Steve Skinner

In March, Aspen voters will have a say on the Lift One corridor enhancements.

With all due respect, I no longer live within city limits and have no vote but since I have this platform, I will share a few observations.

I’m glad that city residents have a vote on this, as it is a massive project that will take years to build and your vote is important. In the grand scheme of things your vote may make all the difference. This could be decided by one vote!

Based on the ballot language I’ve seen and from what I know of the terrain, I would be opposed to the project on a number of levels. First, this project only offers token employee housing and is top-heavy with time shares and free market housing for the ultra rich. Three-quarters of the town is already full of empty free market housing, trophies for people who rarely, if ever, visit them or use them. Building more of that is a travesty and will not improve the town.

These free market units will provide even more short-term rental opportunities for a select few of the select few.

A relentless stream of dirty dump trucks hauling up and down that hill for years flies in the face of Aspen’s Canary Initiative and helps the world seal the deal on climate change. This project would put a dark cloud over Aspen and provide our own hole in the ozone layer to let the hot air up. On top of all the construction carbon, the vacant second homes and heated spaces will continue to counter efforts to stop climate change.

If world scientists are to be believed, and many of us claim to believe, we have a little over 10 years to mitigate the climate crisis. It takes two seconds to decide if you are going to be part of the crisis or part of the solution.

If Aspen is serious about being part of the solution, this project must be rejected, and focus must be shifted to addressing climate change in a sober and serious way. If approved, this project tells the world that in Aspen, despite the Aspen Idea, the Canary Initiative and the many Idea Festivals and pontifications, money rules over the environment. Save the Snow, remember?

OK, forget climate change. Another consideration is the possibility that Aspen Mountain will come roaring down onto the new development in the form of a significant debris flow, mudslide and rockslide.

In 2006, the Colorado School of Mines released a paper called “Evaluation of Debris Flow Removal Protocol, Mitigation Methods, and Development of a Field Data Sheet.” The statewide report listed “Aspen Mountain Ski Area and vicinity” as one of seven “Tier Two Debris Flow Areas — Significant Activity and Potential Impacts.”

1983 was a huge, wet year in Aspen. We had skiers getting lost on hut trips and town being evacuated as a precaution to a potentially catastrophic, potentially imminent debris flow. Glen Canyon Dam was inches from catastrophic failure. There was another evacuation of Aspen in the winter of 2007-08. The potential for Aspen Mountain to slide is probably more of a question of when instead of if.

The 1A corridor might be a good place to build a wall to slow the inevitable debris flow instead of a vulnerable high-end development.

Lastly, until little old Aspen gets a handle on her big-city traffic problems, continuing with business as usual looks like folly. Imagine what could be done if the town and all the brilliant minds in it were bent on solving Aspen’s underlying problems instead of making swift money for a small group. Instead of a moon shot or a new deal for Aspen, folks are planning a quick run to the bank with blinders on.

It’s time for forward thinking and sober maneuvers, not reckless, headlong development like we have had in the past. The days of cashing in on Aspen should be over, not extended. Besides, doing the right thing could be just what Aspen needs to become attractive to future visitors. If there is to be a future at all.

 

Steve Skinner sees little to love about this proposal. Reach him at nigel@sopris.net.

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