Blumenthal: Common theme across Aspen, Snowmass |

Blumenthal: Common theme across Aspen, Snowmass

Mel Blumenthal
Second View
Mel Blumenthal

It’s that time of year again when we make our annual trek across the California-Mexico border to Rancho La Puerta in order to jump-start and rejuvenate our minds, bodies and souls for the rigors of daily life to be encountered during the rest of the year.

More so than I’ve ever noticed in the past, there appears to be a rapidly growing sense of environmental responsibility overtaking everyone who visits this magnificent natural landscape in the heart of Tecate, which lies 45 miles southeast of San Diego and 16 miles east of Tijuana. The ranch itself was founded in 1940, and it continues to be a pioneer and leader in promoting holistic health, fitness and natural living. But since 1977, it has also become so much more in its founding and support of its nonprofit partner, Fundacion La Puerta.

The Tecate Valley winds through chaparral and oak woodland adjoining the foothills of Tecate Peak (Mount Kuchumaa, elevation 3,885 feet). This once-quiet border town has undergone rapid and uncontrolled growth, increasing in population from 7,000 in the late 1960s to well in excess of 80,000 today. As one might suspect, natural resources, agricultural land and scenic and recreational amenities are rapidly depleting and becoming degraded. Unless concerted corrective action is taken very soon, Tecate and Tijuana, with roughly 2 million residents combined, will quickly become an unsustainable urban environment that will entirely deplete the last environmental resources of this once abundant and rich habitat.

With the help of many environmentally conscious and caring people supported by the security of a conservation easement over 2,000 acres along the Tecate River Valley, hopefully the efforts to protect the endangered native plant and wildlife habitat will be successful.

As to the rejuvenation part of the trip, a plentiful and diverse menu of athletic activities, educational classes and body treatments are programmed to address the interests and cure the ills of just about everyone, including yours truly.

Mornings begin at 6 with a brisk mountain hike of anywhere from 2 to 7 miles through some of the most beautiful landscape I’ve ever encountered followed by a primarily plant-based breakfast — as far as I can tell, no bacon, sausage or meat of any sort has ever graced these tables. Then off to a morning spin class and a wide assortment of other exercise, stretch, yoga, weight training, aerobic activities and water sports as well as lots of touchy-feely, spiritually enriching sessions, which I mostly stay clear of for obvious reasons.

Then lunch, again plant-based, and did I mention full of fiber? To the degree that fiber constitutes a way of life at the ranch, gas attacks are never far behind. Secret stashes of Beano are located out of sight but never far from reach for those of us in the process of adjusting to these new dietary protocols.

More classes follow in the afternoon similar to the morning selection, followed by a short nap and then dinner with more fiber and more gas.

With all the physical and mental exercise during the day, evening activities are limited to about two hours after dinner and consist of guest performers and speakers on a wide array of topics, the highlight of which is the foul-mouthed “Bingo With Barry” on Wednesday nights.

All of this is repeated for seven days, and then we’re sent home to practice what we learned and experienced. Unfortunately, once outside the confines and discipline of the ranch, we’re usually back to our old ways and bad habits in relative short order but with the satisfaction of knowing we can always return when our guilt quota maxes out, which in our case always occurs around Memorial Day.

Although TV has been banished from the ranch and cellphones, iPads and laptops are generally frowned upon, management has succumbed in a very limited fashion to the pleadings of a small group of unrepentant Wi-Fi addicts who are unable to give up these toys for any significant length of time.

It was during one late-night Wi-Fi session last week that I came across a couple of similarly themed Aspen Times commentaries that caught my attention.

Andy Stone’s piece appropriately labeled “When the hammer thinks it’s an architect” brought into focus some of the same thoughts I’ve been opining about recently regarding Snowmass Village’s town staff’s inclination and propensity to follow its own agenda rather than the will of the community as represented by the Town Council.

Su Lum is similarly concerned that the Aspen city government is being increasingly staff-driven, with the aims of the staff in line with neither the council nor its constituents.

Our Snowmass Village town staff members provide valuable insight and experience, but they’re not the decision makers on policy matters. They’re the hammer, not the architect. The staff has its rightful place in the process, but clearly it’s the job of the elected representatives to create and develop the design for the staff to execute, not the other way around.

Just think how much sooner and smoother with good quality the completion of Base Village might be if the town staff and Town Council were all singing from the same page in the same hymnal.

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