Famous St. Bernards up for adoption

GREAT ST. BERNARD PASS, Switzerland - A great deal of attention was focused recently on the St. Bernard dogs associated with the pass of the same name in Switzerland. The news got out that the St. Augustine monks were seeking new owners for the 18 dogs kept there.

The New York Times says that the "news struck the European press as if Switzerland itself were disowning chocolate or, oh, secret bank accounts." In fact, the dogs haven't been used to rescue travelers in at least 50 years. The monks still conduct avalanche rescues, but for that task they have Labradors and German shepherds, who are quicker and lighter and who also fit much better into the helicopters.

The St. Bernards, it turns out, are kept at the pass during summer, mainly for the sake of tourists. But the monks, who maintain a hospice there, complain that the dogs distract them from their work, as the dogs each eat four to five pounds of food per day, and they must also be freed from their pens to play four times a day. Under the new arrangement, somebody else will take responsibility for the dogs while the monks tend to souls.

Kremmling to start recycling water

KREMMLING - From outward appearances, Kremmling looks like it has changed little from a century ago. Centrally located in the triangle of Breckenridge, Steamboat Springs and Winter Park, the town of 1,650 people has an unkempt, yesteryear look.

But sometime next year, Kremmling will become the first Colorado mountain town to put into place a water reuse system, something relatively new even for their big-city cousins. Instead of being released into the river, wastewater just shy of potable will be returned to the town's parks, ball fields and cemetery through a new system of pipes.

The system has two benefits, says Phillip Johns, superintendent of the sewage treatment plant. In times of drought, fresh water drawn from the nearby Colorado River will not be needed for the fields. "We live in a desert here," he noted. Although surrounded by mountains where melting snow supplies cities as distant as Las Vegas and Los Angeles, the valley floor where Kremmling is located gets only 11 inches of precipitation per year.

But the reuse system, while costing $1.3 million, ultimately will cost the town much less than the alternative, a new mechanical treatment plant at a cost of $3 million to $4 million. That new plant would be necessary to clean the water to the level of purity necessary to release it into the river. "It's one or the other," says Johns.

State grants are expected to pay for much of the work, and the sewage district hopes that the town will buy the wastewater in lieu of new treatment.

Several factors pushed the town to this change. First, the existing treatment plant was becoming less efficient at cleaning sewage. Second, while much less than surrounding resort areas, the town's population has been growing. Third, and most important, state and federal standards for treated sewage have become stricter. Wastewater discharged by the district must have lower levels of ammonia and other chemicals.

Book unravels the growth dilemma

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A new book, The Changing Face of America in the 21st Century , could damage anybody's expectation that growth will be slowed in their particular valley.

The U.S. population has more than doubled in the last half-century and is now at more than 281 million. Big gains in population lie ahead. Within 20 years, the population is projected to be 338 million, and then 404 million by mid-century.

The author, Sam Roberts, notes that the population is less "American" than it has ever been. The foreign-born population has increased by 57 percent during the 1990s. Non-Hispanic whites are already the majority population in both California and New Mexico, and they are nearly at that level in Texas. At current growth rates, more than 24 percent of the U.S. population will be Hispanic, and non-Hispanic whites will officially become a minority sometime between 2055 and 2060.

The book, which was reviewed in The New York Times , also points out that families are becoming steadily less conventional. The number of families headed by a woman grew five times faster in the 1990s than the number of married couples with children. Americans are more locally transient, moving around more frequently if not necessarily leaving their home states.

The largest immediate change, of course, is the aging of the baby boomers. From 2000 to 2025, the number of elderly will more than double to 70 million. And by mid-century the number of Americans who are 65 and older is expected to be more than double what it is today, creating an unprecedented drain on entitlement programs like Medicare. Estimates show a gap of $51 trillion between payroll taxes and costs of medical care and Social Security by 2030.

Jackson may see record home sales

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. - With $625 million in sales recorded through early October, Jackson Hole appears likely to surpass the previous one-year record of $700 million for real estate sales. That record was set four years ago.

Sales of several big ranches are driving these record-breaking numbers. Ross Perot Jr. bought a ranch that had been listed at $110 million, while another ranch sold for $37 million. On the other hand, fewer of the $1 million-plus houses have been sold this year as compared to the benchmark year of 2000, noted the Jackson Hole News & Guide.

David Viehman, of Jackson Hole Real Estate & Appraisal, who compiled these numbers, said that after five straight quarters of increased sales and dollar volume, it's clear the buyer's market in Jackson Hole has ended, but it is not yet a seller's market to the degree it was four years ago.

Town may outlaw gated communities

KETCHUM, Idaho - Planners in Ketchum want to make it illegal to install a gate on any private road or driveway that provides access to more than one residence. The City Council will next take up this proposal.

The city's attorney, Ben Worst, said the city has the authority for the prohibition "as long as it's in the interest of public health, safety and welfare."

From a report in the Idaho Mountain Express , it would appear to Planning Commission members the town's welfare would best be served by excluding the gates. "I just went to Palm Springs, and after being there, I don't want to see another gate in my life," said Greg Strong, chairman of the commission. Jolinda Saidon, an ex-Californian who operates a massage and yoga business, added, "The whole sense of community just disintegrates."

However, one member of the commission questioned whether the new policy would infringe on individual property rights.

Gay group forms at Steamboat high

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS - A chapter of the Gay/Straight Alliance has been established at Steamboat Springs High School. About 20 students meet each week, some openly gay, others questioning, and some there simply to show support.

An anonymous survey given to students last year showed that of the 480 students who responded, 4 percent of boys and 5.4 percent of girls said they were gay or unsure of their sexual orientation, reports The Steamboat Pilot .

But the survey also revealed that more than a third of the students who questioned their sexuality had attempted or considered suicide. Authorities say that homosexual adolescent boys are 14 times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual boys.

Several students interviewed by the newspaper said they had come "out" even when in eighth grade, and some were surprised to discover how supportive their family and friends were. But while being gay is more - but not always - accepted, it is not often talked about. "A lot of people still squirm when you mention it," said one girl.

Restaurateur goes for organic cheese

TELLURIDE - It's not easy finding organic food when you run a Mexican restaurant, says Luca Price, owner of Telluride's La Cocina de Luz. But he tries.

Price's latest innovation has been to use only cheese made from the milk of cows who have not been treated with bovine growth hormone. Those growth hormones are illegal in Europe and Canada, he told The Telluride Watch , and he does not want to feed them to his customers.

Finding bulk organic cheese wasn't easy. Searching the Internet, he found a dairy in Wisconsin that sells growth-hormone-free cheese, both jack and cheddar, in 75-pound wheels. The cost adds more than a dime per plate to his food.

Park City exceeds its wind power goals

PARK CITY, Utah - Park City has exceeded its goal of buying electricity generated by wind.

A year ago, the City Council made it a goal that 5 percent of the community would participate in the program. In fact, participation is now at around 7 percent. A second goal was that 2 percent of the community's electricity would come from wind-power sources. By a hair, that goal has also been met.

The municipality itself purchases 10 percent of its power from Utah Power's Wind Energy. "We've achieved the first step in a process that will hopefully result in a statewide policy on renewable energy," said Mayor Dana Williams.

In Colorado, both Vail Resorts and the Aspen Skiing Co. have made sizable investments in wind-powered electricity, as has the City of Aspen. Latest to join this gusty parade is the Steamboat ski area, which is making wind power 3 percent of its total electrical use. Wind power, while becoming competitive, remains more expensive to consumers than electricity made by using coal.

New gondola vetoed by Squamish Nation

SQUAMISH, B.C. - The Squamish Nation has effectively vetoed a proposal for a gondola in the city of Squamish, located between Whistler and Vancouver. The gondola was projected to become a major tourist attraction while also allowing easier access to the backcountry near Squamish.

A letter from the Squamish Nation said that both ends of the proposed gondola route, Shannon Falls and Stawamus Chief, "have great natural important to our people and the community, and operation of a gondola would be highly invasive and would desecrate the tranquility of the area."

The proponents, Paul Mathews and Peter Alder, indicated that the opposition of the Squamish Nation presented more uphill battle then they were prepared to undertake, and they elected to throw in their cards after spending what they estimated was $70,000 in time and expenses.

Pique newsmagazine, in reporting all this, suggested that the case demonstrated that consent of the various First Nations tribes is even more important than the approval of the environmental arm of the B.C. government.

- compiled by Allen Best





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