Regional Roundup

Brief by Ed Quillen

Local events – September 2004 – Colorado Central Magazine

Ursine Perambulations

Quite a few bear visits or sightings have been reported in and near Crestone this summer. Most of the bruins stayed outside, though they sniffed around gardens or beehives, but one invaded a house and emptied the pantry and freezer. House-sitter Mary Lowers told the Eagle that “The bear ate lots of frozen meat; there were T-bone steak bones everywhere, even out on the porch.”

Over in Crested Butte, officials say this is one of the busiest bear seasons on record. One bear charged a police officer who had been shooting at it with rubber bullets, and police are considering responding in teams, instead of solo, when there’s a bear call.

This summer has been cool, which may have delayed the berry crop, thus inspiring more bear visits to residential areas, officials theorize. In Aspen, wildlife officers have suggested that residents hang bells on their doors, so they’ll have some warning if bears try to enter.

Bear-human interactions have increased, according to the Colorado Division of Wildlife, but so has the number of bears killed by hunters: 856 in 2002, a record. That year, 404 other bears were killed by traffic, land owners, or wildlife officers; in 2003, when more moisture meant more food in the wild, the non-hunter kill dropped to 113.

Lightning Strikes

Afternoon thunderstorms are common here in late summer, but they don’t help the state’s water supply very much, because almost all of the storage comes from melting snowpack. And sometimes they cause problems.

In early July, lightning was blamed for a day and half of disrupted telephone service in Park County after a bolt hit the county’s trunk line in Colorado Springs.

Then, on July 15 and 16, lightning hit power poles near Leadville causing minor fires that were quickly extinguished. Also on July 15, lightning struck a dead standing tree near Wellington Lake in the Bailey area; some Boy Scouts were camped nearby, and they responded quickly with chain saw, axes, shovels, and 40 gallons of water that had to be carried up a steep grade.

A young woman was reportedly struck by lightning in the Monarch Pass area on July 19. A man came running into the Monarch Mountain Lodge and said his daughter had been struck and he wanted to know where the nearest hospital was. Shortly thereafter, a lightning victim arrived at Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center in Salida. She was taken by helicopter to Denver and made a full recovery.

A 4-H pig wasn’t so fortunate. A thunderstorm passed through Buena Vista on July 21. Lightning struck an old cottonwood tree near the home of Mary Jo Bennetts. After the storm passed, they found a pig dead near the tree; it weighed nearly 200 pounds and was supposed to go to the Chaffee County Fair a week later.

On July 24, about 3,800 customers in Custer County and western Frémont County lost their electricity for 12 hours after lightning hit an insulator on a transmission line. It took quite a while to find the spot because low-lying fog blocked the view of the insulators at the top of the towers. Crews walked the line for hours trying to spot the problem, and finally, the fog lifted just enough for a lineman to see three damaged insulators.

Observations

“July 11: [Leadville Police Officer] James took a report of a man covered in blood near the Pastime Bar. When James contacted the man and asked what had happened, the man reportedly said he was having a bad day.”

Renee Davis writing in the July 15

Herald-Democrat

“This is Buena Vista, some of us roam around in old beat-up rusted vehicles because we cannot afford new ones.”

Virgil Houle writing in the Aug. 12

Chaffee County Times

“I know how difficult it must be to have your sleepy little town [Westcliffe] invaded in the summer, but I would think that income is the town’s lifeblood, or at least a good part of it, and a little more effort would go a long way.”

D. Church writing in the July 22

Wet Mountain Tribune

“Without industry here, we’ll always be the poor relation to Breckenridge.”

Richard Hamilton quoted in the Aug. 6

Fairplay Flume

“[Buena Vista Town Administrator] Jerry L’Estrange reported that the town’s sign code is vague and he cited incidents with which he has had problems. Planning chair Robert Flint said that they don’t want Buena Vista to look like Disney World.”

Kathy Davis writing in the July 29

Chaffee County Times

During a drought, “I’d rather be upstream with a shovel than downstream with a decree.”

Ray Moses quoted in the Aug. 5

Gunnison Country Times

“We are proud to acknowledge our allegiances to the Democratic Party, and therefore it would be foolish of us to to make an endorsement regarding a Republican [primary] election, where all the local [Custer County] action is this year. Our motives would rightfully be called into question: Would we endorse the weakest candidate? The one who acts or smells most like a Democrat? The one with the most overtly liberal leanings?”

Jim Little writing in the Aug. 5

Wet Mountain Tribune

“It’s time we face it: our city’s leadership is drooling over the prospect of a Wal-Mart supercenter in town. Their vision is dominated by short-term sales tax dreams and an unrelenting adherence to the ideology of private property rights…. Our city council effectively told us this week that they see our lips moving, but they can’t hear a word we’re saying.

Editorial in the Aug. 12

Gunnison Country Times

SuperCenter Blues

In most of our counties, the primary elections were the hot issues, but in Gunnison, a lot of energy went into discussing a possible Wal-Mart SuperCenter.

There’s already a Wal-Mart in Gunnison, on the north side of town, but in July, the company signed an agreement, subject to many contingencies, to buy 30 acres across the street for a bigger store, one that would also carry groceries.

That inspired a lot of commentary, most of it coming from people who were worried about its effect on Main Street businesses, and a proposal was floated for the city to impose a moratorium on new big box stores. A public meeting on July 26 attracted more than 250 people. Many were opposed, but some merchants said that having a bigger store in Gunnison would encourage more residents to shop in town, thus improving the business climate.

The city planning and zoning commission voted unanimously on Aug. 5 in support of a six-month moratorium on any “retail sales or marketing establishment … occupying more than 50,000 gross square feet of floor area.”

That was only a recommendation to the city council, however, and the council voted 3-2 against a moratorium. Those in the majority said that even if there was a public outcry against the big box, citizens privately told council members that they would welcome a bigger store.

Primary Passions

Statewide, both major parties had hard-fought primaries for the U.S. senate seat being vacated by Ben Campbell, who was elected as a Democrat in 1992, switched parties in 1995, and was reelected as a Republican in 1998. Pete Coors, who certainly had plenty of name recognition in Colorado, easily won the Republican nomination, and on the Democratic side, Attorney General Ken Salazar overwhelmingly defeated Mike Miles.

There was a primary for the Republican nomination for congress in the Fifth Congressional District, but incumbent Joel Hefley took that easily, and he’s an odds-on favorite to win in November – it’s really hard for us to imagine a scenario where a Democrat even had a chance in a district dominated by Colorado Springs.

The Third Congressional District (the Western Slope, San Luis Valley, and Pueblo area) is more competitive. Democrats settled early on State Rep. John Salazar (Ken’s brother), but the Republican nomination was still in limbo as we went to press.There were five candidates. The two leaders were Greg Walcher of Palisade, former director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, and state Rep. Matt Smith of Glenwood Springs – he is also the brother-in-law of retiring incumbent Republican Scott McInnis.

With all precincts reporting, Walcher had 15,497 votes to Smith’s 15,212. Walcher has claimed victory, but the totals aren’t official because the provisional ballots (at least 286) have not been counted. Provisional ballots are cast, for example, when a voter fails to bring a picture ID to the polls.

On the county level, presidential election years usually mean campaigns for two of the three commissioner seats. The hardest-fought primaries may have been in Custer County, where the Republican nomination is pretty much the election.

There were full-page newspaper ads and scores of letters to the editor, along with plenty of discussion, and a lot of money for a primary in a rural county – donations totaled about $16,000 on July 15, according to campaign reports. The biggest single contributor was a real-estate developer who gave $3,000.

In one race, County Surveyor Kit Shy defeated Randy Rusk 767-552, but the other’s initial count was too close to be official, with incumbent Dick Downey leading Lynn Attebery 659-647.

Chaffee County Republicans also had a fiercely contested primary between incumbent Joe DeLuca and former Commissioner Frank McMurry. DeLuca defeated McMurray in 2000 for the nomination – and the election, since there was no Democratic candidate. McMurry turned the tables this year, winning 1,405 to 1083. He will face Democrat Jerry Mallet in November.

Chaffee Democrats also had a commissioner primary, for a different seat, between Jim Osborne and Curtis Imrie, with Osborne winning 596-502. He will face Republican Nelson Fleming.

Olympians

Athens is a long way from Central Colorado, but several athletes with local connections competed in the Olympics – which were underway at press time, so we can’t report how well they did.

Matt Hemingway, a 1991 Buena Vista High School graduate, is a high-jumper who leaped 7’6.5″ to win a spot on the U.S. team. He was state champion as a junior and senior at BVHS, and still holds the state high school record. In 1998 and 1999, he lived in Buena Vista and was a river guide for Noah’s Ark Whitewater.

Two graduates of Western State College in Gunnison are also competitors. Elva Dryer (’96) runs for the U.S. in the 10,000-meter, while Michael Aish (’01) runs for his native New Zealand in the 5,000. Both were also competitors in the 2000 games in Sydney.