July 13, 2014

County officials ‘not impressed’ with efforts to restore wedding meadow

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The wedding site in the Little Annie Basin on Friday, July 11, 2014.

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

The wedding site in the Little Annie Basin on Friday, July 11, 2014.

The Little Annie wedding site on July 11.

Brent Gardner-Smith / Aspen Journalism

The Little Annie wedding site on July 11.

ASPEN – Pitkin County officials say efforts to restore a meadow in the Little Annie Basin after a June 14 wedding have been inadequate so far.

“Many spots were bare and were completely dry and some weeds were appearing,” said Tami Kochen, a zoning officer with Pitkin County, who visited the site earlier this month, along with Michael Kramer, a county planner. “We’re very skeptical and were not impressed on our initial visit on July 2.”

On Friday July 11 about half of the 2-acre wedding site, which is right off a public road at about 10,700 feet, appeared to be dry, bare dirt. On the balance of the site, there was grass growing in many locations, but often alongside yellow dandelions. The undisturbed meadows around the site were thick with a profusion of greenery and flowers.

The county has asked Kari Bien, the event planner for the wedding at the firm of Van Wyck & Van Wyck, to develop a watering and weed-management plan for the site, which was seeded on June 23 and watered from a water tank for several days before being handed back to nature.

The site has no permanent irrigation system. Until Thursday evening, the weather in Aspen had been consistently hot and dry since the site was seeded.

“We told her that we were very skeptical that the seeding would take hold and germinate,” Kochen said.

Bare dirt is visible on a portion of the Little Annie wedding site on July 11, normally festooned in July with meadow flowers.

Brent Gardner-Smith / Aspen Journalism

Bare dirt is visible on a portion of the Little Annie wedding site on July 11, normally festooned in July with meadow flowers.

Holding back bond money

Bien did not return a call seeking comment. Her client is Robert Steel, chairman of the Aspen Institute board of trustees and CEO of Perella Weinberg Partners. Steel’s daughter Alexandra was married at the site.

The land is owned by Castle Creek Investors, Inc. John Miller, the controlling owner of CCI, is a friend of the Steel family.

This past Wednesday, Miller assured the Pitkin County commissioners that the wedding site would be properly restored. He said after a portion of the same site was disturbed in the fall 2011 for a TV commercial, it came back in “perfect” condition the following spring.

Work began on the wedding site on June 5 and included building 27,000 square feet of covered deck space on scaffolding platforms. Truck and construction traffic left areas of compacted bare dirt around the wedding structures.

The county is withholding $16,238 of a $25,000 bond posted by Van Wyck and Van Wyck until Miller’s meadow is properly restored.

The county did return to Van Wyck & Van Wyck $5,000 of the bond that was tied to the removal of the wedding structures. And it returned another $3,762 tied to restoring Little Annie Road as necessary.

That leaves $16,238 from the $25,000 bond, which was required as part of a county building permit for the structures.

“We are not going to release it until there is substantial growth on the site,” Kochen said of the funds.

Bien suggested that the county wait another week or so to see what came up, according to Kochen, who added Bien is in contact with a local landscape contractor.

“We’ll give her a chance,” Kochen said.

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism collaborated on this story with the Aspen Daily News, which published the story on Saturday, July 12, 2014.

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