Train horns to cease in Winter Park

WINTER PARK This December, some people should be sleeping better in Winter Park, a town and resort bisected by transcontinental railroad tracks.

The town is really a product of the railroad, but as in such things many newcomers never quite got accustomed to the sound of trains blaring a few dozen yards away. Several years ago, the Town Council got national attention when it passed a law prohibiting the blowing of horns by trains within the town limits. Citing concerns about the safety of motorists at crossings, the railroad ignored the law.

But new regulations from the Federal Transportation Department allow concrete medians that make it impossible for impatient drivers of cars and trucks to wheel around the cross-bars at railroad crossings, exposing themselves to risk. Their construction will allow the locomotive engineers to lay off their horns beginning in December, providing locals with what the Winter Park Manifest describes as "sweet relief."

Wolves considered for elk control

GRAND LAKE The number of elk in Rocky Mountain National Park is hardly natural. Population growth is unchecked by wolves, who long ago were exterminated, and by human hunters, who are banned from the park. The elk are now causing damage to vegetation, thus affecting other creatures.

The National Park Service is considering several options for reducing the elk herd, one of them reintroducing 14 to 20 wolves. Also being considered is shooting some elk or conducting fertility control.

In reporting the story, the Sky-Hi News explained that a "reversible fertility control agent using a time-released compound to effectively inhibit reproduction in cow elk for multiple years" could be used.

Aspen nears its housing goal

ASPEN Aspen is within striking distance of its affordable housing goal, reports The Aspen Times .

There are currently 2,528 affordable homes in a mixture of sizes, including for-sale and for-rent. Of those, 548 have been added in the last four years. If everything now being planned is actually built, including a major 330-unit project, then conceivably the involvement by Aspen city and Pitkin County officials could wind down.

The community has several times tried to quantify how much housing it needs to retain a critical mass of residents who live and work there. In 1993, a community plan identified the threshold at 60 percent of the local workforce that should live in the upper valley.

Telluride vet tells a different tale

TELLURIDE The presidential election this year has special reverberations in the mountain towns of the West. Dick Cheney has a home in Jackson Hole, while John Kerry hangs out at Sun Valley. And, it turns out, one of Kerry's fellow sailors from Vietnam, Jim Russell, has been living in Telluride since the late 1970s.

Russell, a restaurateur, was in the national news in August when he broke his self-imposed silence about Vietnam to defend Kerry's version of his courageous action when his swift boat came under attack. A group of Vietnam veterans who have ties to President George W. Bush have questioned both his injuries and also the danger Kerry was in.

"Anyone who doesn't think that we were being fired upon must have been on a different river," writes Russell in The Telluride Watch , recalling the event of March 13, 1969. "The picture I have in my mind of Kerry bending over from his boat picking some hapless guy out of the river while all hell was breaking loose around us is a picture based on fact, and it cannot be disputed or changed."

Russell decried the version disseminated by "Swift Boats Veterans for the Truth" as an "evil extreme right-wing attack."

Bryant trial readies for kick off

EAGLE Jury selection for the Kobe Bryant trial began last Friday in Eagle. It would be, you might suppose, impossible not to be aware of the hubbub, with 300 potential jurors and another 600 journalists in the town, which was described in early press accounts as "tiny."

Not so. "What happened today?" answered a woman when asked if she had noticed anything unusual. The Eagle County Justice Center, the center for the legal drama, is located about a half-mile from her home.

The woman, a school teacher consumed with a new school year, later learned what was happening in her neighborhood after listening to a National Public Radio report broadcast from Washington, D.C.

For those who did happen by the justice center, rows of white tents make it look like the county fair is going on. All that is missing is the ferris wheel.

RV noise stirs up national parks

ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK Not only snowmobiles should be regulated in national parks, says William Sarokin of Mount Cisco, N.Y., after returning from vacations from two parks located in Colorado, Rocky Mountain and Mesa Verde.

"Hundreds of people were quietly enjoying two of the most beautiful campgrounds in the world but the experience was marred by a few people with recreational vehicles constantly running their generators so that they could watch TV," he writes in a letter published in The New York Times . "They made the parks seem like bus depots."

Gunnison enacts big box moratorium

GUNNISON Another Colorado mountain town is putting out a no-vacancy sign to Wal-Mart. Earlier this summer Pagosa Springs and surrounding Archuleta County imposed a moratorium on big-box retail stores. Now, Gunnison has done the same for stores of more than 50,000 square feet.

Wal-Mart already has a store in Gunnison, which is located about 27 miles from Crested Butte, but it's a smallish affair. Wal-Mart wants a store more than triple the size, at 150,000 square feet.

It's been a heated time, with council members who didn't adopt the moratorium being threatened with recall. Among the few vocal supporters of the Wal-Mart expansion, reports the Crested Butte News , is local businessman, Jim Pike. He said he supports shopping locally, but when he goes to Wal-Mart's big store in Montrose, 60 miles away, he always sees people from Gunnison shopping there. Ergo, they might as well shop at a big Wal-Mart in Gunnison, keeping the sales tax dollars at home for construction of a swimming pool and other community improvements.

Olympian joins opposition to resort

INVERMERE, B.C. Beckie Scott, an Olympic gold medalist in Nordic skiing at the 2002 Winter Games, has joined public opponents of a proposed ski resort at Jumbo Glacier. A decision on the $450 million project is several weeks away.

"I have had the good fortune to travel the world through my sport," she told the Invermere Valley Echo . "The one thing we have in Canada that is so rare everywhere else is wilderness and wildlife Instead of trying to duplicate the highly developed European Alps, we should be protecting the natural resources that differentiate SuperNatural B.C. from the rest of the world."

Local communities, which already have a variety of resorts, including Panorama, seem to be largely opposed to Jumbo Glacier. An exception is the village of Radium Hot Springs.

Frost strikes Minturn corn crop

MINTURN The evidence on behalf of global warming is starting to come in, with most of the highest mean average temperatures on record having been recorded since 1990. Mountain towns have been no exception.

That has led to some rather daring adventures. In Minturn, an old railroad town located around the corner from Vail, somebody's garden included a row of corn plants. Alas, when the first hard frost of the season stalked Minturn on Aug. 27, the corn was not even waist-high. A true farmer might say there was no shock that came out of this experiment, only a kernel of truth.

compiled by Allen Best





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