REGIONAL NEWS ROUNDUP (and other items of interest)

Ski Area Expansion Nixed

CRESTED BUTTE – Saying the project isn’t in the interest of the public, a local forest supervisor on Nov. 5 told Crested Butte Mountain Resort officials the agency will not enter an environmental review of proposed expansion to Snodgrass Mountain. The decision just about ends any possible expansion which has created a big rift among locals.

The decision sent a “shockwave” throughout the Gunnison Valley, reported the Gunnison Country Times. The newspaper reported Crested Butte Mountain Resort officials have spent five years working with the forest service on the project and the expansion has been talked about for 30 years.

In rejecting the proposal Charlie Richmond, Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests Supervisor, said a lack of public support, social-economic impacts to the upper valley, geologic and environmental concerns were reasons not to proceed with the next step. He also pointed to the increased pressure the project would put on adjacent public and private land and a potential impact to the area’s ranching history.

Opposition included the Town of Crested Butte and several grassroots organizations. Townsfolk are divided on the issue and some said the issue should have gone to a vote of the people. Supporters of the project said the forest service may not have treated the resort fairly when compared to other ski area expansions in the state and the decision would be a setback for the community.

Under forest service rules used to guide the expansion, resort officials can’t appeal the decision and said they will explore their options, including litigation.

Richmond told the Crested Butte News although the forest service hadn’t held an official comment period, 500 or more comments had been submitted and they weren’t form letters. Most “were heartfelt letters that people spent a lot of time writing.” – by Christopher Kolomitz

Artist Jeanne-Claude Dies

NEW YORK – Artist Christo’s co-collaborator, Jeanne-Claude died November 18 of complications of a brain aneurysm at age 74.

The flamboyant artist was involved with large-scale installation art projects along with her husband Christo since they first met in Paris in 1958.

Among the notable works the couple produced were “The Umbrellas” displayed in Southern California in 1991, the wrapping of The Reichstag in Berlin in 1995, and “The Gates” installation in New York City in 2005.

The project they were planning for Colorado, “Over the River” which involves stretching fabric across the Arkansas River in sections between Salida and Parkdale, will continue, according to spokespersons for the artists.

Poncha Springs Administrator Resigns

PONCHA SPRINGS – Citing a “lack of respect” on the part of the board of trustees, Poncha Springs Town Administrator Pat Alderton tended her resignation on November 2.

In her memo of resignation she cited disputes with the board over fair compensation for town employees as one of the main reasons for her decision to step down, according to a Mountain Mail story.

In response, some town trustees considered the dispute had more to do with Alderton’s salary than with employee salaries and described a breakdown of trust between the administrator and the trustees over the past year.

Alderton is married to Poncha Springs town attorney William Alderton.

Judge Dismisses Lodgers Claims

SALIDA – 11th Judicial District Judge Stephen Groome has dismissed three of four claims filed by Salida lodgers over an occupational lodging tax and their efforts to file a petition in protest of the tax.

The lodgers had challenged the wording in a November 8 ordinance, ballot question 2B, which authorized the city to collect an additional occupational lodging tax to help fund improvements for parks and recreation.

The lodgers protested that the original ordinance put the tax burden on the person renting the room but a discovery by the Salida city attorney, determining that as a statutory city and not a home-rule municipality, ended up putting the tax responsibility on business owners and not the guests.

Lodgers then submitted petitions in Feb. 2009 with 530 signatures seeking to challenge the payment obligation to the city clerk but the petitions were rejected after the clerk determined that the document integrity had been compromised and declared the petitions invalid.

Judge Groome found, among other thing, that the lodgers failed to claim their constitutional rights relating to the claims, according to the Mountain Mail.

Longtime Salida Business to Close

SALIDA – Area residents reacted with dismay and disappointment over the announced closing of Gambles hardware store, a downtown Salida fixture for many years.

Owners Bill and Bob Cook, whose father Sanford Cook bought the business in 1943, had tried to sell the store with no takers so decided to close the store so one could retire and the other could pursue a new occupation.

The store, which carries everything from paint to housewares and appliances, occupies about 6,750 square feet in the heart of downtown on F Street. It will remain open until mid-December offering specials on its remaining inventory.

Westcliffe Mayor Dies

Funeral service were held November 20 for Westcliffe mayor Jess Price, who died on his 73rd birthday, November 15.

Originally elected mayor in 2002, he was re-elected in 2006 and continued to serve despite his declining health.

He was first elected town trustee in 1990 and ran a BBQ catering business in the 1990s when he produced and marketed his own barbecue sauce, Jess’s Best.

Wilderness Proposal Introduced

WASHINGTON D.C. – Colorado Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall have introduced a bill that would declare over 61,000 acres in Southwestern Colorado as federal wilderness and special management areas.

It is a companion bill to Third District Colorado Representative John Salazar’s San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act which would include protection for 61,682 acres of public land on the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, Gunnison and San Juan National Forests and San Juan Bureau of Land Management Resource Area.

All the acreage affected by the proposal is in San Miguel, Ouray and San Juan Counties, and the designations in this bill have the support of the County Commissions of those three counties.

Monte Vista Couple Found Slain

MONTE VISTA – A 14-year-old has been charged in the deaths of two Monte Vista residents who were found dead in their home, October 27.

The suspect, John Caudle, the son of one of the victims, Joanne Rinebarger, was arrested near Fairplay on unrelated charges.

The couple were discovered by a relative in their home in the Rock Creek area. Authorities are determining whether to charge Caudle as an adult.

Hiker Rescued by Helicopter

CANON CITY – A 65-year-old hiker who was missing for several days was found in Reese Gulch near Texas Creek on Nov. 13.

The Fremont County sheriff’s office requested assistance from the National Guard, who rescued the man using a Black Hawk helicopter. The hiker suffered minor injuries.

Proposed Power Line Draws Fire

ALAMOSA- A new 150-mile long power transmission line, which would run from the San Luis Valley to Pueblo, has been proposed by Xcel Energy and Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association.

The proposed line is backed by county commissioners in San Luis, Rio Grande and Saguache counties but is meeting resistance from some property owners and conservation groups, who consider the proposed 150-foot towers as unsightly.

The line, which would run near Great Sand Dunes National Park and over La Veta Pass, is designed to move energy generated from solar and wind power plants in the valley to the Front Range.

Colorado Ranks Fourth Happiest

A study out of Cambridge, England has found that Colorado ranks fourth in the United States on a happiness index.

The study ranked “happiness” based on factors including emotional health, physical health, overall evaluation of residents’ lives, healthy behavior and job satisfaction.

At the top of the list was Utah and bringing up the rear was West Virginia. What the study does not explain is why Colorado has consistently ranked in the top six states for suicide rates over the past several years.

Trial Postponed

COLORADO SPRINGS – A trespassing trial for the author of Colorado’s TABOR anti-tax amendment, Doug Bruce, was postponed until Dec. 4 because of pamphlets distributed in front of the El Paso County courthouse during the initial trail.

Bruce was arrested in August after refusing to leave a Costco store in Colorado Springs where he and another man were collecting signatures for a ballot measure. The leaflets in question asked potential jurors to use their conscience, not a judge’s direction, to make their decision. Bruce denied involvement in the leaflets.

Chicken Interrupts Meeting

DURANGO – A person in a chicken costume walked in on a Durango City Council meeting where councillors were discussing the language of a backyard hen ordinance.

After flapping and strutting about the room for a moment, the chicken took a seat and held up a sign that said “Chic–n” with a check mark above it.

The visiting fowl then took a seat in the council chambers and looked on, occasionally rocking its head from side to side. Eventually it rose, left an egg and exited the room. The Durango chicken ordinance passed 3-2 at the Nov. 3 council meeting.

Mentors Sought

Chaffee County Mentors and Mentors Plus are seeking ten new mentors (especially men) in Buena Vista and Salida. To volunteer as a mentor for youth ages 7-15, call 719-539-2630 in Salida or 719-395-7006 in Buena Vista. To become a paid mentor for adolescents ages 14-18, call Menessah at 719-539-8659.

CMC Considers Four-year Degrees

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – The Colorado Mountain College (CMC) Board of Trustees has voted to have the administration seek approval to offer a limited number of four-year, baccalaureate degrees.

The final decision would affect all seven CMC campuses including Leadville and Chaffee County.

Avalanche Hotline Available

The Central Colorado Avalanche Hotline, 719-395-4994, is available for all backcountry users and mountain travelers for its fifth year.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) updates the Statewide Avalanche Forecast as information becomes available and weather warrants.

Backcountry skiers, snowshoers, and snowmobilers should phone the hotline frequently, as should motorists whose route takes them across passes or who will be driving during a storm. Information is also available at


“He got himself elected as a farmer and a veteran and he sold out to Nancy Pelosi and the liberal leadership of the Democratic Party … ramming San Francisco values down our throats.” – Ninth Judicial District Prosecutor Martin Beeson, speaking of Congressman John Salazar, who he wants to challege in 2010. Gunnison Country Times, Nov. 19, 2009

“There’s always a jerk among 16 strangers …after about day three I was still looking around trying to figure out who it was and realized I must be him. I must be the jerk.” – River guide Ron Ferris discussing a Grand Canyon trip. The Mountain Mail, Nov. 13, 2009

“I have sold the plow, have a nice day.” Answering machine message of a former snow remover in Denver. (Submitted by a reader.)

“New bird cage for parakeet. Toys & seeds included $35. 3-legged dog that ate bird, FREE.” – Classified ad spotted in The Mountain Mail, Nov. 4, 2009