Windstar was founded in 1976 by singer/songwriter and passionate environmentalist John Denver and Aikido master Tom Crum. Their goal was to create a beautiful nature preserve, forever open and accessible to the public, where riders, hikers, and campers could experience nature, “inspiring children and adults to recognize their interconnectedness to the world around us, and to educate, inspire and empower them to actively commit to a healthy and sustainable future.”
John is gone, but his dream — of a commonly shared, public nature preserve, open eternally for the peace, enjoyment and inspiration of all — remained alive and well.
As noted in Brent Gardner Smith’s latest piece, The Windstar Foundation (specifically, the Rocky Mountain Institute) — charged with preserving this precious gift and guaranteeing access to all who would enjoy it — is now allegedly contemplating selling it to a private individual for $13 million. This effectively cuts off the preserve as we know it.
Clearly no billionaire who pays that kind of money intends to maintain the current public parking lot and trailhead on his front lawn (both are within the building envelope), so even if the nature preserve is “open to the public” there will simply be no way to access it.
This is analogous to the taking of California coastline. The beaches belong to the public, but access to the beaches has been cut off by private developers, in effect ending public access and making the beaches the private property of the rich beachfront homeowners.
For Windstar Foundation to even contemplate selling this hidden gem is a betrayal of everything John Denver intended when he created this gift to the public. It may be legal, but it’s wrong. It will have the effect of cutting off this beautiful gift to us forever, and selling it to the highest bidder. If this sale goes through, RMI, which became a board member of Windstar Foundation by raising $1 million in donations, with the expressed purpose of preserving Windstar, will enjoy a $7 million-plus payday for taking a public nature preserve (that it was charged with preserving and protecting), and flipping it to a private buyer. Any developer would be envious of that maneuver. If Pitkin County pulled something like that, there would universal be outrage.
A world where a precious public nature preserve becomes an “asset” to be flipped is a sad one indeed. If this is how you “save the world,” stay out of my neighborhood, please.