provide parking right at the heart of this community of vigorous exercise enthusiasts who can’t bear the thought of walking an extra block to their favorite coffee shop.

This idea seems to pop up every few years because “it’s obvious!”

I guess it’s obvious to people who see the word “park” (as in Wagner Park) and assume that it can only be the first half of “parking” — which is, in turn, the first half of “parking garage.”

(I sincerely urge those people to jump into their cars and drive directly into the Grand Canyon National Parking Garage.)

Now, as we all know, the only way to kill a zombie is to destroy its brain — which is difficult when you’re faced with a brainless idea.

So I won’t go into questions of the expense because projects like this are always completed in a thrifty fashion, with all costs easily managed by skilled government and business economic wizards.

Similarly, I won’t worry about the vision of the town’s central gem being turned into a construction mud pit for a year or two (or three). Oh, maybe we’ll have to cancel Food & Wine and rugby games and kids frolicking on the green — but only briefly because, as we all know, the work will be done as swiftly as can be imagined.

On time and under budget! That’s always the way it is with projects like this.

So we won’t worry about those items.

But the fans of the Wagner Park(ing) Big Dig might need to consider the pesky fact that you can’t dig a hole around here without hitting water. Lots of water.

I would suggest a quick study of the history of the Rio Grande parking structure, which went way, way over budget when it suddenly turned out to be way, way underwater.

Or, for historical perspective, one could log on to Google and check out the photos of men in deep-sea diving suits going down into the Aspen silver mines to repair the bilge pumps after the power went out and the mines flooded.

Digging deep holes around here in search of precious metals might make sense. Digging in search of parking is just stupid.

But if the thought of the Wagner Park(ing) Garage turning into the Wagner Swimming Hole doesn’t faze you, let’s think about all those cars wending their way through the streets — off Main onto Monarch and then two blocks or so to Wagner Park(ing).

Putting an extra couple of hundred cars a day into that traffic pattern could give us a delightful downtown traffic jam to match the one out by the airport.

That’s what Aspen needs: matching traffic jams.

But it would all be worth it! Because the new garage would only be one — yes, just one! — block from Restaurant Row on Hopkins Avenue.

And that would be a vast improvement over the existing (“badly located,” we are scornfully informed) Rio Grande Parking Garage, which is two — oh my God! Two! — blocks from Restaurant Row.

I mention Restaurant Row because one fervent Wagner Park(ing) fan has informed us that Red Mountain residents are refusing to come downtown to dine because they can’t find convenient parking.

And the thought of those poor people up on Red Mountain starving to death just breaks my heart.

Now, since I’ve mentioned Restaurant Row, let’s take a moment out to consider another problem.

As you might have heard, one poor family — and, most particularly, Natalia Shvachko, wife, mother and quite possibly (if Google is to be believed) Miss Ukraine of 1996 — has been suffering unreasonably from the grotesque racket caused by their neighbors.

Those neighbors are the bars and restaurants found, shockingly, on the block of East Hopkins known as Restaurant Row, where Shvachko et famille bought their snazzy $6.3 million condo. (And where, speaking of pride and prejudice, Shvachko et al notoriously have refused to let tenants of the building’s affordable-housing apartments use the front door — back door for the poor folks!)

Perhaps you are thinking that Shvachko should be grateful that, unlike the huddled masses up on Red Mountain, she has easy access to restaurants without worrying about parking.

Nope. Indeed, Natalia is well on her way to setting an Aspen record for complaining calls to the cops — a record to be proud of in this notoriously touchy town.

It seems the noise from the bars and restaurants is violating the city’s nighttime noise ordinance.

Now, some might say that a little late-night noise is what you might expect when you buy an apartment in the heart of a tourist town, right above a restaurant, between two restaurants, across the street from a restaurant.

But I say, “No!”

These bars and restaurants are violating the law, and there is one simple solution: The City Council must act immediately — and raise the noise limit from the current 60 decibels (the equivalent of “conversation in a restaurant,” according to the wise folks at Industrial Noise Control) to — oh, I don’t know — maybe 100 decibels, which happens to be roughly the noise a private jet makes in a flyover at 1,000 feet.

Seems appropriate, don’t you think?

Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His email address is