When addressing the Snowmass Part-Time Residents Advisory Board at its annual winter “State of the Village” meeting on Thursday, Pitkin County Commissioner Greg Poschman used the opportunity to offer a public service announcement.
It may still be peak conditions on the runs, but it won’t be long before it’s time to think about fire prevention.
“Two summers ago, we had the terrible fire,” he said, referring to the 2018 Lake Christine Fire that ravaged more than 12,500 acres of mostly backcountry land near Basalt and three homes. “I’m thinking, there are two ways out of my house to safety: I’m thinking, the people who come here for recreation, for part-time visitors, the one-time visitor … the residents may understand what the fire evacuation is, those people tend not to.”
He encouraged everyone in the town hall crowd to reach out to fire managers and rangers who “are happy” to go over fire-proofing strategies to mitigate the likelihood that, should another disaster strike in the form of fire, their houses become casualties.
When talking about the state of the village to the out-of-towners who also call Snowmass Village home for part of the year, the regional role and partnerships with other communities and entities also became a motif for the commissioner — and those who had questions. Traffic to accommodate an ever-growing population came up, as did, of course, the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport. Community discussions are underway concerning the county-managed airport’s potential redevelopment.
Regarding the former, Poschman stressed the efficacy of the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority’s bus system — which, he maintained, could be even more effective.
“It’s the second-largest and most complicated bus system in the state of Colorado. We have 5 million riders, which is kind of shocking. We have a fleet of 132 buses. That’s our solution. I don’t see us six-laning the highway anytime soon,” he said.
From his experience in the Pitkin County building, in which many a dog lover works, he said, allowing dogs on RFTA buses could potentially cut down commuter traffic by as much as 5 percent, although he conceded there would likely need to be some management, such as a certification for dogs who pass a behavior test, to make it work.
At that, Snowmass Village Mayor Markey Butler, who followed Poschman in the speaker lineup Thursday, found an opening for a good-natured quip.
“We allow dogs on our buses here,” she chimed in, to chuckles from the crowd.
As for airport expansion, Poschman acknowledged that one of the most pertinent updates is to recognize there’s not much of an update yet, though there’s been plenty of debate and research.
“That’s another four-hour conversation,” he said. “We have four different groups that [have provided recommendations] to an airport vision committee. There’s a plan to redo the terminal that is in place; no decisions have been made. It hasn’t come to our board yet. We’re waiting to get the info so we can hear it all together at public hearings.”
And to add to the complication surrounding potential airport projects, he continued, there’s also the runway to consider in addition to the terminal.
“The runway is more complicated because the [Federal Aviation Administration] really runs that show,” Poschman said. “It’s a hugely expensive project. This thing is going to be complicated and huge if it happens. The cost is approaching half a billion dollars; the FAA is offering to pay for 90 percent of that.
“The biggest fear is that they build an airport that is so big and large … and you become a regional hub,” he continued. “That would change the numbers of people coming through.”
But the tone of the exchange wasn’t a critical or contentious one. One woman complimented last year’s handily managed Owl Creek Road construction, for instance.
The Pitkin County project, tackled in July, was designed to improve safety and drainage near a steep section of Owl Creek Road that has been hampered for many years by spring water and irrigation runoff.
“The road was never closed; they finished on time. Coming from an area of the country where that would never happen, we were just so impressed,” she said.