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Regional Roundup

Brief by Ed Quillen

Regional News – April 2006 – Colorado Central Magazine

Leadville Heritage?

There’s nothing like a saloon brawl to evoke images of the Old West. Leadville had one on Feb. 25- 26, which started before midnight, continued into the wee hours, and injured four cops.

It started as a birthday party at the Elks’ Lodge. Brad Palmer, who was serving as a bouncer, saw two people turning a vocal argument into a physical one. He figured that if half the fight was removed, that would end the dispute. So he tried to escort one party out the door, and got knocked down in the process.

Palmer called the police, who in turn called the sheriff’s department for assistance. Deputy Aaron D’Mize said that when he arrived, he saw “approximately 50 to 70 people in the bar and between one and five fights in progress at any given time.”

Saige Thomas, a Leadville police officer, suffered the worst injuries. She had a knot on her head, a swollen left eye, and a denim imprint on her left cheek where she was kneed. She also had hair pulled out, and suffered pain in her jaw, neck, and arms. Rene Rand, another Leadville officer, was “physically picked up and thrown over a bar stool,” according to a police report.

D’Mize suffered a hyper-extended left thumb, and Deputy Steve James was bleeding from his hand where he was bitten.

In the immediate aftermath, only one person was charged: Michael Lacome, 40, who was issued a summons for obstructing a police officer, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest. The prosecutors later charged Joyce Lacome, Yolanda Medina, and Andrew Medina with assault on a peace officer, a felony, as well as resisting arrest and similar misdemeanors.

The district attorney’s office is continuing its investigation.

Dog Catching

A family’s pet border collie took off running after an automobile accident and kept running for four days before she was corralled.

The saga started on March 5 on the highway near Alma. Rebecca and Mike Bromley, along with their dogs Kate and Tip, were on their way from Breckenridge to their home in Colorado Springs when another car forced theirs off the road.

Mike was airlifted to Denver with a broken neck and other injuries. Rebecca suffered cuts and bruises. Tip’s back was broken and he died at the scene. And Kate took off running.

“Your heart goes out because you know the family is going through the trauma,” said Park County animal control officer Terri Remenius, who made it her mission to find Kate.

Remenius looked for the dog until dark on March 5. The next day, several Alma residents spotted the dog and tried to lure her with peanut butter sandwiches, but Kate kept running. March 7 brought similar disappointment. On March 8, Remenius borrowed a tranquilizer gun, but Alma Mayor Mark Dowaliby asked if he could try catching Kate before they used the gun.

He got a box of dog treats, shook it, and Kate came running in, close enough for him to grab her collar. Kate is back home and in fairly good condition, although at first her hips were sore from constant running and she slept non- stop.

The car that forced the Bromleys off the road was an Audi, they said, which didn’t even slow down. Anyone who witnessed the accident is encouraged to call Chris Bromley, their son, at 208- 602- 9883.

Landmark migrates

[Hot dog stand in Aspen Park before its move to Bailey.]

Since 1970, many Central Coloradans on their way to and from the metropolis have noticed a 42- foot- long diner shaped like a giant hot dog. It was on the north side of U.S. 285 in Aspen Park, which is easy to confuse with Conifer. Some may have eaten there, and as hot dogs go, these weren’t bad.

The land beneath it was sold for a new shopping center under development, and the stand closed on March 5 after staying open for an extra 90 minutes to accommodate a long line at the door. But that wasn’t the last meal. On March 18, the 14- ton diner was moved 20 miles west to Bailey, where it is scheduled to re- open on June 1.

The Rocky Mountain News said the move “signals that the edge of the mountains is in retreat.” We thought it was just a diner that was moving, not the Front Range Hogback.

Found and Grateful

There’s a saying that if a horse bucks you off, your best response is to get right back on the critter. That seems to be the attitude of Paul Strickland, a 64- year- old Taos man who spent two bone- chilling January nights lost near the Monarch Mountain winter resort west of Salida.

On an overcast and windy Jan. 4, Strickland was headed for the expert Mirkwood Basin and missed the sign. He was lost, and spent two nights without sleep or food, before he was found by snowmobiler Vern Kelso on Jan. 6.

Strickland returned in late February to thank his rescuers and to ski Mirkwood Basin. This time around, he saw the sign, and remarked “How could any idiot miss that?” This summer, he plans to return and camp more comfortably at his winter site along Forest Road 890 in Gunnison County.

Burro racing noticed?

Pack- burro racing is the only sport indigenous to Central Colorado. It seldom gets much attention from the sports establishment, but racer Barb Dolan of Buena Vista (profiled in the January, 2003, edition of Colorado Central) was named one of the outstanding 45 “Sportswomen of Colorado” for 2005.

She was honored on March 12 at a Denver banquet. In 2005, she took her 10th straight Triple Crown, winning at Fairplay, Leadville, and Buena Vista.

This year’s racing schedule has been set, though some early races remain tentative: May 27, Georgetown; June 24- 25, Cripple Creek; July 23, Idaho Springs; July 30, World Championship in Fairplay; August 6, Boom Days in Leadville; August 13, Gold Rush Days in Buena Vista. The last three races form the “Triple Crown” series.

Feast and Famine

This has been what climatologists call a “La Niña Winter,” which is a twist on the better- known “El Niño Year,” which is too complicated to deal with here. But basically, when La Niña is in charge, the Jet Stream swings so that more moisture falls to the north and less to the south.

On a national scale, it means record snowfalls in the Pacific Northwest. Colorado is in both zones, so while Steamboat Springs in the north copes with storms that deposit snow by the foot, snowpacks are well below average in the San Juans.

Central Colorado is similarly divided. Thanks to heavy snowfalls, Leadville and Lake County expect some flooding as the snow melts this spring, and the city’s public works department has stocked up on sandbags, just in case.

But while headwaters of the main stem of the Arkansas River are in relatively good condition, one major southern tributary, the Purgatoire, had only 10% of average snowpack when measured at the start of March.

“For most water users across southern Colorado, this year’s runoff outlook mirrors that of 2002, one of the worst drought years the state has faced in decades,” said Allen Green, state conservationist for the National Resource Conservation Service, which monitors snowpacks in the West.

Park County Preservation

Park County was designated a “2006 Preserve America” community by Colorado Preservation, Inc., at its annual conference in February, to honor the “significant economic, educational, and cultural benefits that historic preservation, through efforts such as historic tourism, can bring to a community.” Other Colorado places getting the designation, signed by First Lady Laura Bush, were Cripple Creek, Georgetown, Glenwood Springs, and Lake City.

Park County is also home to one of “Colorado’s Most Endangered Places” — the old Denver, South Park, & Pacific Railroad depot in Como, which was once a major division point on the narrow- gauge line. It split there.

One branch crossed Boreas Pass to Breckenridge, then Frémont Pass to Leadville (the Leadville, Colorado & Southern RR is what survives of that branch). The other branch went south, then west over Trout Creek Pass, then up to the Alpine Tunnel and down to Gunnison.

Thus in the railroad days, Como was a busy place. The roundhouse has been preserved. Keith Hodges of Como has owned the hotel and depot for 27 years. He’s fixed up the hotel, but as for the depot, “I didn’t want to spend any more money on it. I just wanted to get out of it and retire.”

Colorado Preservation will be meeting with Como residents soon to discuss how to proceed with restoration. Patricia Holcomb of CPI said “We need to ask, ‘do they want large- scale tourism invading their town?’ But this could also be a ripe source of revenue for them.”

Safe Prediction?

We almost feel confident in predicting that Salida will get some big snowstorms in April in coming years, because the school year has moved spring break for the 2006- 07 school year.

Through this year, the break has come during the last full week of March. And it seemed to us, at least when our kids were in school, that a big snow dump always happened at the start of that week.

Next year, the break is scheduled for April 9- 13; so it just seems logical to expect some snow then.

Unscheduled Break

Lake County High School students in Leadville got an unscheduled day off on Feb. 16, on account of a water leak. A pipe in the mechanical room broke on Feb. 12, a Sunday, putting half an inch of water on the floor of the building’s lower level. The problem was noticed by a teacher who came in to work on Sunday; Superintendent Bette Bullock observed that “We have such dedicated teachers that they work on the weekend.”

To fix the leak, though, the water had to be turned off for part of the school, so students had to cross the street to use the restrooms at Lake County Middle School. The soaked tiles in the high school also had to be replaced, and thus students got a day off later that week.

Unwanted Leak

If you leak sewage into the river, you’re supposed to report it within 24 hours, so that people downstream can take precautions — like buying bottled water.

However, the Mount Crested Butte Water and Sanitation District spilled raw sewage on Christmas Day that wasn’t reported until Jan. 11, more than a fortnight later. It happened when a manhole on a sewer line filled with construction debris, and overflowed to reach the nearby tributaries of the Gunnison River.

About 500,000 gallons leaked then, and about half that much was leaked from another spill in September.

“When we got the report, there wasn’t much we could do,” said Richard Stinson, the county’s environmental health officer. If the spill had been reported immediately, then people living downstream could have been warned to take extra precautions. However, no human illness was reported.

The offending sanitation district could be fined by the state’s water quality control division.

Delayed response

The Environmental Assessment for the Over the River Project was supposed to come out in June, but it’s been postponed until fall. According to the federal Bureau of Land Management, which is in charge of preparing the assessment, the volume of comments — more than 1,100 — is the reason for the delay.

The BLM also noted that the comments have run about 60% against the project, which would involve hanging fabric across the Arkansas River in several locations between Salida and Cañon City in the summer of 2009.

Another government agency, the Colorado Department of Transportation, will also weigh- in this fall. The Christo project is expected to draw as many as 250,000 visitors during the two weeks it will be up — and that’s a lot of traffic on a mostly two- lane highway like U.S. 50.