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Regional Roundup

Brief by Ed Quillen

Local News – May 2007 – Colorado Central Magazine

April Foolishness

At some newspapers, April Fool’s Day is a time for some fun, and that’s certainly the case at the Wet Mountain Tribune in Westcliffe. The front page of the March 29 (“almost April Fool’s Day” ) edition had some provocative stories, among them an announcement that the school board had approved a new high school class to start next fall, Skunk Shooting 101, after two students shot at skunks on school grounds after a school event. “Parents were complaining to us that the kids didn’t hit the skunks, and they wanted to know why.”

Regional Roundup heading, photo taken east of Cleora
Regional Roundup heading, photo taken east of Cleora

Another story explained county plans to close the roads to prevent an invasion by Democrats in Denver for their national convention in the summer of 2008. Another county plan called for installing toll booths on local roads, thereby eliminating the need for a tax increase.

The Crestone Eagle was more restrained this year than in previous Aprils, but it did have one pulling-your-leg story about a lawsuit filed in federal court by the heirs of Luis Maria Baca, claiming that their ancestors had never transferred ownership, and thus the 100,000-acre Baca Ranch, recently acquired by the federal government, really belonged to them.

The Top Cop Shop

We’re not sure whether it comes from the propensities of the population, the caliber of law enforcement, or the dedication of journalists, but we do know that the Leadville Herald-Democrat has the most interesting police reporting of all the newspapers we read here at Central World Headquarters.

For instance, one driver didn’t need a car to be charged with Driving Under the Influence in Lake County: “Thomas Patrick Schokey, 38, Pueblo, was charged with a DUI for driving his snowmobile while under the influence of alcohol. Schockey reportedly hit a tree and got his snowmobile stuck near the Mineral Belt Trail behind Stringtown.”

Or consider this example of what not to do at a party if you don’t want to attract attention: Officers “were called to the vicinity of Chestnut and Washington streets … just before midnight on a report of a vehicle being struck with paint balls. The victim said he thought some young people were in a nearby house having a drinking party. The officers went to the house, noticing first a strong smell of marijuana inside and also beer containers.” We were not surprised to read that all the people inside “claimed they knew nothing about either paint balls or marijuana.” Eight people, all 18 and under, were cited.

There’s this fellow, who also claimed ignorance: “Michael Davis Schettler, 45, Aurora, was charged with prohibited use of a weapon, for firing a rifle while drinking alcohol…. He said he did not know this was against the law.”

And they start young. Leadville cop Tony Hardwick stopped a vehicle. “As the car window opened, Hardwick noticed a strong scent of cologne. He noted that often people use cologne to cover up the scent of alcohol. He contacted the driver of the vehicle, who produced registration and insurance information, but no driver’s license. That’s because the boy turned out to be 14 years old.” His two companions were 14 and 13, and all were from Edwards.

It appears that things are never dull in the Cloud City.

Dangerous Littering

The Buena Vista junior varsity baseball team was riding in a school bus to a game at Florence. Some kids tossed orange peels, and then an orange, out the window. The orange broke the passenger-side rear-view mirror of a semi, whose driver had swerved to keep it from hitting his windshield.

The bus was stopped near Poncha Springs; no students confessed. So the bus was turned around, and the game was forfeited. There was surveillance video on the bus, but since all involved were juveniles, this is probably the last we’ll hear about it.

Spring Winds

How strong is Central Colorado wind in the spring?

Strong enough to stop the U.S. Army, it appears. Three Army helicopters, bound from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, to a high-altitude training center near Gypsum, had to land at Buena Vista’s Central Colorado Regional Airport on account of high winds. And they ended up staying for several days, waiting for the wind to abate.

In Salida, high winds toppled a 100-foot spruce tree in the wee hours of March 28. The tree fell between two houses, so no one was injured, but it damaged a fence, three cars, and a shed.

National Heritage

South Park could be on its way to becoming a National Heritage Area. There are 37 in the United States, including one (Cache la Poudre Corridor in Colorado) and another nearby (Northern Rio Grande) in New Mexico.

What’s a National Heritage Area? According to the National Park Service, which administers the program, it’s “a place designated by the United States Congress where natural, cultural, historic and recreational resources combine to form a cohesive, nationally-distinctive landscape arising from patterns of human activity shaped by geography. These areas tell nationally important stories about our nation and are representative of the national experience through both the physical features that remain and the traditions that have evolved within them.”

The Park Service doesn’t own or operate Heritage Areas, but it does provide technical advice and the like, as well as some grant money that must be matched by local funds.

Sen. Ken Salazar has introduced the bill, the start of a process that could take several years. It needs to get through committee, and then approval by the full senate. It also has to go through the House, where Rep. Doug Lamborn has said he will carry the bill. And if it gets through all that, the president has to sign it.

The 170-page study says that South Park meets all ten criteria for designation, and identifies nine projects for preserving natural and historic resources while improving the local business climate.

New Stoplight

Johnson Village may not have much in the way of population, but it does have plenty of traffic at the intersection of U.S. 285 and 24 in Chaffee County. So the Colorado Department of Transportation plans to spend $1.2 million there this summer, installing a traffic light and medians at the intersection.

It rose to the top of the list because traffic tends to back up there on busy summer days, as southbound motorists wait to turn left. Drivers get impatient, so they try to rush their turns, and accidents happen.

Poncha Springs, which has the intersection of U.S. 285 and 50, would like some improvements there to make the town more convenient for pedestrians. But they’ll have to wait, CDOT said, as will Salida, which would like a light at U.S. 50 and Holman Boulevard near the swimming pool.

While we can see how the Johnson Village light could improve traffic on summer days, we have to wonder about the rest of the year. Obeying the law could seem foolish if you’re sitting at a red light at 9 p.m. on a winter night, with no cars in sight for miles. Perhaps they can rig it like the town stoplights that go to blinking orange or red during off-hours — or in this case, off-days or off-seasons.

Perfect score

Where’s the cleanest place to eat in Chaffee County? The kitchen at the Chaffee County Jail (formally, it’s the Chaffee County Detention Facility) in Salida got a perfect score in a March 14 inspection by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Pamela Brady, the only full-time employee, runs the kitchen with help from her daughter and inmate trusties. The kitchen serves 300 to 400 meals per day, mostly to inmates but also to sheriff’s department personnel, county officials, and visitors from other counties.

It’s an economical operation, with the cost averaging about $1.25 per meal, and the quality is high, too. Brady said former inmates see her on the street and joke that they want to return to jail for more of her good cooking.

Road Damage

Rural residents are usually pleased to see the county improve their roads, but not when fences get damaged in the process.

That was apparently the case along the Tarryall Road in Park County, where construction crews failed to replace a portion of fence along land owned by Kirsten Van Poollen. She said that allowed her stallion to breed some of her mares that he wasn’t supposed to come near, and the stud might also have serviced two mares who belonged to a neighbor.

The road improvements are contracted by the Federal Highway Administration under a program to improve National Forest roads. Opal Forbes of the FHA said “It was not for sure if the mares were pregnant, but the construction contractors agreed to pay for the abortion drugs and wellness exams.”

Other residents along the route have complained of broken power and telephone lines during the work, with the contractor refusing to make repairs.


A school bus from Leadville was on its way to Kremmling for a wrestling match in the winter of 1962-63, and broke down in a blizzard. “The temperature inside started dropping fast. The cheerleaders huddled together in the front of the bus and the wrestlers huddled together in the back of the bus; all of us trying to stay warm as we could…. I remember suggesting the girls come back and huddle with us, but our wrestling coaches and the cheer sponsor would have none of that.”

Mike Simpson in the Leadville Herald-Democrat, March 15, in an article that was a tribute to Bill Kerrigan, former teacher, coach, and principal at Lake County High School, who froze his inner ears in the -40° weather when he left the bus to get help.

One big issue around Crestone is a fee increase proposed by the directors of the Baca Grande Property Owners Association, which has in turn inspired a recall petition, as well as many letters to the editor, including this: “For a people who preach harmony, love, and world peace, you never lead by example. Talk is cheap with you people; you are hypocrites. Yes, you love everyone, even the butterflies and ants, until something does not go your way. Then you demonstrate the worst traits you claim to disavow.”

John Gray in the Crestone Eagle, April 2007.

“I skipped the five e-mails saying ‘Never scrub your toilet bowl again.’ Some things really are too good to be true.”

Marcia Martinek in the Leadville Herald-Democrat, April 5.

“Sometime in the near future, Custer County is going to have to face the hard facts that you need something other than mountains to draw people to your town and make them want to stay and spend money. I know that no one wants a big box store in town, but until a big box store comes to town, we will continue to go shopping ‘down the hill’ or in the ‘big cities.’

Cindy Shearon in the Wet Mountain Tribune, April 5.

“I feel if I can’t give my children a swing set to play on [on account of restrictive covenants at Game Trail], then I will find the ugliest RV and paint it hot pink and park that in my yard for my children to play in,” since “RVs are considered okay” and “you can thank our architectural committee.”

Randy Wagner in the Chaffee County Times, March 26.

Just about every Friday since the first anniversary of the Iraq War, some Gunnison residents gather at a downtown park for a 15-minute peace vigil. “Most people would just look away when they saw my peace signs at first. A few were rude and would flip me the bird. But now we get lots of honks and lots of peace signs. It’s very inspiring.”

Vikki Roach-Archuleta in the Gunnison Country Times, March 22.