Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Mountain Town News


Rivers run big, but mostly stay in ditches

TELLURIDE, Colo.—Runoff this year from the big snowpack in Colorado had the potential for mayhem. Sand-bags were readied, and homeowners advised to get their flood insurance.

Instead, heat and cooling alternated, resulting in rivers that consistently roared—and roar even now—but seem rarely to have gone over their banks. It has been one of the more remarkably sustained runoffs in memory.

Still, runoff has had its horrors. The Arkansas River, center of Colorado's commercial whitewater activity, has had six deaths this year. Two people have died after being spilled from horses while crossing creeks. The most recent case was at Beaver Creek, on a crossing used thousands of times.

In Telluride, high water problems mounted to no more than a nuisance, if that. The Telluride Watch says that one of Telluride's water-treatment plants had to be shut down because of high flows in the San Miguel River. Add to that the fact that the town was full because of Bluegrass Festival, and the situation, was one of "water, water everyone, but not enough to take a long, luxurious shower, wash the car, or water the lawn."

Tahoe expecting to see marriage boom

LAKE TAHOE, Calif.—The California Supreme Court ruling that allows same-sex marriages may revive the faltering wedding industry at Lake Tahoe. The Sierra Sun says that 10 same-sex couples have secured marriage licenses in Nevada County, on the north shore of Lake Tahoe.

PlumpJack Inn, located at Squaw Valley, hosted a same-sex wedding ceremony several years ago, and sales director Rob McCormick said the inn welcomes gay and lesbian nuptials "with open arms." The inn is partly owned by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.

"Things have been slowing down in the Tahoe wedding industry over the last two years," said Alice Ross, a North Lake Tahoe wedding minister who agreed to officiate same-sex marriages in Nevada County. "The wedding industry is not what it used to be, and I imagine this would help."

LEED certification still gaining ground in resorts

GYPSUM, Colo.—The new trophy home, proclaimed the New York Times, is small and ecological. The newspaper tells the story from Venice, Calif., home to movie stars, and cites one woman who says that something energy-conscious "doesn't have to look as if you got it off the bottom shelf of a health-food store."

But not just any "green" house will do. The Times also explains that certification by LEED—an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design—is the new hot designer label, kind of like driving a Prius.

There are four levels of LEED certification: basic, silver, gold and, at the highest level, platinum. So far this year, 10,250 new home projects have registered for one of these levels of LEED certification, more than triple from 2006, the first year of the pilot home-rating system, says the Times.

Bearing testimony to this trend is a report in the Vail Daily of a new "lifestyle" residential complex in Gypsum, between Vail and Glenwood Springs. There, the developer of a project called Sky Legend has homes of up to 4,500 square feet.

But the firm, ASW Realty Partners, is also building smaller homes, most between 1,700 and 2,500 square feet. So far, eight homes are certified to the silver level of LEED. In all, about half of the 247 units planned at Sky Legend may be LEED certified.

Not everyone is a fan of LEED certification. The Aspen Skiing Co. used the LEED certification process for its projects several years ago, but found a "Soviet-style bureaucracy," according to Auden Schendler, the company's executive director for environmental and community responsibility. Energy activist Randy Udall of Carbondale, down-valley from Aspen, calls the review process an "Abu Ghraib."

The U.S. Green Building Council, progenitor of the LEED certification, claims it has made the certification process easier. But it remains expensive for a large structure, which is why the Eagle County School District decided to forego LEED certification for its replacement of Battle Mountain High School.

Instead, the LEED checklist will be used as a guide to achieve the same results, claims John Fuentes, an architect with H + L Architecture. He says that avoiding certification will save the school districts tens of thousands of dollars.

The Vail Daily reports the new school, to be completed a year from October, will be naturally lit, meaning light from the outdoors will be telescoped into classrooms. It is likely that no lightbulbs will be needed until sunset, said Fuentes.

Air conditioning will be installed in the computer rooms and administration offices. Also to cut down on electrical use, rooms will be fitted with occupancy sensors, meaning that when no one is in the room, any lit lightbulbs will go off.

Aspen seeks poetry about matters of dogs

ASPEN, Colo.—Crested Butte has its spring cleanup, known as Poo Fest, a time for all the residue of wintertime canine activity to be cleaned up. Now, in a similar spirit, Aspen is holding a poetry contest about unclaimed dog poop.

Aspen residents, in a survey last October, found that Aspen residents deemed left-behind feces their biggest complaint.

"We are hoping to get good poetry and cast a fresher light on a problem that requires awareness and personal responsibility," said Brian Long, the city parks and open space ranger.

Everything from Haikus to limericks are accepted, but Long said please, no Homeric epics.

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