Beetle epidemic concerns Congress

GRANBY - Lodgepole pine trees killed by bark beetles are ample throughout the state of Colorado. But the dead trees in most places are trifling compared to the Winter Park-Grand Lake-Kremmling area.

A reporter for the local newspaper chain in Grand County recently toured the beetle-killed area by air with local pilots, and one photo is riveting. Most of the forest looked to be dead or dying.

While a good many - although not all - people fret about the aesthetics of dead trees, the greater worry is about the potential for massive fire. "We're definitely living right in a time bomb," said Mike Jolovich, the pilot.

That's also been the word from any number of public officials. Reversing the position of the resort communities from even five years ago, county commissioners and others have journeyed to Washington D.C. twice this year to see changes in federal policy. While the locals railed against below-cost timber sales in years past, that's now exactly what they want. What's more, they hope to see money allocated to the Forest Service for timber removal.

In Washington, the Congressional delegation from Colorado seems to be unifying behind legislation. And, from the local perspective, they're saying the right things. "The fire hazard created by bark beetles will impact our communities soon," said Sen, Ken Salazar, D-Colo.

An outcome of that visit is a task force of local officials delegated the task of drafting a bill to be introduced into Congress. In addition, the group hopes to get Mike Johanns, the secretary of agriculture, to tour the blighted forests.

Just where the felled trees will go remains uncertain. Summit County is investigating a biomass plant, and Grand County has talked about a biomass plant to heat the courthouse in Hot Sulphur Springs. Ditto in Eagle County and its courthouse in Eagle.

In Grand Lake, at the western gate to Rocky Mountain National Park, some see a silver lining in the dead trees. "If anything, it's opened up the panoramic views and let the sunshine in," reported Donna Ready, owner of Mountain Lake Properties.

Still, standing dead trees can draw down home prices anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 per home, she said.


Revelstoke ski resort clears hurdle

REVELSTOKE, B.C. - A broad policy intended to guide development of a major resort at Revelstoke has been adopted by the municipal leaders. Revelstoke Mountain Resort is projected to have the most vertical drop of any resort in North America, as well as a sizable real estate component at the base. Only a small ski area exists on the mountain, called Mount Mackenzie.

The Revelstoke Times Review describes the policy as a major hurdle for the $800 million project. In general, the developers got what they wanted with, for example, "should" replacing "shall," reports the newspaper. The key issue was sewage treatment, which will become a twin task of the developers and the city.

A letter-writer in the paper, Jason Gross, urged caution. "It seems dollar-sign fever is running rampant," he said. "While there's plenty to be gained, there is more that could be lost."

He urged a careful evaluation of changes. "Don't get me wrong. Some change is good. Nothing can remain stagnant. The best changes, however, come from taking time with the decision-making process."

Ski runs are currently being cleared on Mount Mackenzie, and gondola towers are expected to be erected next summer.


Wave of time-shares hits Granby

GRANBY - In terms of sheer acreage, Granby has been the most rapidly developing town in Colorado this century. Most of that land is slotted for single-family homes of some sort, whether called "cabins" or some other name appealing to those wanting places for weekend getaways.

But what could be a deluge of time-share proposals has begun to arrive, and the Granby Board of Trustees wants to be sure the town gets what it needs from this new wave of development. To that end, they have adopted a three-month moratorium on vacation clubs, fractionals and other kinds of time-shares while it studies its taxing options.

This was done against the advice of any number of developers. One, Mike Claney, who helps manage the Inn at SilverCreek, warned that the trustees could "create a stigma about being anti-timeshare." Another, Rich Noble, with RHS Companies, a developer of vacation club fractional ownership projects, suggested that the impact of vacation-club owners is positive. Vacation-club owners spend more money than typical fractional owners, he said.

However, both the mayor, Ted Wang, and a consultant, Barbara Cole, of Community Matters, had urged a longer, six-month moratorium, reports theSky-Hi News.


Avon explores new architecture

AVON - You may have noticed the architectural trend of late in ski towns and resort valleys of the West. Everything is sticks and stones, or what might be called the "Old World" look.

In what is being called East Avon, or the town's original commercial section, plans are afoot for a new vision. To facilitate creation of that vision, Avon has hired the Design Workshop, but also Aspen-based architect Harry Teague.

Teague said Avon's identity should be distinct from the themes evident in Beaver Creek and Vail Village. He urged against trying to incorporate existing styles.

"It's like you took every color in the rainbow and threw it together and came up with taupe," Teague said, referring to a dark gray color. "Everyone's trying not to offend everybody else, and the result is bland."

If Avon wants to attract young people - and that seems to be the chorus in every ski town these days - then it must be different, Teague added. "They're starved for a groovy place, something that's not logs and stones. I want a place like that, and I'm not alone. There are millions of us."


Brewery switches to green energy

MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. - The Mammoth Brewing Co. boasts of its high quality of water, snowmelt that percolates through the volcanic rock that characterizes the region. "We waited more than a century for our water, but you can enjoy our beers right now," says the company.

Within a couple of years, Mammoth Brewing could boast of another distinction. It has plans to expand, and in that expansion the company is creating a portfolio of wind and solar power. The goal is to make the new brewery completely independent of gas- and coal-produced electricity.

Sam Walker, the owner, is deeply involved in energy matters and was the vision behind creating the High Sierra Energy Foundation. Mammoth also hosted an Off the Grid Energy Fest and Expo. The area is rich with potential development of geothermal resources.


Snake swallows electric blanket

KETCHUM, Idaho - It was no doubt the oddest work detail of the year at the St. Francis Pet Clinic in Ketchum.

A 60-pound python snake called Houdini was eating a rabbit in its cage when it forgot to quit gulping. Some hours later, the pet's owner discovered that an electric blanket was gone. The python was ailing, and X-rays confirmed cause and effect.

Veterinarians Karsten Fostvedt and Barry Rathfon consulted a couple of specialists, who explained where to make the 18-inch incision. "No vet has done a lot of surgeries on pythons, especially up here," Forstvedt told theIdaho Mountain Express.

For the record, it was a queen-sized blanket.


Town ponders big boxes in green

CARBONDALE - Carbondale residents continue to agonize about under what terms, if any, it will allow big-box retailers to set up shop in their town, located between Aspen and Glenwood Springs. Meanwhile, more and more of the retail action is happening at Glenwood Springs, at a massive shopping complex called the Meadows.

Carbondale's newspaper,The Valley Journal, wonders if the debate would advance if The Home Depot were more environmentally acceptable. Specifically, the newspaper suggests a big box might be more acceptable if it came as a LEEDS-certified "green building," such as was done at a The Home Depot store in Boulder.

– compiled by Allen Best

In this week's issue...

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January 26, 2024
Paper chase

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January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows