Friday, June 10, 2011

City leaders find value in Aspen trip

Ketchum elected officials and staff impressed by common vision

The city of Aspen sits at the base of Aspen Mountain, also called “Ajax.” Photo by Mountain Express

Two days of meetings with representatives from Aspen's public and private leadership left Ketchum officials with new ideas and a renewed sense of what their focus should be.

Ketchum's Community and Economic Development Department organized the "Ketchum to Aspen Innovation Tour" for City Council members, Planning and Zoning commissioners, city staff and leaders of valley organizations.

Fifteen people drove to Aspen on Sunday for meetings with representatives from the Colorado resort city's Community Development Department, Aspen Skiing Co., Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, Parks and Recreation Department, Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority, marketing agencies and others.

"That's the key—to meet all these people who are very knowledgeable and have dealt with similar problems," said Ketchum Councilman Baird Gourlay. "It's worth seeing the things they do."

Ketchum Planning Manager Joyce Allgaier noted the strong partnerships that exist in that community as well as a focus on common themes, such as the environment.

"There's a sense of 'we're all pulling in the same direction,'" she said. "They know what they're working toward and they embrace it in a variety of ways and in decision making."

She said Ketchum could use greater clarification of community priorities, through its comprehensive plan, marketing plans and strategic plans, as well as better dialogue among groups.

"It comes down to clear, guiding principles, or maybe they're guiding values," she said.

She said she hopes to pursue more partnership building, outreach and coordination of efforts to get everyone going in the same direction.

In Aspen, that common approach is often referred to as the "Aspen idea," embraced by residents since the 1940s, said Lisa Horowitz, Ketchum's community and economic development director.

"One thing that was surprising to all of us was the mind-body-spirit triad," touted by nearly everyone they met with, Horowitz said. "They all touched on that at some point. We found that really powerful."

That prompted Horowitz and others to consider to what extent that happens in Ketchum—and how it could be enhanced.

"Do we within our community share a common view, and are we articulating that?" Horowitz asked.

The idea is not to replicate Aspen, she said, but to find a vision that valley residents want and to make that a common goal.

Jason Miller, executive director of Mountain Rides Transportation Authority, said he gained practical ideas from Aspen's transportation department personnel and transportation authority officials, and also received confirmation that many projects Mountain Rides is working on puts it "on the right track."

One of the challenges he sees with Wood River Valley's transportation is infrastructure.

"You can put a lot of buses on the street, but if you don't have pull-outs or shelters ... those are things we don't have and need to focus on to get more return for what we have on the street," he said.

Miller said Aspen transit representatives informed him of funding opportunities that could be available to Mountain Rides, and transportation meeting attendees exchanged information on hiring, benefits, Americans With Disabilities Act issues, integration of infrastructure and service, among other topics.

A summary of participants' experiences will be drafted from notes taken during the trip. The summary will be made available to the public. Additionally, Horowitz said, some trip participants will hold an informal public meeting to share what they learned with Ketchum residents.

"Not everything was applicable," Horowitz said. "We don't want to be Aspen. But we were looking at what ideas would fit with our community and who we are."

Rebecca Meany:

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