WATER is the issue

Ascendigo’s services are valuable, no doubt, and my compliments regarding their organization. Ascendigo represents a needed resource for the less-fortunate among us.

White Cloud on Missouri Heights is not the right property for their large facility.

Our community rose to the occasion in 2008 when developers applied to build a large subdivision on Hunt Ranch, 600-some acres nearby on the northside of County Road 102. They painted a pretty picture but, as with Ascendigo, lacked some understanding of the basic facts governing our environment. This is high desert. No rushing creeks, no large stands of trees or snow runoff. Missouri Heights is unique in that respect.

As our opposition proceeded, smart leaders took their findings to Colorado Water Court to challenge the subdivision based on potential water use. A very restrictive decision was issued by the high court, limiting the developer’s proposed land use – so they quit.

I have lived in this immediate area since 1980 and have been involved with water both domestic and agricultural. After 40 years of dealing with irrigation water, this summer is the first when NO irrigation water is available in my neighborhood. NONE. ZERO. Combine that with hearing about failing wells – the whole dry picture becomes clear.

There is not enough water to support Ascendigo’s facility, perhaps now, certainly later. Their original plan for a lake says a lot, says their proponents don’t have a clue about how scarce the water picture is on Missouri Heights. They own water rights but apparently didn’t get the part about that never being a guarantee water will flow from the tap.

Commissioners, please see that a precedent was set by Hunt Ranch opposition over a decade ago, a decade of rising temperatures and increasing drought. Water is scarcer on Missouri Heights now than in 2008. No one anticipates this scarcity ending anytime soon. Don’t allow your constituents’ taps to run dry. Vote NO.

Susan Cuseo

Missouri Heights

Vote YES

My name is Malcolm McMichael, I am the Chief Financial Officer for Ascendigo Autism Services. I have lived in Missouri Heights and in Carbondale for over 25 years. I am writing in favor of Ascendigo’s proposal to create an educational program ranch on its property on Missouri Heights.

I am quite familiar with the property and the area. During my early years in the valley, I lived up the street from the ranch. I used to help a friend feed his horses on that very pasture back in the 1990s. I could walk uninterrupted in many directions across the pastures, now filled with scores of newer homes. I used to snowshoe across the then-non-existent neighborhoods in the unbroken and silent darkness. In addition, I have helped friends evacuate in the face of wind-driven wildfire up there, and along with everyone else, I have held my breath and prayed each fire season. I also watched as waves of new housing developments appeared and broke up the pastures, bulldozed the pinion and sage, put in their infrastructure, irrigated the brushland for lawns, and struggled to defeat the sun and the wind and the deer and cougars.

Many of the homes now displaying signs in opposition to the Ascendigo project did not exist in the 1990s, nor in the first decade of the 2000s. What was not long ago a landscape composed mostly of pasture and brushland interspersed with distant clusters of homes is now a largely unbroken string of luxury and not-quite-luxury single-family home developments in a mosaic of five-acre parcels; interwoven by winding asphalt roadways. What remains open now is mainly not-yet-developed retired pasture or large-holding private hobby ranches.

For those like myself who migrated from the urban and suburban wastelands back east and the West Coast (I assume to the chagrin and dismay of the existing occupants here at the time), the area is breathtaking and precious. Despite all the homes added in the last 20 years, it’s still lovely. It is also ever-changing, dynamic, and subject to the same development interests and rights as are underway throughout the valley from top to bottom and rim to rim. So, I understand the opponents’ grieving now for their perceived loss of undeveloped space and an unofficial dog park.

Driving up to the ranch, I pass a number of mammoth private riding arenas totaling hundreds of thousands of square feet. I also pass a commercial equestrian ranch and public event business; a nonprofit educational therapeutic riding program’s ranch; and a rental event facility in a former schoolhouse. The parcel is not far from a community college campus with residential dorms for 1,500 students plus five soccer fields; from budding agri-tourism operations and commercial equestrian boarding operations; and from a number of popular hiking trailheads. In other words, uses similar to or in excess of Ascendigo’s already exist in the immediate vicinity, and are already woven into the fabric of the community. Just as Ascendigo’s will be.

The opponents say they want to keep it “rural.” I can understand that. I have already done my grieving along those lines years ago. Yet the fact is, one way or another, this land will be developed, and the deeded water rights will be used – just as it was with the former hay ground and potato fields on which many of the opponents’ houses now sit. Opponents also say they would prefer a private luxury residential development to Ascendigo’s proposal. I do not understand that. I imagine a couple dozen 5,000+ square foot luxury homes, plus garages and ADUs, sited to maximize each home’s own view-plane, deploying outdoor lighting as they wish, and using water as they can. That strikes me as highly impactful on the landscape, quiet, and dark night sky, along with fire risk and water usage.

I wish the opponents could see that Ascendigo is likely to be a far more thoughtful and accountable neighbor than a conventional real estate developer might be. Ascendigo is based in this community, and reliant on this community. Ascendigo is here for the long haul. Ascendigo is motivated by its connection with the community, by its mission, and by its obligation to its clients to be thoughtful, accountable, responsive, and – above all – safe.

We are motivated to design and site our structures thoughtfully, in harmony with the landscape and in consideration of the neighbors’ concerns. We are motivated to devote a significant portion of the parcel to contiguous open space. We are motivated to implement programs that are consistent with the rural and agricultural heritage. We are motivated to implement and maintain comprehensive fire safety measures. We are motivated to use the water efficiently. We are motivated to be mindful of our impacts on our neighbors. And we are motivated to keep our promises.

The fact is, Ascendigo’s proposed educational ranch program is fully consistent with the uses, rights, community, concerns, and cultural legacy of the area. I encourage the Garfield County Commissioners to approve the request.

Malcolm McMichael



The Ascendigo quandary in Missouri Heights, the tree farm in El Jebel, behemoth apartments in West Glenwood, houses popping up like mushrooms in the woods in Rifle. Growth, the developers’ utopia.

I used to call them “dirt pimps” in a column I wrote for The Aspen Times back in the ‘80s. Killer 82 was a two-lane traffic jam every rush hour. Now it’s a four-lane clog. 

Aspen was the best party town west of the continental divide with great skiing, before it became an exclusive family destination.

Most of us lucky locals cherish the unmatched natural beauty we’ve been blessed with. Visitors come here for respite from city concrete and crime.

How dense will we build? How high will we erect? How much of Paradise will we pave before Paradise is only a memory? Continuous growth nor our quality of life is sustainable on the path we’re following.

Bruno Kirchenwitz


A Perfect Place

I’ll be gone awhile.

Have to put Buddha somewhere,

He’s with the dishes!