A poster child for the wildland-urban interface
The work of Tim Cooney, who has exhaustively researched and documented Aspen’s historical tentacles, is a wonder to behold. At Aspen Journalism, in collaboration with Aspen Daily News, we’ve published at least 17 of his pieces going back to 2015.
Each typically 4,000 words in length or more, Cooney combs through historical newspaper accounts going back nearly 140 years and hunts down other primary documents to weave lively and nuanced narratives that put you in the shoes of the men and women who made Aspen the place it is today.
Some of my favorites include his stories about the “public tramway” that hauled silver ore from Aspen Mountain at the height of the Victorian-era mining boom, the 1950 FIS World Championships that put Aspen on the map as a ski town and plans to build ski areas in Little Annie Basin and around Hayden Peak that were never realized. He also authored a painstaking, contextual reconstruction of the 1984 avalanche that claimed the lives of three ski patrollers in Highland Bowl.
Cooney struck again this week — with a two-part story in Sunday and Monday’s Daily News — telling the tale of the critical role the Hunter Creek corridor adjoining town has played throughout the community’s history. What stuck with me about the story is how the area has always been a venue where the wants and needs of the town below have played out. That’s been true since homesteaders established some of the upper valley’s first ranches and timber mills, as prospectors dug for wealth, as the city harnessed the creek for water and power, and when development interests drew up a 700-home subdivision with its own ski lift hitting the north slope of Smuggler Mountain. The area is the poster child — talented, gifted and also oftentimes troubled — of the wildland-urban interface.
Cooney’s accounting stopped short of the news of the last decade coming out of the valley, which is now perhaps the busiest, most accessible recreation zone on the Aspen map. I think it’s not a coincidence, however, that an area with such a history of scheming and innovation would be the subject of one of the more remarkable public lands management collaborations to arise.
The Hunter-Smuggler Mountain Cooperative Plan of 2014 refers to an effort by the White River National Forest, the city of Aspen and Pitkin County open space programs and nonprofit environmental groups to define a vision and outline new cohesive management strategies for nearly 5,000 acres of heavily used public lands crossing jurisdictional boundaries. Aspen Journalism covered that planning process, including two extensive pieces by Paul Andersen, tapping into questions of the purpose and value of the proposed outcomes. It’s interesting to think about the legacy of that process today in the context of the history Cooney lays out. One thing is clear: There will always be a new project to work on in the Hunter Creek Valley.
Also this week at Aspen Journalism, we published a story that has been percolating for months about a plan to conserve critical wetlands and public access in Marble; our Tracking the Curve project documenting COVID-19 in Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield came back after a two week hiatus; and we have resurrected The Bucket, the longtime feature from our old website where we share links to stories we think people with a stake in Aspen and the Colorado River basin would find of interest. Check out a selection of what we’ve been reading this week below.
— Curtis Wackerle, editor
By Tim Cooney | May 30, 2021
High demand for silver between 1880 and 1893 drove Aspen’s first boom as a ‘modern’ industrial mining city, while Hunter Creek served as the primary natural resource larder for the early mining camp to get up and running.
By Curtis Wackerle | May 29, 2021
This spring, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) completed its analysis of the site and determined that contaminant levels in the material are within the range considered to be non-threatening to human health for a day-use recreation site.
“Some landowners have openly talked about breaching the fence surrounding the dam property and forcing open the irrigation gates. Already, they have purchased property adjacent to the head gates and staged protests there.”
Source: nytimes.com | Read more
“A 2019 report published by the Kyl Center warns that in the long term there likely won’t be enough surface water available from the Central Arizona Project to replenish the groundwater used by all the homes currently planned for the Phoenix suburbs.”
Source: hcn.org | Read more
“During a Tuesday presentation to the Vail Town Council, Novak, the town’s fire chief since late 2014, said a changing climate has him worried. ‘I’ve never before felt this sense of urgency,’’ Novak said. ‘I’m confident we’ll see something impactful in the next decade.‘”
Source: vaildaily.com | Read more
“The city council’s 2016 decision to rewrite the land use codes was a reaction to locals’ anxieties that they were no longer in control of their community and that outside forces were increasingly dictating not just the look and feel of their community, but also the criteria for belonging. These outside forces can be glossed by a single word: ‘super-gentrification.’”
Source: Aspentimes.com | Read more
Colorado ski resort operators turbo charged technology last season and many of the upgrades are here to stay
Sunlight Mountain Resort had the busiest season in its history and sold 80% of its daily lift tickets online, compared to an average of about 30% in recent years. And the Glenwood Springs resort had no lines for lift tickets as a result of better e-commerce technology, said Sunlight spokesman Troy Hawks.
Covering the roundtables has long been central to Aspen Journalism’s mission and Water Desk Editor Heather Sackett filed a story this week about an interesting new development. Read more
Aspen Journalism won three awards from the Colorado Press Association this week in its 2020 Colorado Better News Media Contest. Read more
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