Friday, July 16, 2010

Mountain Town News


By ALLEN BEST - MTN TOWN NEWS SERVICE

Flat has become new normal

DURANGO, Colo.—Taking stock of the economy in Durango this summer, local tourism official John Coen described a perspective that probably resonates in many other places as well.

"Flat is the new normal," he told the Durango Telegraph. "But it's better than going down."

Ohers in Durango report statistics that resemble a good uphill climb. But then, those comparisons are against 2009.

Vail bans sales of pot

VAIL, Colo.—The Vail Town Council has decided to ban medical marijuana dispensaries because, in the words of Mayor Dick Cleveland, they do not belong in a family resort environment.

Cleveland said that less than 1 percent of people in Eagle County, where Vail is located, are marijuana cardholders, and not all of them are in Vail. If people already leave the town for such necessities, such as buying underwear at Wal-Mart, they can also go elsewhere to buy marijuana.

"This should not be seen as a referendum on medical marijuana (in general)," he said. "That's not what this is about."

One council member, Margaret Rogers, dissented, pointing to estimates that officials in Boulder, Colo., expect to reap $250,000 in sales taxes from sale of marijuana there.

Bears absent in Crested Butte

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo.—Last year at this time, Crested Butte abounded with bear stories. Bears were breaking into offices, houses, and cars—some 300 altogether before the season ended. Six repeat-offender bears were captured and killed.

It's different this year—so far. Authorities attribute the absence of the ursine to an abundance of berries and other food in the backcountry. Possibly also of relevance is the lesser attraction of human food in Crested Butte. Town officials last year followed Snowmass Village, Vail and other ski towns into demanding that garbage not be put onto the street until the day of pickup—and only then in bear-resistant containers.

But elsewhere in Colorado, bears have been active. Over the weekend, a bear bit a camper along the Animas River in Durango. Transients camp along the river in that area, and state wildlife authorities said a hamburger and a container of ice cream were found inside the bear's stomach after it was killed.

"A bear that bites a person—or loses its fear of people—may be a serious threat to public safety," said Patt Dorsey, a state wildlife manager.

Food was also the story at Bailey, about an hour from Denver. There, in the community where the creators of the animated comic series "South Park" grew up, a bear bit a 51-year-old man as the bear tried to flee the basement of the home.

Telluride follows through on vow

TELURIDE, Colo.—Telluride has started taking baby steps on its vow to tamp down its carbon footprints. The town, in conjunction with the adjacent Mountain Village, plans to install a 100-kilowatt photovoltaic solar array at the community wastewater treatment plant.

The site is at the edge of Telluride, near a road junction called Society Corner, outside of the town's famous box canyon. As such, it will get plenty of sun and no rolling rocks. State grants will pay for a quarter of the $600,000 cost, with Telluride footing the bill for roughly two-thirds of the remaining cost and the smaller Mountain Village picking up the final portion.

Stores offer shopper shuttles

SILVERTHORNE, Colo.—Factory outlet stores located along Interstate 70 in Silverthorne, Colo., have begun an outreach program. The stories have started offering shuttles to Breckenridge, Keystone and even Vail and Beaver Creek to expedite shopping. It's all free—if you drop at least $250 with the merchants, reports the Summit Daily News.

Lab hopes for designation

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo.—Managers of the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory want the national forest surrounding Crested Butte to be designated as an experimental forest.

The U.S. Forest Service has 80 such designated experimental forests, including one near Winter Park, Colo. There, at the Fraser Experimental Forest, scientists for decades have conducted experiments in water matters. For example, how much does runoff increase if trees have been cut down?

At the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, university researchers from California to Maryland return every summer to further their work while enjoying cool summer nights.

One of the experiments, now more than a decade in duration, has been to replicate how warmer temperatures predicted by climate-change models will change the vegetation. (The results show sagebrush eventually replacing the Van Gogh-like pastiche of summer wildflowers).

Researchers for years have fretted about what they perceive to be too much human intrusion into their natural laboratory at the ghost town of Gothic, about five miles from the ski slopes of Crested Butte. The Crested Butte News reports that exactly how this proposed designation would further the aims of researchers is not clear. Such a designation would not affect existing users or further restrict transportation.

Gates shares worries of economic decline

ASPEN, Colo. (MTN)—It's the season for casual-wear conferences at mountain resorts. At Aspen's Ideas Festival, Bill and Melinda Gates and 300 other big-picture thinkers shared their outlooks in giant outdoor tents normally used for music concerns.

Unlike the secretive Allen and Co. conference in Sun Valley, in Aspen reporters from The Aspen Times were very much in evidence as Bill Gates talked about the need to control health-care costs. He said those and other costs are eroding the ability of middle-class Americans to gain higher education, and called for the nation to more closely examine the benefits of costly end-of-life medical care.

"That's called the death panel, and you're not supposed to have that discussion," Gates said.

He questioned why America's health-care system has so many specialists as compared to general practitioners. He said that leaves little financial incentive to keep people healthy with preventative care.

Gates also talked about China and India, predicting that they will take their place on the world stage as innovators. He sees this as good.

Another speaker, financial historian and Harvard professor Niall Ferguson, declared that the United States as an empire is "on the edge of chaos." As did Gates, he took aim at Medicare and Social Security. He also predicted that China will overtake the United States as the world's economic superpower—likely even before 2027, as had been predicted by Goldman Sachs.

"Most empires collapse fast," Ferguson said. "They're complex systems. They exist on the edge of chaos. It doesn't take much to tip them over, and when they tip over, they fall apart really quickly."




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