John Denver Property Sale Threatens Conservation Dream

John Denver’s property purchased in Old Snowmass to serve as headquarters for his Windstar Foundation has been sold and the foundation dissolved, the final nail in the coffin for the singer/songwriter’s dream of protecting the extremely valuable property west of Aspen, Colorado from the relentless march of the developers. The 950 acre property is allegedly already under contract to an unnamed private buyer, and Rocky Mountain Institute executive director Marty Pickett said the sale will be completed by the end of the month.

The Windstar Land Conservancy placed the property for sale in September at an asking price of $13 million. The organization also disbanded Denver’s Windstar Foundation. However, the Rocky Mountain Institute will continue, with about 20 employees that will be allowed to work on the Old Snowmass location for an additional two years after the sale is complete.

They plan to use the money to build “a state-of-the-art green office building” in nearby Basalt, Colorado.

Sheesh. While I suppose that these folks know what they’re doing, it’s a long fall from preserving natural mountain beauty to building just another office building, no matter how green. Unfortunately, John Denver died flying a private plane in 1997, and Karmen Dopslaff, a member of the Windstar Land Conservancy’s board of directors said that Windstar “kind of fizzled after John died.”

Aspen is a ski resort community in Colorado that is notorious for boasting some of the highest real estate prices in America. Ironically, down-to-earth gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson, as well as John Denver, probably have to share some of the blame for turning what was once a small mountain community into a celebrity destination that sent property values sky-high.

In the end, the $13 million for the site may have been too much for the struggling Rocky Mountain Institute to resist.

In his next life, maybe Mr. Denver can write a song about “Green Office Building High.” The sale of the John Denver property seems like the end of an era.

[mountain goat in Colorado photo by Elaine Radford]