Hope for Haven

This piece has been updated. For the record: The Q&A skit was presented only to fifth grade students. THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL IN BUENA VISTA is — like the rest of the town — a safe and tranquil place. So why would school administrators expose children to messages about sexual exploitation and human trafficking? The answer …

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Housing Series: Fading West

THE STRESSES OF TODAY’S HOUSING MARKET are present nationwide, though their seeming stranglehold has become even more apparent in the Upper Ark Valley through the obvious labor crisis numerous industries are experiencing. While many still contemplate how to handle real estate’s skyrocketing prices concurrent with wage battles and rising inflation, Fading West Development is paving …

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Pickleball Passion

IT WAS A BLUEBIRD-SKY SUNDAY MORNING in Buena Vista as I squinted against the intense sun, following the outstretched arm of Stephanie McDonald, the USA Pickleball district ambassador for southern Colorado. Her gesture encompassed the center of the newly poured pickleball courts, as she described where eventually there will be bleachers for fans to observe …

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WALKING UP STUFFING MY HANDS INTO my pockets, not breaking eye contact with the freshly mowed grass, I tried to make my presence around the 14 other girls standing in a circle the least known. I faltered closer to meet some of the women who would change my life: Josie and Kristen. That was the …

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A Close Brush with Death

Mountain Biking in Buena Vista CO

THE WIND BLOWS IN MY FACE; I feel the tires crunch below me, the brakes and shifters in my hands like cubes of ice. At this point I know that this bike is an extension of my body, the plastic pedals mixing with my fleshy legs and the finger grips molding to my hands. I …

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Private Soak at the Infinity Pool

by Cailey McDermott There are roughly 28 public hot springs in Colorado. Mount Princeton in Nathrop touts five different soaking styles — the newest is the infinity pool.  In addition to the public soaking, the infinity pool is open to private soaking experiences. You can reserve the entire pool for a romantic date, for a …

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Thoughts from the Front Lines

By Andrea Carlstrom The COVID-19 pandemic has brought painful, yet valuable life lessons for Chaffee County, the U.S. and our world. Although it is likely that the pandemic will linger for some time and will most likely bring new challenges and lessons, I consider it prudent to share what I have experienced and learned thus …

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The Glass Art of Eveyln Baker

By Mike Rosso Tucked away in her home studio in Buena Vista, Evelyn Gottschall Baker is quietly creating world-class glass art. Primarily focusing on a technique called “Patè de Verre” (paste of glass), Baker brings realism and detail into her art and uses both traditional and non-traditional casting and mold techniques to create sculptures which …

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Q & A with Trace Bundy

A full-time, internationally touring musician, Trace Bundy grew up in Buena Vista and was named “Most Promising New talent” by Acoustic Guitar Magazine in 2008, as well as receiving third place for “Best Fingerstyle Guitarist.” Over the past 15 years, trace has performed in 28 countries and throughout the U.S., and has independently sold over …

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Chaffee County Writers Exchange

By Judy Reese The Upper Arkansas River Valley is a smorgasbord of creative folks – some sculpting stunning vases from aspen, some capturing the beauty of the Chalk Cliffs in oils, others entertaining with bluegrass tunes or making characters come alive on stage. Some create with fiber or craft whimsical beasts in papier-mâché. Yet those …

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Rehabilitating a Homicidal Pet

Vixen. Photo by Babs Schmerl.

By Jane Parnell

Several months before having my right knee replaced, I adopted a puppy, my first ever. I purchased her from a rescue organization that specializes in stray dogs on the Navajo Reservation. She was seven weeks old. They said she was a husky-German shepherd like my previous dog, a stray I rescued myself on a hike in the mountains. I named my husky-shep Beast in hopes of transforming him into a beauty. Once he was neutered and trained, he turned out to be the best dog I ever had. He accompanied me on more than 100 peak-bagging ventures, and as the therapy dog for my department at the university where I used to teach, he developed a loyal following of students in need of unconditional love.

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Places: Droney Gulch State Wildlife Area

Photos and article by Mike Rosso

Folks who drive U.S. Highway 285 from Poncha Springs to Buena Vista have passed by the interpretive sign on the west side of the highway titled “Christmas 1806.” It describes Zebulon Pike’s expedition as it passed through the Upper Arkansas Valley and how the hunting party shot eight buffalo and feasted on Christmas Day near the mouth of Squaw Creek, a half mile to the south. The following day the party camped at Big Bend along the Arkansas River.

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The BVStrong Dinner

Building Community Since 2014

By Mike Rosso
Photos by Lee Robinson

There had been heavy rainfall in the days leading up to a visit to Agnes Vaille Falls by the Johnson family of Buena Vista on September 30, 2013.

Agnes Vaille, on the southern slope of Mt. Princeton near Nathrop had been a popular spot amongst tourists and locals alike due to the relatively short hike to the scenic, cascading waterfalls. But tragedy struck that fateful morning when falling rocks from a cliff shelf above the falls triggered a huge rock slide, nearly 100 tons, which rained down on the unsuspecting family of six.

A witness, Adam Rogers watched with horror as the family was buried under the car-sized boulders and he ran the 1 1/2 miles down the trail to call for help. By the time first responders arrived at the scene, all members of the party were hopelessly buried under the rubble except a thirteen-year-old girl, Gracie Johnson whose screams caught the attention of rescuers and was dug out from the rock debris. Unfortunately, her father Dwayne, a local electrician and part-time assistant Buena Vista High School football coach, and her mother, Dawna, a track coach at the high school and part-time waitress had perished in the slide, along with Gracie’s sister, Kiowa-Rain Johnson, 18, and two cousins, Baigen Walker, 10, and Paris Walkup, 22 who were visiting from Missouri. Gracie’s father had the presence of mind to push her to a bigger rock, shielding her and likely saving her life.

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About the Cover Photographer: Aaron Atencio

Aaron Atencio spent his entire childhood in Buena Vista and graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder. At the age of seventeen he took his first plane trip to Europe with the Buena Vista High School foreign language department. Travel quickly became his passion which led to his goal of heavily combining travel into …

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places … The Midland Tunnels

By Ericka Kastner

During Leadville’s bustling mining days of the late 1800s, the town of Buena Vista was served by three separate railroads and the standard-gauge Colorado Midland arrived last – in 1887.

A steep, uphill buggy ride from Buena Vista gave passengers access to the Midland Depot, which was situated high above town and followed the banks of the Arkansas River. When the Midland was laid, workers had to dig tunnels into the rocky hillside at a point along the road where the valley narrowed in order for the train to continue to follow the route along the river. When this series of tunnels was completed, many folks believed that this was the only spot in the country where a train could be in four tunnels at one time.

More than 100 years later, the days of the railroad in Buena Vista are long gone – the route was abandoned in May of 1922 – but these tunnels can still be seen today. I lived in Buena Vista for about five years, and during that time I travelled the “tunnel road” quite frequently.

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Whither Pack-Burro Racing?

The sages tell us that everything is always changing, and in fact the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said that nothing endures but change itself. Thus is the case of Colorado’s indigenous sport of pack-burro racing.

It began back in 1949 with a race over Mosquito Pass to Fairplay. Nearly seven decades later I’m beginning to wonder if perhaps organizers should have stuck with this original format, or perhaps should consider going back to it. Then again, I may be jaded because I’ve been along for the adventure for more than half of those seven decades.

In the years since this first race, the sport has grown to include separate events in both Leadville and Fairplay, as well as shorter races in other towns including Buena Vista, Georgetown, Idaho Springs, Creede and Victor.

The original rules remain largely unchanged. Each burro must carry 33 pounds of gear on a regulation packsaddle (whatever “regulation” means) and the gear must include a pick, pan and shovel. The burro must be led or driven by means of a halter and lead rope no longer than 15 feet. Riding is not allowed.

Over the years some rules have been adjusted slightly to allow donkeys larger than 53 inches at the withers to compete, and also to allow mini-donkeys to be run without the weight requirement. 

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What Do You Want?

By Jennifer Welch

Summer never starts off with these words, “What do you want?” It begins on a much softer note. “Hi, what can I help you with today? What can I get for you? Is that all you would like?” Everyone in the service industry has the lines memorized by heart and, at least in the beginning, manages to even use them with customers. But towards the end of the season, when angry August rolls around, you just might let a ‘What do you want?’ slip from your lips … if only accidentally. It’s not that we hate our jobs by the end of summer, it’s that we loathe them. And, really, it’s not you, it’s us. The service industry is exhausting and gratifying at the same time and, generally speaking, the more exhausted you get, the more gratified you become. But at some point we just need to crawl into a hole and hibernate for the winter until the next tourist season rolls around and we are required to smile and talk to people again.

Here at the bus, summer is off to a great start. We are busier than we were last year and running a larger menu and a larger farm. We are also looking at adding more pasture land to our rotations which will allow us to continue to grow our herds and the food truck even more. We really didn’t know what to expect this summer, especially after last year’s fiasco. It’s hard to know when to quit and when to keep going and we were ready to hinge that decision on this year’s progress or lack thereof. So I am relieved to say that things are looking up so far. In hindsight, I might be willing to admit that taking two of the most demanding, failure-prone business models and smashing them together might have been a horrible idea. Maybe they were right, maybe you can’t do it all or have it all. These thoughts have been rumbling around in my head all spring and begging the question, “What do you want?”

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Watershed BV: A Small-Town Hub

In 1937, the U.S. Forest Service built a ranger station on Main Street in downtown Buena Vista. It remains the only historical downtown ranger station in Colorado. It served its purpose for the Forest Service until the 1970s when it became a Chaffee County health clinic. For the past 20 years the building has sat empty and unused despite the location next to the old State Highway building (currently the Trailhead) and near the intersection of Main Street and Colorado Avenue.

“It was like ‘70s wood paneling, pink carpet,” said Rick Bieterman, as we sat in what used to be the garage of the old ranger station. “And so we came in and ripped all that stuff out and found this brick under all that paneling. And these floors are the original plywood floors that we just sanded down, took the carpet off and just went with it.”

“Our vision is to pop that back wall out – it’s really just a plywood wall – and put a garage door back in to open it up to all we’ve got going on outside, too.” Bieterman has been remodeling the property since he and his wife, Katy Welter, bought the building through a government auction in January of last year. They plan to make the necessary functional renovations while keeping the character of what it was in the ‘30s and ‘40s. They hope to register the building as a local historic landmark. Bieterman and Welter have turned the space into a hub for community events and business incubation, which they call Watershed BV. 

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The Crowded Acre: The Dude

By Jennifer Welch

It’s no secret to most that I am part woman, part wild animal. I walk a paper thin line between human reasoning and animal instinct, between empathy for our man-made problems and disdain for the four walls surrounding me. I find it difficult to relate to most people, especially the ones that don’t have dog hair on their pants. Animal communication is simple, straightforward. Humans are much more complex and I constantly find myself fumbling through the intricacies of interaction. When I am in town I feel slightly out of place, the proverbial fish out of water, as it were. But when I come home there is a small tribe of humans and horses, poultry and swine, goats and cats, that make me feel at peace. There is also a giant dog that insists on climbing into the truck to greet me every time I pull into the driveway. These are the things that make those four walls feel like a home. It may not be the cleanest home on the block, but it’ll do. 

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The Bearded Lady

By Jennifer Welch – The Crowded Acre

“The wheels on the bus go round and round …”

It was mid-summer when we purchased the 1984 65-passenger Bluebird school bus. At that time, it had been almost a full year since I had broken the news to my husband – I wanted to go back into the food service industry. I can’t be sure if he fully believed me then, but I am certain he believes me now. “If I can fit it down my winding driveway, I’ll take it,” I exclaimed to the previous owner of the school bus, despite being utterly unsure of where this adventure might take me. But it fit down the driveway like it was meant to be, and it hasn’t left our property since. After some explaining and very little coercing, my husband nodded for me to go ahead with my plans and insisted he be allowed to come along for the ride.

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About the Cover Artist: Brynn Ronning

Brynn Ronning paints with oils and finds home in the town of Buena Vista, Colorado. As a seven-year resident, Brynn has immersed herself in Jailhouse Arts, a community project of artists that collectively and creatively inhabit the town’s former jailhouse. Brynn has acted as gallery and events coordinator for the Jailhouse, encouraging the hands of local artists to turn this historical, stone-walled building into a space for the arts. The collective’s focus has been to showcase local talent, offer studio space, and develop workshops and classes. Brynn is grateful for the unfolding of both intentional and spontaneous acts of art to occur at the Jailhouse from a community of collaborators.

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The Crowded Acre: Technology on the Farm

By Jennifer Welch

Although sometimes I hate to admit it, I belong to Gen Y, the Millennials, Generation Next. I do not have a college degree, despite the years I spent in college. I spent a period of time cohabitating prior to getting married. I have had access to the Internet since I was in high school. I feel that information should be free and, yes, I do believe that I can accomplish anything I put my keyboard to. All of these things tell me that I belong in this generation, even though my birth date is on the edge of inclusion. But I try not to let it get to me too much, especially given that for as much as I identify with my generation, I equally dissociate with it. 

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A Love Affair with Model Trains

by Judith Reese, Photos by Mike Rosso “Fabulous! Colorado’s Best Secret Attraction,” declares an entry in the Buena Vista Model Railroad guestbook. It’s in the hand of well-known history professor Tom Noel, and now the secret is out. The delightful diorama, housed on the top floor of the BV Heritage Museum, depicts in miniature the …

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Driving Nature Into the Ground? Motorized Recreation on Public Lands

by Bill Hatcher “In Colorado, the outdoors is what’s for dinner!” That’s Sherry Ellms, Professor of Environmental Studies at Naropa University in Boulder. I had asked her what motorized recreation says about American Culture. And while playful, her dining metaphor belies our tendency to “consume” nature. In 1991, 11,700 OHVs (off-highway vehicles, such as dirt …

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The Lettuce Harvest That Once Was

Central Colorado and the entire state once had a booming head lettuce growing operation from the early 1920s into the 1940s that is now all but forgotten. With good rail access via the Denver & Rio Grande to eastern markets, favorable growing conditions and plenty of ice to chill the leafy vegetable, head lettuce production was all the rage.

However, changing market conditions and the introduction of the refrigerated rail car doomed the local industry. Growing head lettuce in Colorado followed a national trend of the time where agriculture was expanding, and growers were taking chances with crops that ultimately didn’t grow well in certain locations.

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Weathervane & Cho Ku Rei – Working the Land

by Tyler Grimes Shifting to a locally grown, plant-based diet is the healthiest choice one can make. Right now in the U.S., 34 percent of adults are obese, as are growing number of children, including 20 percent of 6 to 11-year-olds. Three out of four of the leading causes of death are weight/diet-related illnesses: heart …

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Mini-Blessings Small Horses, Big Hearts

By Judy Epperson and Susan Shampine 

It was apparent the boy was upset when he got off the school bus at Mini-Blessings. He went straight to the corner of the arena to be alone. While his eyes filled with tears, the young mare Aurora came over to him, put her muzzle over his shoulder and stood nuzzling his neck, providing him with the non-judgmental affection he needed just then. Before long, he put his arms around her neck, buried his face in her fur and cried. After a couple of minutes he slowly stood and joined the group of other students working with their miniature horses at the other end of the arena. By the end of the ninety-minute session, he was running and jumping with Aurora; a smile on his face and ready to face the rest of the day.

This is the work of Mini-Blessings (MB), a non-profit organization co-founded by Crissey Smith and Susan Shampine. The 3.7 acre facility is located just outside Buena Vista and serves the residents of Chaffee County and Central Colorado. The primary goal of MB is to share the magic of miniature horses with special needs children, at risk youth, and just about anyone who can benefit from close contact with a kind-spirited, non-judgmental being. 

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About the Cover Artist: Stuart Codington Andrews

A resident of Buena Vista since 1984, Stuart Codington Andrews made Central Colorado his home due to the quality of light and rich diversity of the landscape. Since arriving here, he has built an artist’s life based upon his reverence for the beauty of the natural world, his fascination with the peculiar interactions of humanity, and affection for the surreal moments created when the two meet.
Andrews invests his time in recording the impact of the changes that are shaping the New West. A self-educated painter, his works collect dreams, the collisions between pop culture, manifest destiny, alpine life and his own desperate romance with the mountains, all cleverly fused in oil paint.

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The St. Julien Livery and Feed Stable

By Fay Golson for The Chaffee County Heritage Area Advisory Board

The St. Julien Livery in downtown Buena Vista is the eighth property featured from the Chaffee County Historic Resources Survey. The 0.39-acre property is located at the southwest corner of Chestnut Street and Railroad Avenue. The building not only served as a livery but also, a few years after opening, as an ice and coal store. During their time, livery stables were vital to towns throughout America.

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Collegiate Peaks Forum Series – Enriching the Lives of Area Residents

By Mike Rosso

Since 2003, a dedicated group of area volunteers has been helping to enhance the lives of intellectually-curious regional citizens, and they’ve been doing it free of charge.

It began in 2002, when four Chaffee County couples decided to bring interesting speakers to the area. They began telling their friends about the idea and the Collegiate Peaks Forum Series (CPFS) was born.

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A Rare Arrastra Near Buena Vista, Colorado

By Kenneth Jessen

In its simplest terms, an arrastra is a grinder and dates back thousands of years. The grinding surface is typically flat bedrock situated near a stream. A vertical pocket is drilled into the rock, and a perpendicular pole is placed in the pocket. Attached to the pole near its base is a horizontal beam and attached to the beam, usually by chains, is a heavy stone that does the grinding. Farther up the pole is a long horizontal beam that is used to turn the arrastra. As the pole is rotated, ore is placed in the path of the stone and the ore is crushed against the bedrock. Eventually, this process creates a groove in the bedrock that is telltale evidence that an arrastra once existed.

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An Interview with Area Native Billie Love

Conducted by Tyler Grimes

Billie Love’s grandfather fought with, and fell behind, Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer’s regiment and lived to tell the tale. Her father was a brick mason who worked on notable Chaffee County buildings such as the Buena Vista Correctional Facility, the Smeltertown smokestack, and Salida Middle School. When Franklin D. Roosevelt came through Salida by train, she – and most of the town – saw her father, dressed in his work attire, meet the President. For Love, it’s easier than most to see the Arkansas Valley through the lens of history.

Love works at the Chamber of Commerce in Buena Vista, where she met me to share some of her stories.

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The New Spirits of the West

By Tyler Grimes

Colorado has been known as a beer-brewing mecca for years, and recently that trend has shifted to micro distilleries. In early 2011 the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau had issued 18 distilling permits in Colorado. In November, Wood’s High Mountain Distillery in Salida received the 38th permit in the state. The distillery on 1st Street opened its doors to the public on March 2, becoming the second distillery in the valley. Deerhammer opened in Buena Vista in February 2012, and two more distilleries hope to open this spring: Two Guns in Leadville, and Boathouse Distillery in Salida. The boom in craft-beverage making has certainly made its way to the Upper Arkansas River Valley.

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Leah Cerise: Evolution of an Artist

By Sue Snively

He stands in the middle of the field, looking strong and personable, just waiting for the silly dog to charge. When the dog does, you can almost hear the bird laughing as he caws and flies away, only to return to the ground and wait for the next charge. The artist captures him with her camera and then draws the raven from the photograph. Ultimately this beautiful, smart bird with his iridescent feathers appears as a solar-etched monoprint.

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I Say Saleeda, and You Say …

 By Kevin Patrick

“I’m callin’ about the stay away.”

“The stay away?”

“Yeah. The stay away.”

… “The STAY away?”

We began again. The serves and whiffs went on for a ridiculous minute before I realized a transplanted New Englander was responding to an ad I’d run to get help rebuilding a stairway (“stay away”). What you say hinges delicately on how you say it.

Place names tend to be less confusing, as they’re generally embedded in a rich contextual stew of language, geography and history. But even if the meaning is clear, many within earshot generally stand ready and willing to be offended by your pronunciation.

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SLED DOG RACING Minus the Snow … and Sleds

By Tyler Grimes
The weekend forecast called for cold temperatures and a chance of snow – ideal conditions for sled dog racing, one would think. But for the participants of Colorado Mountain Musher’s Dryland Mush, snow could mean race cancellation.

But the snow held off and the 7th annual Dryland Mush was held at Adventure Unlimited (AU) outside Buena Vista on Nov. 10-11. All four events were held despite the cold.

The races are: Canicross; – contestants run with their leashed dogs; 1-2 dog Scooter-jor; – dog(s) pulls contestants on scooters; Bike-jor; – bikes are outfitted to connect to the pulling dogs; and the Small Team Cart; – a max of four dogs pulling contestants by cart. Each race took place on both days and the combined times determined the winners.

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Restaurant Review – The Asian Palate

By Sue Snively

 The Asian Palate
328 E. Main St., Buena Vista, CO

Hours: Lunch – Mon, Wed – Sat: 11am-2pm

Dinner – Mon, Wed – Sunday: 5pm-9pm


For a small town with many eateries, it doesn’t take long in Buena Vista to find a type of food that will satisfy your tastes on any particular evening. We don’t eat out very much, so when we do so we like it to be special and different; thus we found ourselves bypassing a variety of standard American dining places and a few others with international influences, and chose to dine at the Asian Palate.

Eddie Sandoval opened the restaurant in July of 2009. He chose Buena Vista because of his familiarity with and love of the town. He surveyed a fair number of residents to learn what kind of restaurant might do well, and came up with Asian cuisine based upon the number of requests for sushi on the menu. Eddie is a first-generation Filipino who grew up eating Asian food, and decided a restaurant with a wide variety of authentic foods from many Asian countries would be a good bet. He is an expert on Asian cooking and personally trains his chefs.

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Improving Bighorn Habitat on Limestone Ridge

By Ron Sering

Limestone Ridge is a prominent feature east of Buena Vista, just west of Chubb Park. The broad hillsides and the steep crags of Limestone Ridge, along with the alpine environment of nearby Buffalo Peaks, once served as ideal habitat for large game animals, including bighorn sheep.

In recent years, however, the state’s official animal has been in short supply in the area. “There is a lot of potential for bighorn habitat,” said Jamin Grigg, a wildlife biologist with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), “but it has gotten over-forested with not enough forage, and not enough escape cover.”

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Twenty Years of Making Music: The Alpine Orchestra

By Wendy Oliver

When I first moved to Buena Vista, I expected to gain a traffic-free life in the mountains while losing out on performing arts. Three months later, I attended the 1999 Alpine Orchestra’s Christmas concert and discovered a high caliber community orchestra right in the Upper Arkansas Valley. By January, I’d dusted off my oboe and joined both the Orchestra and the pit band for the local production of Brigadoon. More than a decade and a hundred performances later, I’m still impressed with the depth of talent in our small communities.

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Modern Mayberry in Downtown Buena Vista?

By Jennifer Dempsey

When John Grove and Shawn Woodrum took over the State Highway building at 402 Main Street in Buena Vista a year and a half ago, they weren’t exactly sure what the 5,000 square foot warehouse would become.

“We’ve just basically done it by the seat of our pants,” said Grove, 45. “If we had had a business plan it would have changed every other month. We knew we wanted a place that would cater to all walks of life. We wanted this to be a big umbrella that includes everybody in the community, like a modern Mayberry.”

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