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Aspen’s hearth heats tourists, climate

Abigail Eagye
Mark Fox/The Aspen TimesAbel Ordonez works at putting some of the finishing touches on the new community fire hearth on Aspen's Cooper Avenue Mall.
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ASPEN ” In the middle of Aspen’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, some of the projects meant to encourage customers to linger on the downtown mall may be construed as a step in the wrong direction.

Take, for instance, the fire hearth the city installed on the mall in April. It can put out as much greenhouse gas as one-fifth of City Hall.

The City Council commissioned Front Range consultants Henry Beer and Ford Frick to offer ideas on how to increase vitality in the downtown area. In response to the report, the city approved the community fire hearth, as well as a special events kiosk and a guest services pavilion for the mall.

The hearth hasn’t really been in use since being installed. But Scott Chism, parks department planner and project manager, provided estimates for fuel cost and consumption (the hearth runs on natural gas and electricity) based on year-round use, anyway.

Assuming the hearth were to run 10 hours a day for 151 winter days and four hours a day for 214 summer days, the total annual cost could be $6,168, and total greenhouse gas emissions could be roughly 70,080 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent per year. By comparison, Aspen City Hall in 2004 emitted 374,000 pounds of carbon dioxide.

Chism said those numbers are only estimates, and the city has yet to decide how much to run it. “Until the city starts to utilize the hearth, a 100 percent accurate calculation of energy usage and associated cost cannot be fully established,” he said.

Although the hearth has the potential to put out a fair amount of greenhouse gases, it was approved before Aspen’s global warming program, also known as the Canary Initiative. And “it was felt that the overall benefit to town was worth it,” said Dan Richardson, the city’s global warming project manager.

According to Chism, the hearth was seen as a way to help people mingle when it was cold outside in that downtown area.

Warm summer temperatures and busy outdoor events have kept the mall packed without having to run the hearth yet, Chism said.

Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado


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