Press "Enter" to skip to content

Regional Roundup

Brief by Martha Quillen

Local News – May 2008 – Colorado Central Magazine

Sad Homecoming

Casey, a Lab/Australian Shepherd mix belonging to the Helsley family who live in the Burland subdivision near Bailey, started wailing on March 26 after being let out for an evening pit stop. The dog’s “screaming” was heard, and the person dogsitting for Casey went to get her, but she ran. He drove around looking for her, and finally spotted the dog, but she was bleeding, and had numerous deep puncture wounds to the top of her head. Air bubbled up from the dog’s wounds when she breathed, and her motor skills were impaired. The sitter got Casey to a vet within the hour, but the dog suffered from brain damage and was later euthanized.

According to Dawson Swanson and Jennifer Churchill, Division of Wildlife personnel, Casey’s injuries were in keeping with a mountain lion attack and mountain lion fur was found in the blood left at the scene.

Casey’s owners, Alisa and Jeremy Helsley and their three children were away attending a funeral when the attack occurred, and while they were gone an aunt also passed away, so they had to travel to another funeral.

The Helsley family got Casey as a puppy for Christmas in 2006. Shane Kelsley, 3, told his mother, “Casey is in heaven because she’s a good dog.”

Bison Blues

Gossip swirled regarding thirty-two bison killed south of Hartsel.

The dead animals were reported to authorities on March 19 and an investigation ensued. Soon, it was reported that the bison were killed by fourteen hunters, several of whom claimed they had permission.

But just who the hunters were and who might have given them permission was not immediately released. And thus talk persisted.

Local suspicions centered on Jeff Hawn, because the animals had long been part of a feud between ranchers Monte and Tracy Downare, the owners of the bison, and Hawn, an Austin, Texas businessman, who manages an adjoining ranch and describes himself as a 50 percent shareholder of Watersedge Properties, LLC, which owns the property.

Just days before the hunt, a suit had been filed alleging that the Downare bison had repeatedly trespassed and destroyed Watersedge property, and some of the dead animals were found there. But other animals were found on public land.

According to the March 28 Rocky Mountain News, locals were incensed and disgusted by the slaughter. The News quoted Timm Armstrong, proprietor of the Silverheels Saloon: “The Downares are really good people … For whatever reason they just couldn’t or wouldn’t keep their bison off Jeff Hawn’s property. Still, that’s no reason for any man to go on a killing spree.”

“It’s just damn wrong. You don’t just shoot somebody’s stock,” Cindy Newman, owner of another ranch which adjoins the Downare property told the News. “Trust me, if they decide they want on your property, nothing will stop them. I never once thought of getting my gun. And every time we called the family, they came right out … and they paid to fix our fence.”

In Fairplay and elsewhere, people also lamented the nature of the hunt. The land was littered with dead animals, many of which were pregnant. Park County Sheriff Fred Wegener told the Denver Post that his deputies had never seen anything like it. “There are just hundreds of acres with carcasses laying out there,” he said.

As of our April 10 deadline, no announcement had been made regarding who may have given the hunters permission, or if they’d actually obtained permission, or whether any charges would be brought, or even if any laws had been broken.

According to the April 4 Fairplay Flume, with thirty-five animals, 14 hunters, lots of evidence, acres of land, and several properties involved, the investigation was “taking time.”

When It Finally Snows,

It Really Snows

Snowpacks are looking good this year — perhaps too good. The weather has brought lots of bad news to the Gunnison Country this spring.

Grouse numbers have dropped due to the heavy snowpack. The birds ordinarily show up at their breeding grounds to strut their stuff in March, but the only thing to be seen at their leks this season, according to the March 27 Gunnison Country Times, was deep snow. When the birds finally do meet to mate, their numbers are expected to be way down.

And the same is true for deer. More than 8,000 deer in the Gunnison Basin got a free food hand-out due to heavy snow this winter, but experts are expecting deer populations to be down, which could seriously impact how many hunting licenses will be issued for the fall 2008 hunting season.

And in the meantime, ranchers were preparing for a tough calving season, because herds are looking thin this spring, and excess mud and slop are expected to take a toll.

Heavy snow loads also caused problems in the city of Gunnison in late March, knocking down the corner of a brick building at Blue Mesa Lumber and collapsing the canopy over the gas pumps at the Love’s gas station and convenience store.

Due to the unusual amounts of heavy, wet snows the region has been getting this year, Gunnison’s building inspector suggested that people get it off their roofs. But a March 20th article in the Times highlighted injuries due to falls this winter, including a fall from a roof, strained backs, broken bones, and ski accidents due to icier than usual conditions….

Canyon Closed for Clean-up

A truck wreck eight miles east of Salida on Highway 50 at 8:50 a.m. on April 2 closed the highway for 15 hours. After the overturned tractor-trailer scattered half its load of 1,200 20-pound propane cylinders along the road, and crushed an unknown number of containers, the clean-up took considerably more time than expected. Transportation officials originally announced that the highway would reopen at about 6 p.m., but crews worked late into the night to clear the area.

According to the Mountain Mail, truck driver Ron Funk, 60, wasn’t injured, but was cited with careless driving.

Residents living near Wellsville and Swissvale were allowed past the highway blockade in front of the livestock yards in Salida. But about 15 public school students from Howard and Swissvale spent Wednesday night in Salida, staying with family or friends.

The Salida High School Soccer team, which had a game to play in Canon City, and front range skiers trying to return home from Monarch had to take the long way around — up U.S. 285 to U.S. 24 through Hartsel.


* The design and cost estimate for a new wastewater treatment facility for the Fairplay Sanitation Board were approved in late March. The plant should be complete and operational in November at a maximum price of $5.1 million. Moltz Construction of Salida was selected to build the plant.

* Angry Leadville parents attended a Lake County school board meeting on March 11 to complain about bullying, and after that the Leadville Herald Democrat was inundated with letters, many of them questioning just who the real bullies are. Was it the complainants? Or was the student body being falsely accused, and insulted, by over-reactive parents?

* The Colorado Division of Wildlife is studying bighorns in northwestern Fremont County to determine why birth and lamb survival rates are low in many local herds; not one animal in the herd under investigation was under three.

* Plans for Salida now include a new 19,000 square foot, three-story downtown hotel with administrative offices, retail space and a restaurant, plus 14 nightly rooms, and 8 condo suites with kitchens.

* Debra Jane Irwin — who was charged with two class-three felonies in connection with money missing from Altima Group, a real estate company she worked for — recently pled guilty to a class five felony as part of a plea bargain. Last spring, when facing serious charges, Irwin was found unconscious, along with her adult daughter, due to drug overdoses. Both recovered, and now things seem to be looking up for Irwin. The current charge could carry up to three years in prison, but may only result in probation.

* According to the Crescent, Saguache County has issued a bounty on coyote ears, paying $5 per pair, and administered by their Road and Bridge Department (719-655-2554).

* Salida’s new hospital opened in March, and the last patient was moved there from the old facility on April 1.

* The Salida Safeway is open but under construction. It’s being extensively remodeled in order to give it “Wow factor,” according to a Safeway spokesman.

* In mid-March, Wayne Fischer, of Las Vegas, the driver in a January wreck on Monarch Pass that killed a 10-year-old girl, pled no contest to 15 traffic charges brought in connection to the accident. The 2007 pickup Fischer was driving held a total of 15 passengers, including three adults and six children in the cab and six children in the bed. Twelve of the counts against Fischer were for failure to use appropriate child restraints; one count was for careless driving resulting in death, and two counts were for careless driving resulting in injury.

* Sometimes things really do work out the way they’re supposed to. Bon Dellegar wrote to the Crestone Eagle in response to “Marcio’s article” about monoxide detectors, to thank Marcio after she woke up in her “newly built” two-year-old home to the shrill sound of her new detector.


“It escapes me how Mr. Shepherd and the mainstream environmental movement in Utah can still, even now, fail to grasp the connection between the amenities economy they promote and encourage, an economy that demands the massive consumption of oil just to get here, and the search for and development of oil and gas reserves, both here and across the North American continent. An industry they blatantly condemn. Who do they think uses part of that oil? Do they stubbornly believe it’s only consumed by fat Republicans waiting for the Rapture?”

Jim Stiles, The Canyon Country Zephyr, April/May 2008, Moab

“…my heating bill is starting to make the national debt look like chump change.”

Kathleen Gaspar, Salida Mountain Mail , March 19

“My children treat me grand and comply with all my wants, but it is hard for anyone to realize the loneliness of old age until they reach that point themselves. My eyes are so bad that I can no longer fit them with glasses, and my hearing is so bad that it is difficult to carry on a conversation with anyone anymore. I sit for hour after hour, rocking back and forth, back and forth, reliving my life over and over, seeing the many different mistakes that we made during our life together, and thinking of the way things might have been had we done differently but realizing that those opportunities have passed into eternity and can never be recalled.”

Mary Elizabeth Humphreys, 96, as dictated to her son in 1951, reprinted in the Saguache Crescent, April 3, 2008

“We’ve found over the years that Leadville and Lake County also have their fair share of conspiracy theories….”

“The very latest conspiracy involving this newspaper came to us second hand, but it’s too good not to share. The March 19 newspaper appeared in Leadville somewhat earlier than usual. It was the newspaper which had the `Angry parents’ story on the front page, an account of the school-board meeting.

“Apparently some people thought we not only had sinister purposes in covering that school-board meeting, but we also conspired to make sure it was on the streets by mid-afternoon.

“The truth is that our regular delivery person was not available that day, so the five-member staff all pitched in to get the papers out….

“We just wanted you to know that our delivery person will be on vacation April 9 and 16….”

Marcia Martinek, editor, Leadville Herald Democrat, April 3, 2008

“To the residents of the Hartsel Fire Protection District, I am so very sorry for taking from you what was rightfully yours….

“… I let my own needs take over my common sense and cloud my judgement. I went against my parents and my God’s teaching and took what did not belong to me.

“I did not realize the magnitude of what this would do to everyone around me or to myself….”

Deborah J. Eakle, Fairplay Flume, March 14, 2008

“The powers that be have wanted Salida to be the next Aspen or Vail and now you see what that cost will be to many or all the residents.

“Your progress has created a haven for many of those who cannot afford to live in Aspen or Vail any longer.

“They, too, have been displaced by the more wealthy and now are doing the same to Salidans who have lived in Chaffee County all their lives.”

Bud Fuller, Mountain Mail, April 7, 2008

“A `let’s-keep-it-like-it-is’ mentality is not needed because that isn’t going to happen. Let’s grow into something greater.”

Terry Brown, in an answer to Bud Fuller, Mountain Mail, April 10, 2008