Friday, July 3, 2009

Mountain Town News


By ALLEN BEST - MTN TOWN NEWS SERVICE

Whistler in uproar over new parking fees

WHISTLER, B.C. -- Do people care about anything more fiercely than free parking?

You might not think so from reading letters in Whistler's Pique Newsmagazine. Town officials there began levying fees for parking at a major parking garage and increased rates by $1 on the town's Main Street.

Municipal council members said the parking revenues are needed to balance the city's finances and take the pressure off property taxes.

Mayor Ken Melamed, an avowed environmental advocate before his election, went on to describe another motive: "By putting a price on parking and the convenience that parking provides, we are encouraging people to reflect on their transportation choices."

But several letter-writers predicted the end of tourism as Whistler knows it. Another letter-writer, representing himself as a local worker, vaguely warned of an "uprising" as Whistler prepares to put on its best face for the world at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Opponents set up a Facebook group that has been joined by 1,600 people. This compares with the 1,218 votes cast for Melamed in his election.

Whistler's officials expected the backlash, having checked with both Aspen and Vail beforehand. Whistler's case most closely resembles that of Aspen, where parking was free until several years ago. Then, to help free up space for shoppers, the town began charging—first, in the central business district, then in adjacent residential neighborhoods.

Aspen was a noisy place for a while—and hot, too. But people got over the injustice of it all.

In Whistler, not all letter-writers see injustice. "Driving is a privilege, not a right. You pay for your license, you pay for insurance. Why should you not pay for the parking of your polluting vehicle," wrote D.W. Buchanan. "Just for the record," he added, "I am a full-time local and I do own a car."

Gunnison County aims at carbon neutrality

GUNNISON, Colo. --A decade ago, few people would have been able to fathom what constitutes a "carbon-neutral development." Now, this has become the cutting edge for housing projects.

To become carbon neutral requires that a house produce as much energy from renewable sources as necessary to balance the fossil fuels used to heat, cool, and electrify the house.

Now comes word from Gunnison County of a proposal to make carbon neutrality a requirement of all major new projects. The county, as well as Gunnison, Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte, have all adopted the goal of lowering their greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent by 2020.

One observer of county affairs believes that the planning commission is sending the message that if that is the goal, then this is what it will take. How builders respond will undoubtedly be part of the continuing story.

The Crested Butte News said only one county planning commissioner has dissented. John Messner said he believed the county government should meet the standard before requiring others to do so.

Vail-area sewers get long-needed upgrade

RED CLIFF, Colo. -- People driving west from Vail soon find themselves next to the Eagle River. In places, it looks heavenly, pure and fresh.

But in fact, the river has led a tortured existence almost from its beginnings near the Climax Mine. Below its headwaters the river's meandering loops were put into a straitjacket in 1942, the better to create a military camp where 14,000 soldiers trained during World War II, some of them in the 10th Mountain Division.

Farther downstream is the abandoned mining town of Gilman, part of a Superfund site that cost a reported $80 million to clean up after mining operations ended in 1977.

Nearby is another old mining town, Red Cliff, which has about 300 people. But for decades, it has been unable to get its water and sewage treatment right. The river downstream is not necessarily something you'd want to wet your lips with.

But now, thanks to the federal stimulus package, the town believes it will get $2 million that can make things right. "I don't know what could possibly stop it at this point," Mayor Ramon Montoya told the Vail Daily. The project will require $5 million, with the balance coming from other grants.

Colorado county ends use of mag chloride

HOT SULPHUR SPRINGS, Colo. -- Although it will cost more, Grand County has decided to cut its use of magnesium chloride to control the dust on its 158 miles of rural roads.

The Sky-Hi Daily News explains that a new product called Durablend will be applied to two roads. It uses less salt, but because it bonds to dust and rocks better, less of the salt migrates off roadways.

Grand County has experimented with many new products, among them pine tar and animal fat. But the animal fat created spots on the paint of cars, and pine tar was intolerably sticky.

Bill Clark, the county's assistant superintendent for road and bridges, said mag chloride remains the cheapest product for keeping gravel surfaces in place for extended periods. The treatment keeps roads smooth for up to four times longer than those with no chemical application, he said.




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