Wednesday letters: Arts Council, Ascendigo, Ascendigo and more Ascendigo, and eldercare thoughts

Arts Council thanks

Thank you, A La Carte, Jim’s Automotive, Jewels and Gems, High Country Gems, Uncle Pizza, Espresso Hut, Target, Frida, Colorado, Slope and Hatch, Natural Grocers, Bed Bath and Beyond, Silver Bead, Russo’s, Mona Lisa, Fourth Dimension and Bluebird Cafe for your generous contributions to the Glenwood Springs Arts Council Membership Drive. 

The new member drawing will take place live on Zoom today.

There is still time for the community to be a part of this membership drive by going to and becoming a member or by donating a gift card to the Glenwood Springs Arts Council New Member Drawing by contacting me at

Thank you, everyone, for showing your love and support for all the arts.

Chip Wells, board member

Glenwood Springs Arts Council

Ascendigo plan majestic

Ascendigo works to empower and inspire people with autism. Majestic goals from an organization that has been headquartered in Carbondale for the past 17 years. By all accounts, Ascendigo is both very well managed and an upstanding not-for-profit “citizen,” that employs about 60 people, making it one of the town’s top employers.

I had the opportunity to meet with Ascendigo’s Peter Bell and Dan Richardson, on the proposed Missouri Heights Ranch site, to learn more about the development, and to express concerns regarding water, traffic, noise and fire risks. Peter and Dan systematically walked me through Ascendigo’s plan and impact assessments on each of my concerns. This was truly eye-opening.

I concluded that the assessment was thoughtful, intellectually honest and very valuable.

Change is a difficult subject. But many of us who built or bought houses in Missouri Heights, one by one, altered the landscape. The proposed Ascendigo Ranch has four advantages compared with the most logical alternative case — the development of the roughly 20 properties currently slated for the site. 

First, the actual building plans for the facility show a much less intrusive development footprint compared with the alternative of those 20 individual houses and related development. 

Second, the operational plan for the ranch shows that the traffic, fire risk and water-use impacts are favorable, in some areas, significantly more favorable, than the alternative. This assessment was done using worst-case impacts during the peak summer occupation. 

Third, the proposal involves Ascendigo, a local organization with very strong leadership and a proven track record in our community. 

Fourth, the proposal involves helping our autistic neighbors meet their goals — goals as majestic as Mount Sopris itself.

I believe that the proposed Ascendigo Ranch is the better outcome for the community and this beautiful stretch of land.

Jerry Hjelle

Missouri Heights, Carbondale

No to Ascendigo camp

There have been numerous letters in recent weeks by residents opposing the Ascendigo Ranch proposal — a 45,500-square-foot-plus facility to be built in Missouri Heights. As a 32-year resident of Missouri Heights, I can tell you that this nonprofit but commercial-
like camp facility does not belong here. 

We are a rural/agricultural area located in a high desert. We are prone to drought and high winds. My opposition is neither greed nor NIMBY. It is about having adequate water to weather the droughts, fight the wildfires and protect my property’s value.

We are in a drought now. Current conditions resemble four of the five driest years on record — 2002, 2012, 2013 and 2018, according to the Bureau of Reclamation. 

It is astounding to me that Ascendigo wants to put 100 people on site 24/7 throughout the summer and possibly into the fall. When I think about 100 people flushing toilets, cooking, bathing and doing laundry, I shudder. In addition, they want to have a 1- to 2-acre pond (read: lake) for water sports for their campers. Such a goal is unfathomable to anyone who lives up here.

Ascendigo is not the first business to try to build in Missouri Heights. If this proposal is approved, then more will come. I know it is tempting. Missouri Heights is beautiful and quiet. But the infrastructure of Missouri Heights is not conducive to the high traffic, increased water consumption and wildfire risks that come with large developments. 

I am asking the Garfield County commissioners to vote no on the Ascendigo Ranch proposal.

Becky Chase


Not a rezoning request

In response to various letters that have appeared in local newspapers during the past two months, please note the following corrections of fact:

Ascendigo is not requesting new zoning. Garfield County staff rendered the opinion during the pre-application phase that our proposed use fits under the education facility land use, which is an allowed use but one that requires approval by the Board of County Commissioners. This project will not change any zoning in Missouri Heights to commercial use. 

Missouri Heights is the ideal location for Ascendigo Ranch. We have engaged a team of local experts who are following industry standards to closely examine traffic mitigation, water usage, availability and storage, wildfire preparedness and land management. Our application details the availability of these resources, the infrastructure that is in place and the improvements we will make to accommodate the development. Most important is that the autistic individuals we serve will thrive in the safe and serene setting offered in Missouri Heights. 

Increased traffic will be mitigated. Ascendigo’s traffic study completed by McDowell Engineering determined peak days vehicle trips will generate up to 210 trips per day on Harmony Lane, not the 450 trips reported in the letters. Furthermore, Ascendigo’s planned use projects only 26 peak days per year, 20 during summer and six during nonsummer. Traffic volume during nonpeak time periods will be considerably lower than alternative uses, including the development of a subdivision of single-family homes, estimated at 269 vehicle trips per day.

Numbers matter. Maximum residential capacity will be 82 individuals (not 100-plus people). Proposed parking calls for 94 spaces dispersed across the 126-acre property in eight designated areas (not a parking lot for 100-plus cars). Our main basecamp building will have indoor-dining for 72 people (not a conference center or event venue that hosts up to 250 people). 

We encourage community members to visit our website at for more information.

Julie Kaufman

Ascendigo Management Team


Wrong location

While Ascendigo Ranch’s proposal for a year-round camp is laudable, there could not be a more poorly chosen location.  There are many compelling reasons to deny this proposal (water resources, traffic, limited roads, noise, pollution, zoning regulations), and I will focus on a crucial one:  wildfire threat.

During my time in Missouri Heights, I have been evacuated twice (almost three times; I was ready) due to encroaching wildfires. As the Panorama Fire approached our neighborhood, the sheriff came to the house and yelled through his bullhorn, “You need to leave now. I’m not talking about 15 minutes, but NOW.” It was terrifying.

“Those with autism are likely to hide in fire situations: in closets, under beds, behind furniture.” (adapted from Autism

“Individuals with autism have a particular problem with fire drills: the noise, lights and crowded halls.” (adapted from Autism

Safely rescuing many children within minutes of an approaching fire (with very few access roads) could be futile and tragic.

“The consequences of intense dry periods are severe, including more intense and dangerous wildfires.

“Governor Polis warns that wildfire season is a year-round phenomenon.” (Glenwood Springs Post Independent).

Katherine Reppa

Missouri Heights, Carbondale

Eldercare article thoughts 

Thank you, John Stroud, for your important article (“Former Carbondale man’s long-distance eldercare needs calls attention to serious issue,” April 23, Glenwood Springs Post Independent) on the needs of the elderly in the Roaring Fork Valley. As you pointed out in your article, seniors 65 and older, are in the small minority at 13.8% of the total population, but their needs are great. As one quoted senior stated, “Being old here is not very simple or very fun and certainly not safe.” 

As one who has been the voice of seniors for years, through profession and age, in another state, you covered all the most urgent needs of seniors here well. As I have stated before, there may be one thing worse than being old in this country, and that’s being really old. It has been compounded with strict isolation, loss of good friends and especially loss of family, grandchildren and great-grandchildren with the pandemic. 

I am fortunate enough to have found scarce housing for seniors in the valley in New Castle, which the city had the foresight to construct several years ago. But as you point out in the article, housing “options to stay in the valley are few for those on fixed incomes.” 

Transportation and health care are several other big hurdles for the elderly in the valley. Well-paid caregivers are essential in some cases, as many seniors have given up their cars and have no way to reach doctor appointments in the distances between towns. This was evident during vaccination periods, when many seniors in bad health had a serious problem finding and receiving their shots. For some, simply keeping in touch with options required their missing technology know-how, further isolating them. 

Care of the elderly often falls on families who in this pandemic are overwhelmed with their own set of challenges, both at home and in the working world. It would be good if you could also explore this in a future column for the paper. I think it would resonate with many people here.

Syd Kantiz

New Castle

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