Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Mountain Town News


No rent or mortgages for forest-dwellers

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo.—People for decades have lived in tents and makeshift dwellings in the forests around Breckenridge, Frisco and other towns of Summit County. But this spring, one of the forest-dwellers was murdered, and police accuse another forest-dweller with the crime.

The death put the spotlight on this largely invisible population. Law enforcement officials tell the Summit Daily News that perhaps hundreds of people live in forested settings, some of them through winter months, emerging during the day to jobs or to libraries, to tap Internet connections.

Silver-spoons aplenty at Food & Wine Classic

ASPEN, Colo.—Aspen hosted the Food & Wine Classic last weekend, the first of a stream of festivals leading up to the Fourth of July.

After a few years of softness, the festival is reporting strong numbers from those who can pony up the cost $1,185 for a festival pass—presumably, with money left over for silver spoons. All 5,000 passes were sold by April, and Aspen hotels were booked in advance to 97 percent capacity, with lingering rooms commanding $700 a night, officials told the Aspen Daily News.

New this year, says The Denver Post, was a 5k race hosted by celebrity chef Bobby Flay, hands-on classes in knife skills and a performance by Elvis Costello & the Blue Beguilers.

Next up: the Aspen Environmental Forum, followed by the Aspen Ideas Forum, a relatively new event that has been getting national attention from the likes of The New York Times and National Public Radio.

Tensions rise as wind, heat spike risk of fire

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo.—Colorado's just one lighting strike, one careless cigarette butt, away from more uproar and catastrophic fires.

Last week, a new map was issued that shows the drought intensity. Vail, Aspen and Steamboat Springs are all overlaid with a bright-red blanket that shows "extreme drought," the fourth highest of five levels.

That's rare for June, when mountain meadows are typically emerald green. This year they tend toward Thanksgiving brown.

"I cannot ever remember ever hoping for rain—but a few days of steady sprinkles would help us all a lot," wrote Mark Reaman in the Crested Butte News.


In Steamboat, the Yampa River was expected this week to be reduced to a trickle too low for kayaking, reported Steamboat Today.

Colorado already has one major forest fire, located in the foothills west of the college town of Fort Collins. It's the third largest in the state's recorded history, as measured by acreage, at 58,000 acres as of Monday morning, and tops in number of homes destroyed, 181. One person has died in the blaze.

Mindful of the danger, one homeowner in Red Cliff, near Vail, has been removing dead grasses from around his home, while others in the town are investing in sprinkling systems.

In Aspen, city officials announced free assessments of properties identified as being in high-risk areas. If homeowners need to cut or trim trees and bushes, the city will chip them for free. Hurdles in the city's bureaucratic process for tree removal have been lowered or eliminated altogether if those trees are deemed a fire hazard, reports the Aspen Daily News.

Winds have been almost constant.

"It was like the Dust Bowl yesterday," said Jan Fedrizzi, of Eagle.

Natural gas buzz aplenty

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo.—Is natural gas the bridge fuel that will deliver us from the myriad problems of coal? Or does it have hellacious consequences, too?

That's the debate going on across the land. In Gunnison County, the debate has to do with more on-the-ground consequences in the area north of Kebler Pass. This is on the far side of the Elk Range from Crested Butte. County officials have been drawing up regulations. One drilling company promises "perpetual litigation" if the regulations are adopted, while another company has had a more restrained reaction, reports the Crested Butte News.

In Steamboat Springs, The Today newspaper recently commended a drilling company for its willingness to meet with local officials and explain their plans. Routt County, like Gunnison County, has been trying to draw up regulations, though Colorado's state government has insisted it has the over-reaching authority in regulating drilling.

Watchdog wants full report of Obama trip

ASPEN, Colo.—Detached from their personal president, Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha flew to Aspen on Presidents Day weekend. There, they stayed at the home of Jim and Paula Crown, of the family that owns the four ski areas in Aspen, and skied at one of them, Buttermilk.

At what cost to the taxpayers? A governmental watchdog group called Judicial Watch wants to know. It has sued two federal agencies, the Secret Service and the Air Force, to cough up the expenses of transporting and securing the Obama entourage. The entourage, says the Aspen Daily News, was accompanied by a slew of security personnel.

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