Friday, October 1, 2010

Mountain Town News


Hot wires deter pillaging bruins

LAKE TAHOE, Calif.—Bears broke into the vacation home of John Cunningham four times in two years. Fed up, he began looking for ways to deter the bears at his cabin on the west shore of Lake Tahoe.

Though now $400 to $600 poorer, Cunningham believes he has hit on the way to keep the bears from pillaging his pantry, loading up on calories courtesy of his ice cream. He had wires electrified with 9,500 volts strung across his doors and windows, reports the Sierra Sun.

Doug McNair, who has a business specializing in installing bear-deterrent systems, said he has installed 17 such electrical systems so far, with complete success. "We've had zero bear break-ins with the wiring systems," he said.

The voltage will not kill birds and squirrels, because the wire is not grounded. Small children who touch the wires will get a jolt they'll likely not forget, but the charge shouldn't be enough to cause injury.

Bears likewise aren't likely to forget the jolt, which is why the contractor believes neighborhoods in which such electric wires protect doors and windows will train bears to avoid homes altogether.

Sundance clamps down on second-home owners

PARK CITY, Utah—Organizers of the Sundance Film Festival have decided to narrow the door. They allow Utah residents to buy passes and ticket packages at discounted rates. But the Park Record notes that many vacation-home owners have also purchased the discounted passes, using property-tax statements and utility bills. Not good enough anymore, says Sundance. Henceforth, it'll take a Utah driver's license.

Jackson irked about highway

JACKSON, Wyo.—Though it's now two hours away from the closest interstate highway, Jackson Hole may be getting five lanes of its own. And some locals seem none too happy about it.

State and federal highway officials want to widen a two-lane highway for about six miles south of Jackson. They say the highway widening must be done to make it safer, and anything short of five lanes won't be enough to accommodate growth traffic during the next 25 years.

The Jackson Hole News&Guide reports considerable heartburn. Teton County officials, for example, had proposed a more limited widening. County Commissioner Hank Phibbs said the local proposal was "more sensitive of the landscape, more acceptable to our community and perfectly safe as a highway."


Local environmentalists worry about creating an even greater barrier to wildlife. State and federal officials insist that won't be the case, as there may be some wildlife underpasses.

But finally, the highway jars Jackson Hole's self-image.

"We consider ourselves a rural community," said Louis Lasley, public lands director for the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance. "Even though they call it a rural five lane, I have a hard time imagining five lanes in the same context."

Summit recycles plenty

FRISCO, Colo.—What a determined and enthusiastic band of recyclers Colorado's Summit County has. Local recycling officials report that the county achieves a waste-diversion rate of 22 percent. That's higher than your average suburban community, though far from a contender in Colorado. The highest waste diversion rate, 53 percent, belongs to Loveland, a town of about 50,000 north of Denver.

Shoving match going on in Vail

VAIL, Colo.—Many visitors to ski towns see a homogeneity in the local population, but the reality is often very different. This is particularly true of the local towns and the ski area operator.

In Vail, one former town manager likened the relationship to two convicts handcuffed together and let loose in a jungle. They kind of have to come to terms with one another, but it's never particularly easy.

This has been evident for the last decade in the parking situation. For several reasons, the existing parking garages, though large, have been inadequate during ski season, particularly on weekends, holidays and powder days. Cars spill over onto frontage roads, creating what for some is an aesthetic issue and for others a safety concern.

Then comes real estate. Vail Resorts, the ski area operator, has a $1 billion project, called Ever Vail, now before the town. It will include a lot of parking. But enough?

The Vail Daily, in a recent dispatch, describes what sounds like a new round of shoving between the town and ski company.

Andy Daly, a former executive of the ski and development company who now sits on the Town Council, says providing enough parking to prevent the frontage-road parking has become the town's top priority. He's adamant the solution must be delivered by 2012, the 50th anniversary of the opening of the ski area.

Asked about the tension, Vail Mayor Dick Cleveland said the competition and tension are natural, even healthy. The town government answers to taxpayers, while the company answers to stockholders, he said.

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