Mountain Rescue Aspen broke ground on its new $3 million headquarters facility off Highway 82 near the Aspen Business Center on Tuesday morning.
“This is long overdue,” said Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo, who gripped a gold-painted shovel and took part in the groundbreaking. As sheriff, DiSalvo has legal responsibility for executing all search-and-rescue operations within his jurisdiction.
A 13,900-square-foot building on the new headquarters property — formerly the Aspen location for Planted Earth Home and Garden Center — will allow the 50-member volunteer organization to move out of a cramped cabin on Main Street. The project is expected to be finished next spring.
The land was purchased for $1.6 million by the Mountain Rescue Aspen Charitable Trust. The organization was able to buy the parcel after receiving a $1.5 million gift from Lynda Cameron, who also participated in today’s groundbreaking. In 1977, she was rescued along with four other people by Mountain Rescue Aspen following an airplane crash in the Pitkin County backcountry.
Cameron’s father, C.B. Cameron, was killed in the crash, and the donation was made in his name. The name of the new building will be the C.B. Cameron Rescue Center.
Though groundbreaking ceremonies typically are photo opportunities for projects that start much later, Jeff Edelson, a member of Mountain Rescue’s board of directors, said construction actually would begin Tuesday.
“We’ve got our permits in place for excavation and foundation work, so the fencing’s going up and the surveying is in the process of being done, and they’ll start the foundation and excavation this week,” said Edelson, who also is overseeing the project on behalf of Mountain Rescue Aspen.
“Our goal is to get the building constructed and closed up so that we can finish the interior stuff over the winter,” he added.
In March, Pitkin County commissioners approved the building plans, which include a 45-foot tower where Mountain Rescue Aspen members can improve their climbing skills and test equipment.