Wendle Whiting

I can’t say that I’ve been following closely the kerfuffle downvalley concerning the expansion of the quarry in Glenwood Springs. It’s so far away that it is basically none of my business. It would be a bit hypocritical to make fun of the gun lunatics from Rifle who come to Aspen to get attention, and then turn around and have an opinion about mining in Glenwood Springs, a town so far away that it has a Walmart.

However, one thing I can relate to are ludicrous commentary columns: they are open game for mocking because writing them is a specialty of my own.

Yesterday, the Aspen Daily News published a guest commentary ostensibly written by the unfortunately surnamed Gregory Dangler, the CEO and co-founder of Rocky Mountain Industrials, which operates the limestone quarry. In the column, he used the phrases “elitists” and “wealthy elite” several times. Them’s fighting words. No one gets to use those phrases in this valley unless they are talking about events or issues that are happening in Aspen. 

Gregory, a 37-year-old millionaire who lives in Denver, dares to deem the owners of Glenwood Hot Springs, Iron Mountain Hot Springs, and the Glenwood Caverns and Adventure Park as “wealthy elites.” Veuve Clicquot nearly came out of my nose when I read that.

Mr. Dangler, have you ever ventured south of your quarry? You have to get to at least Carbondale before you can even start to throw that phrase around. How dare you minimize the actual wealthy elites of the valley by equivocating them with humble tourist attraction owners.

Proper wealthy elites buy huge tracts of land to extort concessions and land swaps from both federal and local governments. The wealthy elites of Aspen have been known to, on several occasions, buy extremely expensive tracts of air so their view won’t be obstructed. Stopping the expansion of a limestone quarry is what they give their toddlers to play with before nap time.

Mr. Dangler referred to the Glenwood Springs “wealthy elites” as “land barons.” Dude, there are families in Aspen that own up to 5 acres. Five! The value of which could buy the entire north side of Glenwood Springs, including your sandbox. Just outside of Aspen there are a couple of 500 acre estates worth more than the western half of Nebraska. These owners are actual land barons. The owners of a few hot tubs are not “land barons,” they are hard working stewards of some dirt with hot water. 

Mr. Dangler suggests that the actual motivation of the “wealthy elites” is to destroy the Western Slope and America along with it. This statement comes immediately after he decries that what makes America so great is “transparency.” So, either Mr. Dangler is being transparent, and actually believes that this is the motivation of the citizens of Glenwood Springs and is, therefore, (how to put this nicely…) an imbecile; or he is not being transparent himself and is a hypocrite. I suspect that he is, mostly, the latter.

In the wise words of Ms. Swift, you need to calm down, Dangler, you are being too loud.

Mr. Dangler only earns $500,000 a year at RMI, which is lunch money for the actual wealthy elites. No wonder he is comfortable throwing around that term at other people; he’s a pauper. Apparently, however, the business of gravel is rather lucrative, as he suggests that RMI is willing to build a $50 million underground conveyor to get his rocks off the mountain and into trains (the plot description for a very particular kink film).

Reading that RMI is “offering” to invest that much into expanding the quarry made me research the price of gravel, which is a great time-waster! Did you know that limestone gravel commands as much as $20 to $30 a ton? Yeah, that means nothing to me either. However, I did find a bit of information that says a truckload of crushed limestone can be had for around $1,350 retail. Mr. Dangler, who is in no way trying not to be threatening, says that if he can’t have his toy conveyor belt that he’s going to just run 450 trucks a day to the railyard. If you do that math, that’s around $600,000 a day for gravel at retail. 

Let’s say, generously, that RMI gets to keep $200,000 of that after overhead. They could pay for their conveyor in 250 days. Holy rock, that’s a lucrative business.

I honestly never notice the quarry in Glenwood or Woody Creek unless I’m flying over them. Which technically makes me an elite because I am sincerely describing Glenwood and Woody Creek as fly-over country. I always thought of the quarries as pretty benign signs of simple industry that helps keep us elitists grounded by having them as a talking point in our wine caves, but now that I know that they actually just print money, I am offended. 

It’s OK to make a living off of the land, but not an obscene one. There’s a fine line between harvesting resources and pillaging the land.

RMI and Glenwood will have to work it out, and I’m sure it will be a spectacular fight, but I ask that Mr. Dangler please refrain from bringing perfectly respectable wealthy elitists into your mud fight. We do just fine wallowing in our own very significant controversies thank you very much. Just the other day someone applied for a permit to install a birdhouse in their yard. A house for birds! Can you even imagine!

But I am not just an elitist, I am also a hot springs snob. So help me God, if something happens to the hot water down there, there will be hell to pay!

Wendle was thinking of starting a support group for maligned wealthy elites, but then found out there is already a Cyclebar in Aspen. wendle@wendlewhiting.org