I’d like to provide my perspective on the potential sale of the Windstar property.
I worked at Rocky Mountain Institute in the mid 1990s, when it conducted a capital campaign to buy the Windstar land and put most of it under a conservation easement.
RMI invested a tremendous amount of its own resources, at some risk to its program funding, to raise $3 million to buy the land and establish an endowment to maintain it.
It was a courageous, far-sighted effort that permanently protected about 925 of the property’s 957 acres. The land had had no protection before; it could have been subdivided into 35-acre ranchettes.
Contrary to the fears being expressed by some, the conservation easement will stay with the land, no matter who buys it.
The new owners may well build a big new house and remove RMI’s parking lot. But the easement guarantees public access, and I hope that RMI, Pitkin County and the Aspen Valley Land Trust (which holds the easement) will work together to ensure that some alternative parking is provided.
It’s a beautiful piece of land. I encourage readers to go out and walk it. At this time of year the Gambel oak and service berry are stunning in their colors (although keep an eye out for bears). I’ve spent many winter days ski touring up to the head of the valley, my tracks weaving with those of the elk and other animals that take refuge there.
Yes, it’s sad that the Windstar Foundation is dissolving and the land is being sold. But change is not all bad. A single-family residence at Windstar will probably generate less traffic and other impacts than RMI’s current operations do. The conservation easement ensures that the vast majority of the property will remain unchanged. And with a little cooperative problem-solving, the public’s access will be assured as well.