Lights are right for our town
I love the letters section of the newspaper. It’s the one place where a well-known male ski instructor can take a swing at a respected local female artist and no one bats an eye.What put these two at odds, you ask? Lights. Not just any lights. We’re talking huge stadium lights – the one thing that athletes and coaches at Aspen High School have coveted for years.Barbara Conviser, the artist, is repulsed by the huge metallic poles that have sprouted bulbs over at the school district’s primary athletic field.In a letter to The Aspen Times last moth, Conviser wrote: “Now it seems we are preparing to court and broadcast our message to distant planets. … Sprouting in dazzling silver, cloud-piercing glory are a set of immensely tall towers festooned with the latest in light bulbs that turn the inky evening into midday. I’m sure our teams will be seen on Mars, and we will spread our message of youthful glory throughout the universe. At worst, we will certainly have the state of the art in lightning rods. Somehow … I wonder if the lights couldn’t have better translated into the lamps of learning.”Pretty funny letter, if you ask me.Frank Spofford didn’t see it that way. In a rebuttal to Conviser’s letter, the ski instructor criticized Conviser for her “Not in my backyard stance,” before ending his letter with: “Growth, and change, can be positive.”Spofford’s letter wasn’t funny, but it did bring up a good point.Is there such a thing as positive change in Aspen?So often, it seems, I’m reminded that all the changes that are taking place in this town are negative. Since I moved here nearly a year ago, I’ve talked with a number of longtime locals, most of whom have told me that Aspen used to be better place. I don’t exactly know when this was – the ’60s? the ’70s? – but I must say I’ve often agreed with their analysis. It nauseates me to think that a place like the Cooper Street Pier inevitably can’t survive here, yet there’s room for more $500 handbag museums. The afternoon traffic also disgusts me, as does the cost of rent for working schlubs like myself. But lights for the high school teams? C’mon, how can that not be a positive change? What’s not great about a community rallying together to raise private funds so their kids can experience the magic of playing under the lights?”I don’t begrudge the kids who want to play, I just think those poles are as insensitive as you can get,” Conviser said when I called her at her home. “I think we’re just getting too urbanized. Those huge lights are right at the gateway to the Maroon Bells.”It’s a good point. But, then again, I thought Spofford had a better one when I called him.”The lights go on, the lights go off,” he said. “Life goes on.”This is positive community growth. Friday night football games are something that bring people together. Just look at Basalt.”I couldn’t agree more. Last season, I enjoyed getting to know a number of locals as I sat in the bleachers at football games in both Basalt and Aspen. I couldn’t help but notice, however, that Aspen’s home games on Saturdays lacked the same spirit as Basalt’s games on Friday nights. I’m not saying that Aspen didn’t have great support. There just wasn’t the same electricity in the air – and I’m not just talking about lights.The truth is it’s hard to attract as many people on a beautiful fall Saturday anywhere in Colorado. There are just so many other things that are vying for people’s time – including televised college football games. But those lights on a crisp Friday night? They’re like a beacon. They can bring a community together like nothing else. People in Carbondale know as much, as do those in Glenwood Springs and all over the state. It’s the reason why a group of locals came together to purchase the lights. Some of those who gave money don’t even have kids at the high school.The lights are for the kids, first and foremost, but they’re also for everyone else. They were put in to bring a community together.Well, not all of the community. Don’t expect to see Conviser in the bleachers at any games this fall.”I think in this community we should be worried about more cerebral things,” she said. “I must say your football experience in high school leaves you far behind when you’re trying to earn a living. I don’t think the games have to be dazzling lit evening affairs. … That’s just my opinion. I think everyone is entitled to his or her own wrong opinion.”I completely agree with the latter point. Which is why I can say the former is one of the dumbest statements I’ve ever heard. If you disagree, well, you’re always welcome to write a letter.Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is email@example.com.
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