Mt. Daly painting by Amy Beidleman
Aspen Valley Land Trust proudly celebrates 50 years of protecting the places you love. Born as Park Trust in Aspen in 1967, AVLT is the oldest land trust in Colorado and deeply woven into the fabric of our landscape and communities.
On Saturday August 12, 2017, AVLT hosted our 50th Anniversary celebration at the home of Suzanne Farver on White Star Ranch, Aspen. It was an incredible evening! Photos from the event coming soon.
50 years ago. A small group of legendary citizens pioneered the land conservation movement that has shaped our valley. AVLT pays tribute to John Doremus, Fritz and Fabi Benedict, and George Stranahan for their contributions to conserving our land, our legacy, and our future. Watch our video tribute for more of their story!
John Doremus came to Aspen from the Lowry Airforce Base for a little R&R in the early 1950’s. He was on a break from the army, and as so many do, fell in love with the place. It was enough to draw him back full time when the Korean War was over. His first job in town was as bellhop at the Hotel Jerome. Later he got a “real” job as a land planner/developer, which meant working with Fritz Benedict and others to develop some of the first subdivisions in Aspen during the 60s.
Through that work he came to develop a real concern for the character and appearance of the town, and an appreciation for visual relief, open spaces and careful planning that would not diminish the grandeur of the landscape. He was known to make midnight expeditions to chop down billboards, which at the time were springing up all along Highway 82, and somehow the message stuck – leading to a valley that is remarkably billboard-free today.
In 1966, John led a group of committed and persistent citizens to form the Pitkin County Parks Association, whose mission was to advocate for the environment, educate the community, and spearhead local open space and trails initiatives. The group planted flower gardens, initiated a city clean-up campaign and began an Arbor Day tradition by planting 50 trees along Main Street in Aspen.
John served on the Board of the Parks Association and its land holding arm, Park Trust, for more than 25 years, seeing it through an evolution from an Aspen-based parks organization to a fullfledged, valley-wide land trust. Today he lives in San Francisco, and his daughter-in-law, Jeanne Doremus has taken up the torch as an AVLT board member, and his five grandsons have been lucky to grow up in the valley he helped save.
Fritz & Fabi Benedict
Fritz Benedict first came to Aspen as a ski racer in the 1941 National Skiing Championships and again during his training for the U.S. Army’s Tenth Mountain Division. One day, while skiing Aspen Mountain in 1941, Fritz noticed a beautiful bench of ranchland across the valley, high on Red Mountain. Desperate to stake his claim and try his hand at working the land, he tracked down the rancher who agreed to sell the 600-acre sheep ranch for $12,000. When Fritz returned from WWII in 1945, he made good on his offer by selling his car and borrowing $2,000 from his parents to make the down payment.
Shortly thereafter he met and married his wife Fabienne. Born in England and raised in France, Fabi had a special appreciation for nature and the value of open lands, which were scarce across the pond. Together they spent a few years toughing it out as ranchers before returning to town and Fritz’s true calling as an architect. Fritz and Fabi helped lead the rebirth of Aspen in the 40s and 50s. Trained as an architect under Frank Lloyd Wright, Fritz let the natural landscape and use of local materials guide his designs of over 200 local buildings.
Fritz and Fabi shared their reverence for the land with the community, donating over 250 acres to be preserved as open space, parks and trails in the Hunter Creek Valley, Smuggler Mountain, Stillwater east of Aspen, and beyond. Their first donation, Freddie Fisher Park, came in 1967 giving the public permanent access to the Roaring Fork River in downtown Aspen. This donation launched the land conservation mission of the Pitkin County Parks Association and its land holding arm, Park Trust. Fritz went on to serve six years as President of the Parks Association, which eventually became Aspen Valley Land Trust.
We can hardly imagine our valley as it is today without Fritz and Fabi’s vision and influence. The land they gifted was an investment in the public and recognition of the power of open space to lift spirits, calm the mind, and celebrate Nature as the ultimate architect.
George & Patti Stranahan
Like many, George Stranahan first came to Aspen to ski. Unlike many, he returned to commit his considerable energy and resources to strengthening the intellectual and social fabric of the community. In addition to donating the first conservation easement in this part of Colorado, George has fostered the Aspen Center for Physics, Aspen Community School, Flying Dog Brewery, the Woody Creek Tavern, a printing company and the making of some exceptional whiskey, among other endeavors.
George purchased a series of mining claims around the historic mining town of Lenado from Jack Flogas in 1972, after hearing rumors that Friedl Pfeifer thought it would make a fine ski area. It was the start of what he calls “defensive buying,” purchasing Woody Creek property that was under the threat of intense development. He went on to conserve over 560 acres in Lenado in perpetuity.
When George and Patti were married in June 1982, they settled down in Woody Cerek on the idyllic Flying Dog Ranch, where they raised their son and lived until 2008. During the early years on the ranch, George had a short, and not very lucrative, infatuation with the cattle business which he expanded by buying a ranch near Carbondale that he called Flying Dog West. After losing enough money trying to run cattle on two ranches, he and his partner, Richard McIntyre, decided on a plan to conserve the Carbondale ranch – donating the very first conservation easement to AVLT – and afterward selling it to Richard and his wife Lydia, who now support three generations on the ranch. George said at the time, “It’s too beautiful and too good a piece of farmland to be developed.”
In 2007, before leaving the home ranch for Carbondale, George and Patti conserved it too, securing a few homesites and ensuring it would stay essentially as is. “I thought it was embarrassing to own land,” George said. “It seems wrong… not leave it for others for many eons of time.”
Today George stays busy with the Valley Settlement Project amid other endeavors, and Patti commits her time to the Thrift Shop and Forest Conservancy.
50th Anniversary Sponsors
Meadow Stream Sponsors
Annual Business Sponsors