Crested Butte bans main floor offices

CRESTED BUTTE – Real estate salesmen, lawyers, bankers and mortgage brokers – or at least new offices for them – have once again been declared persona non grata from the ground-level storefronts in Crested Butte’s main tourist-friendly shopping district along Elk Avenue.

Following the lead of Vail in 1973 and several other ski towns in more recent years, Crested Butte last year banned the offices. That initial ban was opposed, but this new ban grandfathers in offices at existing locations.

While Crested Butte’s real-estate economy has done back-flips during the last several years, its retail economy has snoozed.The Crested Butte News reports that town and business officials also plan to hold a farmer’s market and special evening activities in the hopes of restoring vitality – and competing with new businesses planned at the nearby town of Mt. Crested Butte, two miles away at the base of the ski mountain.

“This is about the character of the town,” said council member Skip Berkshire. “If there were two or three of the real estate stores scattered on Elk, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.”

Another council member, Margo Levy, said that the move helps “set the table” for the 600,000 annual skier days anticipated by a possible expansion of the ski area. The ski area is currently doing 300,000 to 400,000 skiers per year.


Motorized use debated in Rico

RICO – Confusion reigns about whether motorized uses are allowed on several trails on U.S. Forest Service land west of Rico.

The Rico Bugle explains that three trails – Bear Creek, Ryman Creek and the Calico Trail from Cayton to Priest Gulch – are identified on maps as open to motorized vehicles.

However, the San Juan National Forest listed the trails in 1992 as open only to semi-primitive, non-motorized use. That use allows bicycles, horses and foot traffic, but not motorized dirt bikes or Jeeps.

The Forest Service can provide no evidence of doing the environmental analysis required by federal law to allow motorized use.

Steve Beverlin, manger of the Dolores District Field Office, said it was not clear why various maps issued for the public lands have been inconsistent, but that a travel management plan revision now under way will address the matter.

Mike Curran, a board member of the Rico Alpine Society, which publicized the inconsistencies, wants the trail use returned to nonmotorized while the new plan is being prepared. Many motorized users already think their rights are being taken away, he said. “But what if the rights they think they have never legally existed in the first place?” he asked.


Housing web tangles up Ketchum

KETCHUM, Idaho –The Idaho Mountain Expressreports a tangled web in a matter of run-down housing in Ketchum. If only by association, the web in this case reaches the graft-tainted Bush administration.

The story begins with the import of Thai marijuana in the 1970s by two local men, who also bought 14 housing units in a project called Bavarian Village. After the handcuffs fell on their wrists several years ago, the U.S. Attorney General attempted to sell the condominiums. The Attorney General’s office usually splits the proceeds from ill-gotten drug deals with local law-enforcement agencies.

An auction was held in adjoining Sun Valley. The minimum bid set by the U.S. attorney was $3.4 million, which estimated the potential value at $14 million. The only bid was $2.3 million from a local affordable-housing organization, which was to have been aided by the local public housing authority.

The U.S. attorney accuses both Ketchum and Sun Valley of informing prospective rival bidders that they would have a hard time getting a development plan through Ketchum’s planning process.

“It’s simply not true,” said Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall. Hall also says the minimum bid price was unrealistic, given how dilapidated the condos are.

Ketchum has hired a former congressman, George Nethercutt Jr., who is being given $25,000 and unlimited airline travel. His job? Knock on the right doors in Washington to find a federal grant to buy the condominiums for local affordable housing.

The hope is that he can take this case to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who has been having his share of problems.


Highway din still plaguing Vail

VAIL – Ah summertime, and in Vail, the living is noisy. Interstate 70 slices through town, groaning with ever-more traffic.

The annoyance worsens in summer, when the natural tendency is to open windows to take in those lovely night-time breezes. Julie Hansen, who lives along the highway at the foot of Vail Pass, says it’s hard even to fall asleep with windows open.

Hansen distributed petitions signed by 200 people calling on town officials to get noise barriers erected as part of highway reconstruction. A third lane, to allow for slow-moving trucks, is being planned on the approach to Vail Pass. The hope is that state funds will pay for the barriers, as town officials believe noise walls are too expensive.

The disruptive nature of Interstate 70 has spawned talk in Vail since at least the early 1970s of burying it. Another and even more ambitious plan was introduced last year. Jim Lamont, a former municipal planner who now represents many property owners in the town, returned from a visit to the Alps with visions of tunnels in his head. He has proposed a tunnel through Vail Mountain, forcing people in a hurry to bypass the town.

Lamont says he believes that quality of life, instead of economic development, is now emerging as the key issue in Vail.


89-year-old survives the backcountry

SILVERTHORNE –The Summit Daily News tells the story of the disappearance and then rescue of Ed Carlson, who is 89 and still goes rambling in the Gore Range.

On July 6, he borrowed a horse and with his dog, Boo, set out to explore the Slate Creek drainage for several days. But he encountered severe blowdown across the trail, and in trying to move through the downed trees, the horse fell, pinning Carlson’s leg under the horse’s body and then both of them under a sapling.

Carlson, fully prepared, used a hatchet to free both himself and the horse. He unloaded the gear off the horse and set up camp. However, during the night, the horse got loose.

What Carlson did for the next two days was unclear, but by the third day, the horse had returned to the valley with neither rider nor saddle – an ominous sign. On the morning of the fourth day, a Forest Service crew found Carlson, a few hundred yards from the trail.

Why he didn’t walk from where he had been stranded that first night was not clear. Still, his brother Wes told the paper there was no doubt that Carlson would soon return to the area, where during the 1930s and 1940s he sometimes spent up to a month at a time camping and fishing. “He has an obsession with Slate Creek,” said Walt.


Work force absent in Jackson Hole

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – It’s high season in Jackson Hole, where summer is far busier than winter at such properties as the Four Seasons. But employers who have come to depend upon seasonal workers from Mexico and other countries are hard-pressed. The H2B visa program has been sluggish in delivering workers. By one estimate, the program is 30 percent backlogged.

The Four Seasons, reports theJackson Hole News&Guide, is asking employees to work overtime and has shipped in employees from Scottsdale and Philadelphia. Jackson’s mayor, Mark Barron, who owns a dry cleaning business, was denied the 20 workers he had applied for.

“Two, three, four years ago, the H2B program was meant to supplement the work force, but now it is a core element of our work force that we are dependent on,” said Tim O’Donoghue, executive director of the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce. “When there are changes in the program, there are significant ripple effects.”


New charter school targets Latinos

GYPSUM – A charter school that is geared specifically for Latinos and other students who have difficulty in English will be opening later this summer in the Eagle Valley. Targeted will be students aged 15 to 21.

The school, operated by New America, will be located on the second floor of a business in Gypsum, 37 miles down-valley from Vail, with classrooms also in Avon and Edwards.

Hispanics compose 40 percent of Avon’s full-time population, 31 percent in Gypsum, 27 percent in Edwards, and 25 percent in Eagle.

– compiled by Allen Best