Beyond Pan and Fork: Basalt voters consider parks maintenance

Oct 24, 2016

Basalt councilman Auden Schendler points out a small "gnome home" in a creative new town park.
Credit Aspen Public Radio News

Basalt has three questions related to parks, open space and trails on November’s ballot, two of which are connected to each other and one that stands on its own.   

The town already has some unique parks — like the gnome and fairy home building zone.


On its face, this is just a wild field, spotted with cottonwoods and streams meandering toward the Roaring Fork River, but Basalt councilman Auden Schendler said it’s a perfect place for kids to use their imaginations and become builders. Schendler played zoning officer on a recent fall morning.

“OK, yeah, that one is exceeding the ordinance,” he said, pointing to what initially looked like a pile of sticks and grass.


Credit Aspen Public Radio News

The rules are made clear on a sign at the entrance to the park, behind Basalt’s library. Gnome and fairy homes are to be no larger than 1-foot-by-1-foot, and they must be constructed entirely of natural materials.


“It’s meant to be wild, and you’re gonna have to dig in the muck to find the right materials,” Schendler said. “We’ve seen houses built out of grass and rock which makes sense because that’s what you’ve got at hand. But it really fosters engagement with the natural world.”


In the coming days, Basalt residents will decide how best to direct funding for this type of engagement with nature.


There are two questions on the ballot tied to building a park (and allowing for some development) along the river at the Pan and Fork site. But there’s a third question, 2H, that asks voters if the town should use more of an existing one percent sales tax for maintenance of parks, open spaces and trails. Right now, that tax is used primarily to purchase new land.


As voters consider these measures, Schendler said Basalt’s parks, open space and trails program, or POST, already has a lot going for it.


“I think we’re positioned to be one of the top towns in the west in terms of recreation access,” Schendler said.


To get there, the town needs to improve existing parks and expand the trail network, according to Julie Kolar, who has served on the POST citizen advisory board for nine years.


“There has been a tremendous focus on the river park, but in the meantime, in parallel, we are working on a plan to update Arbaney Park as a key next priority,” Kolar said.  


The popular park needs new playground equipment, improvements to the swimming pool, and repairs to cracked sidewalks.


If voters approve the measure, projects like this one could use up to 20 percent of the total POST fund, which is about $325,000. If not, maintenance and operations will continue to receive up to half that amount. The tax is projected to raise about $1.6 million in 2016.