Park City and EPA strike accord

PARK CITY, Utah – Like many old mining towns, Park City has had a great deal of tainted soils and waters, the residue of silver mining that ended about 40 years ago. That pollution, in turn, drew the federal government’s Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA has a reputation for fractious relationships in mountain towns of the West during the 1980s. Colorado’s Leadville had a stormy affair, and Aspen tried hard – and succeeded – in keeping the EPA out. (In contrast, the EPA was greeted as a knight on a white horse when it arrived in the Vail area in 1990 to reorder the bungled cleanup of an old zinc mine).

In Park City, says thePark Record, the friction was so great that when the EPA ended its investigation last year, some neighbors in one neighborhood called Prospect threw a party. Some people wore badges that said, “Not an EPA Inspector.”

Actually, things have been better for several years, says Myles Rademan, Park City’s director of public affairs. The EPA has become less dictatorial, less bureaucratic and more practical, he says. “The relationship has gotten far better over the years.”

In its new bottom-line orientation, the EPA is also open to new ideas. One such idea is playing at Deer Valley Resort. A developer there, the Athens Group, plans to build a large, luxury hotel with 178 rooms and suites plus 94 condominiums. But the site is at the Daly West Mine, an old silver mine whose contaminated soils had contributed to local water-quality problems.

Cleaning up the site was never at issue. To that end, some hazardous materials are being moved elsewhere, while other ore piles are being covered and capped.

But where the project gets interesting is in the extra stuff. The developer is creating a wetlands area downstream, to further clean up the water coming from the old mining area. Nudged by the EPA and Park City town officials, the hotel developers have also committed to building standards that will allow a silver designation under the LEED program. This is the same designation planned by Vail Resorts in its new project in Vail. The developers are also buying credits for a 750-block of wind-generated electricity.

The EPA, in turn, is giving the developer relief from future liability at the mining site. That relief, says Kathryn Hernandez, project manager for the EPA, provides the developer some peace of mind.

Some of the “green” elements, she says, were suggested by Park City town officials, some by the EPA, and some were the ideas of the development company.

Eagle grapples with growing pains

EAGLE – Can a rapidly growing town of 5,000 still retain small-town atmosphere? That’s the essential question being asked in Eagle, 30 miles west of Vail.

The town’s population has been growing by up to 20 percent annually this century. Not so tax revenues. Town voters rejected a Costco that was instead allowed in the adjacent town of Gypsum. But to get to the Costco, many people drive through Eagle, congesting the roads.

Now, the town is reviewing another proposal for a new shopping district in what is now an alfalfa pasture along Interstate 70. Called Eagle River Station, the proposed development would create an outdoor mall-type cluster of stores with architecture that mimics the Victorian street fronts found in old Colorado mining towns.

Two opposing groups have formed. One group, formed by two new residents, argues that the town needs to better accept growth and channel it. The second group also professes to understand the need for economic development, but the group’s mission seems to be guided by a fear of loss.

“Eagle has existed for more than 100 years, and it will exist for another 100 years,” writes Julia Denault Parker, a resident of the Eagle Valley for 28 years. “Our goal should be to maintain the typical ‘small town in America’ feel that we have today.” Those who feel they need to shop, she writes in theEagle Valley Enterprise, should drive to other towns.

Immigrants file for tax refunds

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – Increasing numbers of illegal immigrants have been seeking aid in filing federal income taxes in Jackson Hole.

The number of people assisted by the Latino Resource Center has jumped from 89 people four years ago to 310 people by late March this year. About half are illegal immigrants, mostly Latino.

Jen Solis, of the Resource Center, explained that most people seeking help have already had taxes withdrawn from their paychecks. As such, they hope to get refunds.

Interviews with some of the immigrants by theJackson Hole News&Guide also established a longer-term motive for filing. Even if they have become employed using fraudulent social security numbers, they must establish a legitimate taxpayer identification number. And that establishes with the government a history of paying taxes and filing tax records. Or, as one immigrant told the newspaper, “I want to be legal.”

Some parents also said they want to lay the groundwork for the legality of their children

Some 15 percent of the population in Teton County is Latino, and nearly all are immigrants, mostly from Mexico, particularly the state of Tiaxcala.

The proportions are the same in bedroom communities for Jackson Hole, located in Idaho’s Teton County, although the absolute numbers are less than half. In both cases, it’s unknown how many are illegal residents.

Telluride expects big building season

TELLURIDE – This summer is lining up as a memorable construction season in Telluride and, to an even greater extent, at the slope-side town of Mountain Village. More than a million square feet of building is planned, not counting a 300,000-square-foot addition to an existing hotel called the Peaks.

The Telluride Watch suggests that even more impressive than what goes up is what goes down. At one 47-unit high-end housing highrise, a hole 70 feet deep will be cut into the mountainside. At another project, the parking garage will require five months of excavation and shoring before actual building begins.

Much of the excavated dirt and rock will be trucked 20 to 30 miles away, says the newspaper, turning the two-lane San Juan Skyway into the San Yawn Dirt-way for commuters.

Ski area charged in groomer’s death

CRESTED BUTTE – Operators of Crested Butte Mountain Resort may be fined up to $67,500 in connection with the death this winter of a snow groomer who was run over and crushed by his own machine.

The report says that the Snocat that Chris Mikesell, 23, was operating had armrest and driver door safety switches that were bypassed. “These switches were designed to automatically activate brakes if a shut door opened or the armrest was pulled up,” said the federal government’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

John Healey, an OSHA area director, told theCrested Butte News that other equipment at the resort was similarly altered.

Randy Barrett, general manager of Crested Butte, said the company disagrees that that the violation was willful.

Avalanches close in on snowmobiles

DENVER – The number of snowmobilers being killed in avalanches is rising.The Denver Postreported that from January through March, when most fatalities occur, half of the 26 avalanche deaths recorded in the United States and Canada were snowmobilers. That equals the number of skiers, snowboarders, snowshoers and climbers combined.

Avalanche experts Jill Fredston and Doug Fesler of the Alaska Mountain Safety center estimate that more than 60 percent of avalanche-related snowmobile deaths are attributed to the game called high marking. The newspaper says that as snowmobiles become more powerful, riders are taking them farther up steep mountain slopes, vying to get the highest on the slope before gravity overtakes them.

Steamboat redevelops its base area

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – Work is beginning in the $23 million redevelopment of the base area at the Steamboat ski area.The Steamboat Pilot & Today reports work this year will include one new traffic roundabout, but also other work in mostly public areas in preparation for even more significant work in coming years. The basic infrastructure being replaced was installed in the early 1970s.

Meanwhile, in Granby, town trustees have approved a $5 million redevelopment of the base lodge at the SolVista ski area. Almost singular among Colorado ski areas, SolVista is entirely on private land. The ski area also serves a real-estate development called Granby Ranch, which has been approved for 4,000 residential units.

– compiled by Allen Best

Sun Valley reports mixed winter

KETCHUM, Idaho – Snow was scarce at Sun Valley this year, just 144 inches for the season, less than half that of the previous year. Skier visits were also down, only 362,000, the lowest during the last 12 years, although the Sun Valley Co. reported occupancy rates as good as last year. Does that gap represent how much less locals were skiing?

Always there’s a silver lining. In this case, Tad Roberts, who supervises the half-pipe and parks on Baldy Mountain, reported that less snow was more. Instead of having to blow the fresh snow out of the flats of the pipe, he told theIdaho Mountain Express, the runs were fast nearly all year.

Realtors on decline in Truckee

TRUCKEE, Calif. – For seven years, the real estate market at Truckee and Lake Tahoe continued to inflate. Last year, the market conflated, with the number of transactions declining by 30 percent. Most directly affected, reports theSierra Sun, were part-time real-estate agents.

The Tahoe Sierra Board of Realtors lost 5 percent of members, although 1,200 remain. But sales have picked up again this year, a season that normally drops, causing some realty specialists to predict good times ahead for the merchants of dirt.

– compiled by Allen Best

– compiled by Allen Best

In this week's issue...

July 18, 2024
Rebuilding Craig

Agreement helps carve a path forward for town long dependent on coal

July 11, 2024
Reining it in

Amid rise in complaints, City embarks on renewed campaign to educate dog owners

July 11, 2024
Rolling retro

Vintage bikes get their day to shine with upcoming swap and sale