An installation from Folwell's "Stay Human" sculptures, located in Hobbs, New Mexico. More sculptures from this series will soon call Basalt River Park home. Courtesy photo

On Tuesday night, Basalt Town Council’s meeting was relatively brief, mostly taken up by presentations concerning the improvement of public property downtown.

To begin, Jami Hayes, executive director of YouthZone, presented an update to the council. YouthZone provides positive growth opportunities for teens on the Western Slope, helping on average 282 youths in Garfield County and 174 in Pitkin annually. YouthZone targets at-risk youths as well as their families, with services ranging from counseling and coaching to substance education. Substance intervention is one of the organization’s greatest responsibilities, with alcohol and marijuana possession being the most common reason for referral. 

Town Attorney Jeff Conklin had significant praise for the organization. “YouthZone is a huge asset to the town through the court system,” said Conklin. “For kids that show up in court, there’s a very small amount of time that either I or the judge can spend with kids. [It’s good] being able to refer them to YouthZone and allow them to spend the time with them, come up with a program that really makes sense based on what’s going on in that kid’s life and doing so in a way that ensures they stay on the right track, because if it’s handled differently, it could potentially push someone off onto the wrong track.”

Hayes also announced YouthZone’s first free community training, which will be hosted on Feb. 1 from 4 to 6 p.m. via Zoom to educate Valley residents about restorative justice practices. More information and registration can be found at

The next two presentations concerned the beautification of downtown Basalt. Planning Director Michelle Thibeault and Town Engineer Catherine Christoff shared an update on the future of Midland Avenue, releasing a rough construction schedule. The first phase of streetscaping will occur this spring on Midland’s spur with Two Rivers Road to increase parking. 

Because most businesses on Midland are situated on the northside of the street, construction on central Midland Avenue will only be on the southside during the summer while northside development will wait until fall. The section of Midland along Lions Park is also anticipating development at some point during the summer. 

All the development along the street aims to improve pedestrian walkways and provide consistent lighting to make downtown Basalt more walkable. However, residents and business owners should know that this schedule isn’t set in stone. “This is very much a preliminary phasing plan, and we’re going to be communicating clearly and often,” advised Christoff.

Christoff and Thibeault also presented an update on Basalt River Park, especially concerning the future bandshell and bus stop, which will be the final two structures to complete the park. The bus stop will also contain a public restroom, with its construction beginning in March and predicted to end in July.

The bandshell’s design has shifted to a fabric-covered half dome with a stone climbing wall and a total stage width of 40 feet. The structure is on track to be completely installed and ready for performance in June.

Also coming to Basalt River Park is a bronze sculpture recommended by the Public Arts Commission. The sculpture, part of a series titled “Stay Human” by Basalt artist Gail Folwell, is a collection of elevated dancing figures, selected with the criteria of being climate appropriate, easily maintained and made by a local artist. The figures will be set on bearings so that they can freely spin and will be installed at the northeast section of the park, beside the Free Range Restaurant.

To round out the night, the council held a public hearing and second reading of an ordinance to approve miscellaneous amendments to the Municipal Code, specifically the sections concerning public property and community housing. Most amendments were made simply to codify standing policies and to clarify language in the municipal code. 

Notably, one amendment expresses that it is unlawful to push snow from driveways into the right-of-way and in front of fire hydrants. Another is a provision to the Community Housing Guidelines that would adjust the requalification process for residents in community housing units, allowing applicants to send in the last two years of their tax returns as recent inflation-caused wage increases have created difficulties in qualifying. All amendments were approved unanimously.

Finally, the council meeting adjourned with an executive session with the town attorney. The session was held to discuss matters not for public disclosure, specifically related to affordable housing projects.