Friday, November 12, 2010

Mountain Town News


By ALLEN BEST - MTN TOWN NEWS SERVICE

Colorado voters OK pot shops

MINTURN, Colo.—While the towns of Vail and Avon have shut their doors to marijuana dispensaries, 60 percent of voters in nearby Minturn last week voted that the Town Council could not enact a ban. This opens the door for the town to begin drawing up regulations governing where and how such dispensaries could be operated.

But apparently, not all Town Council members think the issue is over with. Councilman Jerry Bumgarner said that the town's business license requires a business to comply with federal laws. Marijuana remains illegal under U.S. law, he pointed out, though the Obama administration announced it would not enforce it—setting off the rapid spread of marijuana medical dispensaries in Colorado, California and Montana, among other states.

Elsewhere in Eagle County, voters said existing medical marijuana dispensaries should be allowed to stay. There are five, reports the Vail Daily.

Peat from last ice age yields more bones

SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colo.—The peat bog near Snowmass Village continues to yield more and more bones of now extinct species from the last ice age—or perhaps older.

Bones of five species were uncovered in just three days last week, and over the weekend more yet were discovered—including the skull and horns of a gigantic ice-age bison.

"I'm trying to think of a cooler fossil that I've ever seen in my life," said Kirk Johnson, chief curator of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, which is overseeing the excavation.

The Ice Age bison were twice the size of modern bison. Also uncovered, as of Sunday, were the bones of at least one Columbian mammoth, evidence of five mastodons, three bison and a giant ground sloth that stood up to 12 feet tall.

The peat has also yielded large logs, up to 3 feet in diameter, that show the grain and growth rings. Crews have also recovered seeds, pollen and leaves that are mummified, meaning original organic material is preserved. Also found have been insects and fossilized snails, which may offer clues about the water quality of the lake or bog.

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Economy not booming, but it's also not busting

JACKSON, Wyo.—The high-end real estate market has returned to Jackson Hole. The Hole Report reported more closed sales of $3 million or more in nine months of this year than all of 2008 and 2009 combined.

But across the pass in Teton County, Idaho, in and around the towns of Victor and Driggs, the real estate market remains torpid.

"It will be a long, long time before Teton County, Idaho, awakens from the nightmare it created for itself by thinking supply and demand would never catch up with its decade-long overbuilding fantasy," writes business analyst Jonathan Schechter.

Examining the economy more broadly, Schechter reports that sales tax revenues in Jackson Hole remain flat—better than was the case a year ago. While construction remains thin, other sectors of the economy are doing better.

Still no easy answers for I-70

I-70 CORRIDOR, Colo.—Even in the off-season, when Interstate 70 between Denver and the mountain resort communities has comparatively little traffic, the debate continues about what to do.

Traffic on the 75 miles between Frisco and Denver becomes a crawl during winter and summer weekends, particularly in the 25-mile segment between the Eisenhower Memorial Tunnel and Idaho Springs, all of it just two lanes. The drive to Denver by skiers, an hour in good times, can drag out to six hours.

And that's with just 2.9 million people in metropolitan Denver now, a figure expected to swell by 1.6 million people within another 25 years.

Ski areas know they're losing business, but what can be done? Identified highway improvements in the 100-mile segment would cost $8 billion. That's eight to nine times the current highway budget needed to repair Colorado's thousands and thousands of miles of roads.

And widening the highway cannot easily be done without severe environmental consequences in the canyon of Clear Creek, where the congestion is most severe.

The state's current plan—the subject of a draft environmental impact statement—calls for eventual adoption of some type of high-speed mass transit. Cost has been estimated at up to $20 billion.




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