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Notes and Commentary for January 1995

Brief by Central Staff

Various – January 1995 – Colorado Central Magazine

Colorado risks ‘losing its soul’

DENVER — “Just as it is possible for a person to lose his or her soul through a lifetime of indifference, so Colorado can lose its distinctiveness, its soul, as a community by failing to pay attention to the changes now taking place …”

So wrote J. Francis Stafford, archbishop of Denver, in a six-page pastoral letter, The Heights of the Mountains are His: The Development of God’s Country, issued on Thanksgiving Day, 1994.

His letter concerned his archdiocese, the northern half of the state and especially the I-70 corridor, where he warned that in a low-wage resort economy, families are threatened, and as real-estate prices rise, long-time residents are driven into exile.

“What we risk creating, then is a theme-park ‘alternative reality’ for those who have the money to purchase entrance. Around this Rocky Mountain theme park will sprawl a growing buffer zone of the working poor… We cannot afford to stand by now as the culture of the leisure colony, like the walled communities which dominate so many American suburbs, takes its place.”

Stafford warned that “The dangers of a lopsidedly tourism-dependent economy are its economic shallowness and the damage it will inflict by overusing the environment… we will need to practice self-discipline in building a varied economic infrastructure.”

As for the future, Colorado should “encourage growth in a direction, and at a pace, and with a variety, that serves the maximum number of people who actually live and work there in the best possible way.” A big order, but “with God’s grace, this task is doable.”

San Juan Almanac

DURANGO — Colorado Central is only one example of an emerging regional journalism in our state. Durango now has the San Juan Almanac, a bi-monthly devoted to environmental issues in the San Juan Basin.

The first regular issue emerged in October, with the theme of wildlife: squawfish recovery, ruffed-grouse transplants, the Southern Ute bison herd. Tthe 16-page tabloid also promotes itself as “a cattleguard on the information highway.”

Rather than follow the commercial route we took with Colorado Central, they’re operating as a non-profit foundation (we’re still non-profit in fact if not theory), and they don’t carry any advertising.

Future issues will cover water, national parks, a green economy, and visions of the San Juan area in 2050. Subscriptions are $15 a year for six issues, and they’re at P.O. Box 116, Durango CO 81302.

Update: The Almanac died. Many of its contributors, though, now write for Inside/Outside Southwest Magazine in Durango

Sawatch Range Refuge?

ICE MOUNTAIN — In an apocalyptic novel about the collapse of civilization, literary convention demands that the surviving remnant go into hiding, preferably in the mountains. Our Rocky Mountains often serve as the refuge — recall The Stand by Stephen King, or Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand?

The most recent such use appears in a novel called Colorado: 1998, sporadically serialized in the newsletter issued by Colorado For Family Values (P.O. Box 190, Colorado Springs CO 80901), the folks who gave us Amendment 2 in 1992.

As you might have guessed, the plot concerns a radical homosexual takeover which outlaws the Boy Scouts and forces wholesome families to flee into the wilderness — in this case, the Three Apostles in the Sawatch Range.

“The places [in the novel] are real,” according to the newsletter, but how real?

From Ice Mountain and its flanking apostles at the head of the South Fork of Clear Creek, the closest town as the crow flies is Aspen, famous for its libertine ways and the first city in Colorado to pass a gay-rights ordinance.

Perhaps the author is setting the scene for a lively Armageddon battle at nearby Cottonwood Pass, and the pavers and anti-pavers will appear, too. We’ll keep you posted.

Avalanche News

DENVER — Even before this winter got serious, two back-country hikers were killed by an avalanche near Buena Vista. In an average year, avalanches kill five people in Colorado while catching another 40.

To reduce the toll — Colorado leads the nation in avalanche deaths — there’s a statewide avalanche center, staffed by six experts, which provides current conditions around the clock through several telephone numbers.

As you might have guessed, none of those numbers is a local call from Central Colorado. The closest numbers are in Vail at 303-827-5687 and Summit County at 303-668-0600.

We haven’t tested that one, but we did try the computer communications at 303-671-7669; it’s on a bulletin board called Colorado TravelBank with a lot of other information, designed for tourists but perhaps useful for many others.

The computer connection works, but the interface can be daunting if you’re a novice who doesn’t know about terminal emulations and the like.

Ghost Towns

SILVER CLIFF, SAPINERO & TEXAS CREEK — Well, they’re not really ghost towns. We could call them “ghost zip codes,” though.

Westcliffe and Silver Cliff abut each other in the Wet Mountain Valley, so when a new post office was built, it was put almost on the mutual city limits. One side was Westcliffe, zip 81252, and the other Silver Cliff, zip 81249.

However, there is now no more Silver Cliff, as far as the U.S. Postal Service is concerned. All the Silver Cliff boxes have been renumbered, and everything goes through Westcliffe. They’re even starting some home delivery.

Texas Creek has suffered a similar fate. Its zip code, 81250, has been officially retired, and its mail goes through Cotopaxi, 81223.

Sapinero is another ghost. The original lies under Blue Mesa Reservoir west of Gunnison. The newer one up on the hill, formerly zip code 81247, is now served by Gunnison.

Amid these ghosts, there’s a resurrection of sorts. The original Monarch post office was closed long ago; its mail went to Garfield, zip 81227. Now Garfield has been renamed Monarch, at the request of the Monarch Resort which is based there.

River Forum

PUEBLO — This one is the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum, scheduled for Jan. 17 and 18 in Pueblo. Do not confuse it with the Upper Arkansas Watershed Forum, which will be held in CaƱon City April 19 and 20.

The Basin Water Forum, which covers the river from the Kansas line to its source at Wortman Gulch, will be held in Hoag Hall on the University of Southern Colorado Campus, and its theme is “A River of Dreams and Realities.”

Topics range from a presentation by a Kansas water official to recreation and endangered species.

Registration before Jan. 6 is $35; it’s $40 afterward, and that includes lunch both days, as well as a “Percolation and Runoff” social hour. The address:

Arkansas River Basin Water Forum

c/o CSU Cooperative Extension

2200 Bonforte Boulevard, ADM-109

Pueblo CO 81001-4901

On a sad note, one of the forum organizers was Charles L. “Tommy” Thompson, who died of cancer last November. A former director of the Salida chamber of commerce, Thompson managed the Southeastern Water Conservancy District for years. Water issues can get quite heated, but Thompson was always both courteous and knowledgeable, and he will be missed.

From Boom Time in the Rockies

to Broomfield in the Rockies?

DENVER — Colorado’s population growth is going off the charts, according to Jim Weskott of the state demographer’s office.

The Front Range and the Western Slope are swelling the most, and this appears to be converting some of Central Colorado into bedroom communities.

Weskott mentioned three central counties. These growth leaders were already our leading commuter havens.

Park County has seen a 20 percent annual increase in building permits, primarily around Alma, for commuters to Summit County, and Bailey, for commuters to metro Denver.

At last count, in 1990, Park County was already dominated by commuters — 65.3 percent of its workforce was employed outside the county, with an average daily one-way commuting time of 41 minutes.

For about 5,000 people, “living” in Park County apparently means devoting many waking hours to “Pray for me — I drive 285.”

Construction booms in both the Vail area and Summit County mean workers look to Lake County for affordable housing, Weskott noted. In 1990, 40.7 percent of Lake County’s workforce commuted to another county.

The new federal maximum-security prison in Florence means more commuters from Custer County, where in 1990, 28.9 percent already ventured to another county for work.

So, if roads seem crowded now, just watch.