Op-ed by Carleton Cronin, West Hollywood, California
Nothing like travel to broaden one’s perspective, goes the old saw. But, it’s true. No matter how many trips to an old familiar haunt, the exercise is valuable. Each June we drive to the high country in Colorado, where we have a small condo and a number of old friends.
The condo was purchased with the funds from the sale of our former Spider House, now razed and replaced by the usual hideous “mountain baroque” design which consists of round river rocks and lots of timber.
The result is pleasing to folks with lots of cash, especially those who hail from the flatlands of Ohio and Texas. But, the lesson here is: Everything changes.
Like West Hollywood, Aspen, Colorado, is undergoing change and there are quite a few parallels to note.
Here’s one which will resonate in both cities: Bicycles. I would venture to say that there are more bikes than residents in the thin air of Aspen. Where once skis reigned in the snowy months, bikes are now supreme in the warmer months.. To say that the area is overwhelmed by pedalers is to understate the situation. One favorite local trail has been paved over and connected to others so that one can now bike 46 miles along a smooth, wide pathway – or bikeway.
Pedestrians, once the sole users of the trails are now warned that bikes have the right of way. Several trails at altitudes of 10,000 feet or more are to be paved for cyclists. In town, bikes can now simply sail on through intersections, paying no attention to stop signs and travel on sidewalks is allowed.
West Hollywood cyclists may drool at the prospect of such privileges, but the number of injuries and altercations in that old town is escalating rapidly and the City Council is scratching its collective head for solutions.
Common sense does not appear on the agenda. What’s new? Another parallel?
Fussing over building heights and re-zoning a town founded in 1862, but incorporated in 1946, offers much to ponder. A school cum of my wife, born and raised in Aspen, tells of part-time residents who are appalled at the changes, apparently expecting a time-warp condition which would preserve their memories of the place while dispensing with realities.
She accepts most of the changes as necessary while working to rein in runaway development. She also volunteers as an ambassador on the slopes, at the annual music festival and as a caregiver for elderly residents. She is a valuable part of the town, active and informed. In WEHO there is a small core group like that – too small.
Certain mountainous regions of Colorado had a huge snowpack this year and the run-off is spectacular. The Roaring Fork River is truly roaring, the river-running companies in full swing. There are still some die-hards who are hiking up to a few remaining glaciers and snowfields to ski. Other hikers are jamming the trails – and watching out for bikes.
This town is now a four-season town which, like West Hollywood, derives its principal revenues from visitors. Restaurant tables are booked weeks in advance. Even finding a decent cheeseburger became difficult because of the crowds. Hotel rooms are scarce for those who do not plan ahead. Rental cars, mostly SUVs, are hauled in from faraway to meet the demand. Parking, by the way, is a game of chance, just like WEHO, our town. Meters have appeared on every street now, but the singular most popular parking control is the buy-your-own paper permit from the machine on every block.
(Editor’s note: For one heck of a treat, and with a nudge nudge, wink wink to civic leaders,
Trust is still a factor here. My first visit here in 1967 found the only paved road to be state route 82 into town about a quarter mike to the only traffic signal. All other streets were not paved for some years.
A little more about water. Several years ago Aspen was in a severe drought.
To the chagrin of the city council, severe restrictions were put in place until such time as more normal conditions returned and water was available for every use. Visitors stoically put up with the temporary rules.
Some time ago I queried the city about water use restrictions due to the extreme drought in California. I was told that the city would do no more than issue some suggestions about usage until a state of emergency was declared by the state.
Well, such a notice went out yesterday (July 15) and it is up to the cities as to how they will comply. Of course, the way governments work is that the state went from a the extreme of weal suggestion for compliance to the extreme of threatening large fines for not complying.
Somewhere in between lies a sane approach. My suggestions: Alternate side of the street watering and only from 5 to 7AM and from 7 to 8 PM.
Of course, leaky sprinklers and runoff should be monitored and leaflets made available for the yardmen who come her from other cities to care for our yards explaining the cities restrictions.
Homeowners should be willing to comply, but if they never see the workers, how do they get the word to them?
Aspen puts up with bears, driven down from their haunts by human incursion and ready to feast upon that 50 lb. bag of dog food in your unlocked garage. WEHO has an occasional coyote and raccoon but no bears.
We have some homeless and some aimless folk who might find reason to invade our sanctums. Aspen has had a few murders recently, about one-half our count That item is a measure of progress? Prior to 2006, Aspen had not had a murder for several decades.
What other parallels? It is, like our town “diverse” but finding an African-American is difficult. Spanish is rapidly becoming a second language. Asian students predominate at the Music School and the Russians just love Aspen.
No one knows, according to the city controller, a pal, just how many true residents are there, but the weekend crowds swell into the many thousands as the beer taps are opened and night-time venues full up.
Oh, lest I forget – there is a Gay Ski Week in Aspen each January or February. So, if so many elements are similar in these two towns, how does one broaden ones horizon by travelling? What I have written above states my case – and, sometimes it’s the journey, not the destination.