Tony Vagneur: Solar farm push ignores history of hard work for open spaces
Margaret and I took a hike up the Triangle Peak road the other day. Oh man, what a sight! We got up to the Twin Oaks ridge, with a grand view of the great tower of Thimble Rock on the left, ever-elusive Arbaney Draw just over the hill from there, and miles of trail going up to cow camp. Indian Playground, couched in the embracing shadow of Sloane’s Peak, was within our viewplane, but a long way off. My heart swelled with good memories and Margaret got a ton of excellent photographs.
For those who never have been up there, and I suspect there are many who have not, I shouldn’t tell you this, but it provides one of the best and most informative viewplanes of the upper valley, from East Sopris and Capitol creeks, along the base of Mount Sopris and Buzzard Basin, up the Roaring Fork River to Independence Pass, including Woody Creek and McLain Flats.
In three directions, east, west and south are thousands of acres of land protected from development by the Aspen Valley Land Trust — 48,000 acres to be exact. In addition to that mix, there are many thousands more of properties acquired by Pitkin County Open Space and Trails, properties also protected in perpetuity from further, or future development. To the north, it is Forest Service land.
For the Aspen and Pitkin County communities, this protection of land has been a more than 50-year effort of diligent enthusiasm and forward-thinking vision to protect open land in the valleys and on the mountainsides. It has been a labor of love, folks doing their level best through volunteerism and monetary support to keep our viewplanes open and a pleasure for all to witness.
If the truth be known, it might go back to Bugsy Barnard and his 1960s merry band of chainsaw vigilantes who whacked down all the roadside billboards between Aspen and Glenwood. There is a great passion in this community for protecting open space.
And here comes Renewable Energy Systems Americas, a multi-national, private renewable energy development company headquartered in Broomfield, in cahoots with Holy Cross Energy (our local electrical energy, member-owned company), wishing to build an industrial solar array in an area never before having industrial uses.
These out-of-town interlopers want to build that solar array right in the most visible portion of the upper valley, as documented from the top of Triangle Peak. Every person flying in to the airport will be distracted from the views of our beautiful valley and forced to look at an industrial complex of 18,300 panels constructed of rare-earth, reflective metals, clustered over 35 acres. You know how that is — your eyes are always drawn to an ugly imperfection on someone’s face.
There’s a sacrilege here — according to the Planning and Zoning Commission, we are now willing to trade away growth management plans, agreements with neighboring caucuses, towns and counties, and bargain the county’s trust with its citizens, by allowing this solar array to be built. At least, that was Planning and Zoning ’s advice to the county commissioners.
Planning and Zoning doesn’t seem to have any problem with discarding over 50 years of blood, sweat and tears to protect our open space by plopping this misguided, feel-good attempt at saving the planet in the middle of our valley.
As usual, many of the younger people trumpeting this solar array have no idea of the history behind the protection of our wonderful valley and don’t realize they are complicit in making a deal with the devil. Apparently, this also is true of most of the Planning and Zoning board, although a couple of members were absent and missed this disastrous vote.
Remember, Renewable Energy Systems Americas is a private, for-profit company, plying the sympathies of our liberal community, working us to sacrifice priceless open space for the benefit of their company. And don’t forget, they are in a hurry to build this array so they can get a sizeable tax credit. Trading away irreplaceable, uncluttered space for a fouled nest. If you think about it, it’s an outrage.
It is reminiscent of Harold Hall in “The Music Man,” a charlatan selling an impossible dream to the eager citizens of River City, Iowa (“Ya Got Trouble”), willing to do almost anything to get a school marching band put together. The first, and last, thing to go out the door was common sense.
Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.