Friday, March 21, 2008

Mountain Town News


Widow dies 45 years to day after fatal avalanche

OURAY, Colo.—Forty-five years ago, a minister and his two daughters were driving the highway between Ouray and Silverton. It's one of the most spectacular—and dangerous—segments of highway in North America. The minister, the Rev. Marvin Hudson, was scheduled to perform Sunday services at the First Congregational Church.

It was mid-morning, and Hudson had stopped to put on chains when an avalanche roared down, killing him and his two daughters.

The Silverton Standard reports an eerie echo. The widow, Mary Hudson, died March 3, on the 45th anniversary of the avalanche. She was 87.

Plenty of talk about what to do with I-70

I-70 CORRIDOR, Colo.—The ideas for easing congestion on Interstate 70 west of Denver keep on a-comin'.

The latest proposal, to charge a $5 toll at the Eisenhower Memorial Tunnel Complex, comes from Andy McElhany, a top-ranked Republican in the Colorado Senate. He projects that the tolls would yield $40 million per year, enough to secure a $1 billion bond for widening the highway for 14 miles through Clear Creek County, between metropolitan Denver and Summit County. He sees the tolls eventually yielding a third bore through the Continental Divide.

Clear Creek County residents bristle at the idea, notes a Denver newspaper, the Rocky Mountain News. For 10 years, they have insisted that the answer to congestion is not widening of the highway in an already narrow canyon, but to hold out for some form of rail-based transit system.

The idea-fest was launched this winter by another state senator, Chris Romer, a Democrat from Denver. Romer took the unusual tact of creating a website where people could propose ideas. He proposes congestion pricing, such as is now being done in New York City, but also reversing the flow of traffic on Sunday afternoons. The fees collected for cars carrying fewer than three occupants during congested times would be used to subsidize bus service, something now lacking.

Bloggers have used words such as "cockamamie" to describe Romer's proposal. And Dan Gibbs, a state representative for several of the mountain valleys, urges caution. He notes that five planning processes are currently underway.

But Romer said Denver drivers are fed up with waiting in standstill traffic to go skiing. "I didn't fill the powder keg, I just lit the fuse. And the mountain communities need to know this one's ready to blow," he told the News.

Colorado isn't as big as people think it is

LEADVILLE, Colo.—After building dozens of backcountry ski huts in the 1980s and 1990s,the 10th Mountain Division has been lying low in recent years. Now, it is proposing to build another hut, this one near Tennessee Pass, between Leadville and Vail. Several local residents are very displeased at the prospect.

Tom Weisen, a backcountry guide who lives in nearby Red Cliff, says the area is already getting crowded, with snowmobilers and dogsledders, and huts will worsen the situation. "When are they going to stop building huts?" he wants to know.

Marjorie Westermann, a long-time resident of the area, with a home along Highway 24, frets about the impacts to Canada lynx and other wildlife. "Colorado isn't as big as people think, and the wildlife are losing out."

The 10th Mountain Division's Ben Dodge says the proposed hut on public land would be easier to reach than Vance's Cabin and, because it is on public land, will remain even if the private hut is sold.

The hut association operates 29 backcountry huts between Crested Butte and the Front Range, 14 of them on Forest Service land.

Officials insist foreclosure rate is only minor increase

GRANBY, Colo.—Newspapers in the mountain towns of Colorado keep looking for evidence of the tsunami of housing foreclosures hitting their communities. The real estate market has definitely slowed down, but nobody seems to find a wall of foreclosures about to crash.

A case in point is a report in the Sky-Hi Daily News, which reported that Grand County in the first two months recorded 29 foreclosures, compared to 59 for all of last year.

Christina Whistmer, the Grand County treasurer, said foreclosures are "only slightly up." Susan Penta, the marketing director for Grand Elk, a housing project geared to the upper-middle-class vacation-home buyers maintained that that the second-home market is generally healthy. "The vacation home buyer generally has the discretionary income to withstand the current storm."

But to Ross Cooney, who built three prize-winning homes in the $500,000 to $1 million category in Granby's Grand Elk project, hoping to later find buyers, the current storm is substantial. "I really like Granby and I like Grand Elk. It's a beautiful spot. But boy, the economy is a disaster."

The newspaper also tells of a foreclosed property, originally priced at $800,000, which was sold at an auction for $350,000.

Hardrock mining outfit at Silverton adds staff

SILVERTON, Colo.—The talk of renewed hardrock mining around Silverton continues. The Standard reports that Colorado Goldfields has hired two managers, for exploration and environmental affairs. The exploration manager, Dean Misantoni, has 27 years experience in small, producing underground operations in Colorado.

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