Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mountain town news


Noise squabble turns to feud

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. -- Call it a squabble verging on a feud. Neighbors of The Pub, a bar in Crested Butte, say there's just too much racket. "I'm a partier, but I can't sleep through this," said Priscila Banks, who lives nearby. "And I can sleep through anything."

Owners of The Pub insist they have mostly complied with the rules, which limit noise to 60 decibels. That, they say, is in line with the noise threshold specified in other resort towns. A creek that tumbles through the town, immediately behind the bar, is louder, says bar co-owner Chris Werderitch.

Peter Giannini, described by the Crested Butte News as a community gadfly, said viability of the core business district is at issue. Anybody living there "should expect to be subjected to more noise," he said. "There are tradeoffs living in that area, and increased noise is one of them. To make it harder for tourists to have fun is a mistake, especially in this economy."

Of course, there was a counter-argument to that: "Noise isn't the only way to have fun," said another neighbor, Cricket Farrington. "In fact, I'll bet if you lowered the decibels, people inside wouldn't even notice it."

The Town Council, reports the Crested Butte News, doesn't want to change any laws, but is leaning on the operators of The Pub to work out a solution with neighbors.

"Now, go have a group hug out in the hallway," said Mayor Alan Bernholtz.

Will adventure keep tourists longer?

MT. CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. -- Operators of the Crested Butte ski area are looking to create an adventure park at the base of the ski slopes.

Considered for the potential $1 million project are a 28-foot, freestanding climbing wall with 360 degrees of climbing features and six belay stations. Also under consideration is what is described as a Euro-bungee trampoline, where both kids and adults can jump on a trampoline while affixed to a large bungee cable.

Also in the works are an improved tubing hill and an ice skating rink of either natural or synthetic surface.

The goal, said Ken Stone, the ski company's chief operating officer, is to encourage visitors to linger at Crested Butte longer.

Such family-oriented non-skiing amusements have been the trend at ski resorts since the 1990s, when Vail—having studied trends in Europe—introduced its top-of-the-gondola Adventure Ridge.

The Crested Butte News says the ski area operator is working with the local municipality, Mt. Crested Butte, on a funding partnership.

In Wyoming, the toilet is just the start

JACKSON, Wyo. -- When people think of electrical use, they commonly think of lights, maybe their computers and perhaps their refrigerators. In fact, water—moving it, purifying it and then treating the sewage—is one of the largest sources of electrical use in any community.

In California, according to one study several years ago, water is involved in 19.6 percent of all electrical use. That includes the giant pumping necessary to get water from the Sacramento area to Southern California.

But even in mountain valleys, water is a big part of electrical use. When the city of Jackson and Teton County two years ago studied electrical use, water—mostly from the sewage treatment plant—was responsible for 20 percent of use.

Now, with federal stimulus money beginning to spread out, there may be federal help, reports the Jackson Hole News&Guide. Energy officials believe a retrofit could reduce electrical consumption at the sewage treatment plant by 40 percent, saving the community $100,000 a year. Cost of the upgrade, however, has not been calculated.

Already, the community has installed 25-kilowatt solar panels at the sewage treatment plant, and is now seeking federal stimulus funding for another 90 kilowatts.

Park City stays open another week

PARK CITY, Utah -- In March, the snow was looking marginal. Then came the storms -- enough that Park City Mountain Resort decided to extend the season for a week past Easter. There were just enough hotel bookings, about 14 percent of capacity, to justify the extension, but The Park Record suggests a more compelling reason may have been goodwill to the local community. It's spring break for local schools.

Fire season looms in Colorado

EAGLE, Colo. (MTN)—It's not shaping up as a big year for wildfires in most mountain valleys of the West. But wildfire is never far from the thoughts of Barry Smith, the director of emergency preparedness for Eagle County.

His projects this year include evacuation planning for Eby Creek, a subdivision of several homes located amid a forest of piñon and juniper trees near Eagle, 30 miles west of Vail.

Planning for the eventuality of wildfires in Colorado is a relatively new thing. Smith, a firefighter since the mid-1970s, says even the 1994 death of 10 firefighters near Glenwood Springs failed to wake up people to dangers, even in towns just a few miles away, in Gypsum, Eagle and Vail.

What changed perceptions was 2002, says Smith. Among others elsewhere in the West, three major fires occurred that summer in Colorado: near Durango, again at Glenwood Springs, and biggest of all, the Hayman Fire southwest of Denver.

"The whole Eagle River Valley was shrouded in smoke for large parts of the summer, and when people are breathing smoke all the time, they get worried—because they don't know where the smoke is coming from," says Smith. "We were getting phone calls all the time."

After that big summer, Congress passed the Healthy Forests Initiative, which encourages -- but does not mandate -- wildfire protection planning. Even so, Eagle County and other county and town governments began planning for potential fires.

In Eagle County's case, the new regulations mandated defensible space planning in rural subdivisions.

Ironically, Hurricane Katrina pushed the planning. A directive from the Federal Emergency Management Administration offered grants, but insisted that to be eligible communities had to do evacuation planning. In mountain valleys, wildfires -- not hurricanes -- are the major risk.

Many mountain jurisdictions now have evacuation plans in place, among them Grand Lake, at the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, and Vail.

One of Smith's major projects this year is to produce an evacuation plan for Eby Creek Mesa. Several years ago, even after the Storm King deaths in 1994 and then the summer of smoke in 2002, residents hotly resisted plans to thin trees in and around the subdivision. They were, however, reminded that their house catching fire then endangered houses of their neighbors.

If a fire does occur, states Smith, residents can only be asked to leave. "I have found nothing in the Colorado statutes that says we can force people to evacuate," he says.

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