Kit Carson: war hero or criminal?

CRESTONE – Nearly 150 years after the scorched-earth relocation of Navajos from the Four Corners region, bitterness remains. The latest flashpoint is Kit Carson, a 14,165 peak in Colorado’s Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

The mountain’s namesake in 1863 led forces for the U.S. Army that rousted the Navajo from their hideouts in Arizona’s Canyon de Chelly and sent them on a long, difficult and deadly march to a reservation in New Mexico.

A proposal arising from the town of Crestone, at the base of Kit Carson, calls for the peak to be renamed “Mount Crestone,” reports Colorado Central Magazine.

The proponent, Keno Menechino, says that replacing the name Kit Carson would please local residents as they feel “he was a war criminal, not a war hero. The native Americas, Buddhists and Hindus in the area seem very united on this, and they represent a large group of the population.”

This argument about Carson has been waged before. Some years ago, protestors vandalized a statue of Carson located in Taos, where Carson spent many years. He has been the subject of dozens of books, many of them flattering, some of them disparaging.

A mountain man who traveled the Rocky Mountains broadly from Jackson Hole to New Mexico, Carson was small in stature but large in his legacy. From a chance meeting with the explorer John Charles Frémont, he was plucked from the ranks of obscurity for special adulation by the masses, eager for dime-novel-fabricated accounts of frontier derring-do.

Simplistic accounts, however, did not do him justice. He was brave, smart in his rough-hewn way, and like most mountain men, well integrated into the cultures of the native inhabitants of the region. He had a wife in one of the native tribes, and later he was married to a woman from a prominent Hispanic family in Taos.

By the 1860s, the days of fur-trapping long since passed, Carson had been recruited to work for the U.S. Army. The Navajos had been terrorizing settlers, and he was charged with ending the attacks – and told by a superior to round up the Navajos and escort them to a reservation in Oklahoma. This he did, and it was not a nice affair. Many Navajo, who call themselves the Dine, died en route and on the reservation.

Colorado Central publisher Ed Quillen, who has studied Kit Carson’s story in depth, has found evidence that Navajos were brutalized by the U.S. Army under Carson’s watch, but sees no need for changing the mountain’s name. “We tend to prefer a ‘warts and all’ view of our area’s history, of which Kit Carson is certainly a part,” he writes.

Furthermore, he notes that the names of warriors are on many mountains, including a 14,000-foot peak called Shavano that overlooks Salida. Shavano, he notes, was the war chief of the Tabeguache band of Utes.

There’s also the issue of geographical clutter and confusion. Proposed as a replacement in the application to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names is Mount Crestone. Farther down the same ridge are two other 14,000-foot peaks of the same inspiration: Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle.

Aspen plans to raise the energy bar

ASPEN – Aspen city officials plan to stiffen energy efficiency standards for commercial buildings. The new code aims to move Aspen along toward meeting the “2030 Challenge,” a national program that aims to reduce energy consumption by 50 percent in the next 22 years.

Stephen Kanipe, the city’s chief building official, said the green building and renewable energy components are the future of the construction industry, reports the Aspen Daily News. “We’re just a few years ahead of the curve,” he told elected officials at a recent meeting.

While building groups estimate that green-building measures such as those proposed by Aspen increase costs 2 to 5 percent, Kanipe argues that long-term savings warrant the up-front costs. Bottom-line value engineering “does not make sense anymore,” Kanipe said. “You can’t afford to heat the building.”

In other words, building better is more economical, because of increasing energy costs.

Similar to an existing program for homes, the new regulations will allow for energy-consuming outdoor features such as heated snowmelt sidewalks and heated pools. However, if they do so, the commercial projects must install on-site renewable energy features, such as photo-voltaic collectors, or pay an in-lieu fee for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects elsewhere.

In addition, the city – which also delivers electricity to about

one-third of Aspen — is also preparing to offer attractive credits for those owners who install solar panels.

Officials of Pitkin County are planning to adopt similar regulations for unincorporated areas. The final draft of the regulations are expected to be completed by late September, reports theDaily News.


Real estate continues to skid Aspen

ASPEN – Real estate continues to slide in  towns. New reports from June document continued to show sluggishness in the Aspen and Jackson Hole markets, at least when compared to the previous three years. Sales volume in total dollars was about half what it was going into the Fourth of July weekend last year.

Prices are dropping in some market segments, but not all. The highest end has survived rather well.

In Aspen and Pitkin County, the dollar volume this year has dropped 50 percent through June as compared with last year, reports the Land Title Guarantee Co. This sends the Aspen market back only to 2004 levels.

Some sellers are still asking higher prices, real estate agents tell The Aspen Times, but the appreciation has slowed. “We don’t have 20 percent appreciation right now,” said Robert Ritchie, a broker with the firm of Coates, Reid and Waldron. “We still have (appreciation), but it’s in the single digits.”

In Jackson Hole, total sales volume was down 46 percent through June. Overall, the median home price of sales grew less than 2 percent, to $1.2 million.

But the report from real estate analyst David Veihman cited in the Jackson Hole News&Guide painted a picture of a strongly bifurcated market. The higher-end market, which accounts for 60 percent of Jackson Hole’s activity, continues to do reasonably well. One set of “golf “cabins” are getting $4 million.

In what Veihman calls the “locals segment,” of $1 million and less, sales are down 60 percent. Some lower-end properties were overpriced by as much as 30 percent, he said.

As has been reported in Aspen, some in Jackson Hole expect the ranks of real-estate agents to thin. “You can’t support 800 Realtors on 131 residential sales,” observed broker Greg Prugh.

Still, Prugh sees this as a good thing. “I just think sellers are coming back to earth a bit, and that keeps the market healthy,” he told the newspaper.

How soon will the good old days return? Some faint hope for recovering sales this summer seems to exist, but Bob Starodoj, an agent who has worked in Aspen for more than 40 years, believes the record real estate volume of $2.4 billion established in 2006 is safe for now – and into the future. “It’s probably never going to be repeated,” he told theTimes somewhat ominously.

Eagle trying to keep small town feel

EAGLE – Can a community with 5,000 people still call itself a “small town?” Despite its rapid growth during the last decade, Eagle – located halfway between Vail and Glenwood Springs – still feels like a small town.

But when you have that many people, you need money for street repairs and other improvements. In Colorado, where homeowners pay very little property tax, that means revenues from taxes on sales.

So far, Eagle has heard from several developers proposing to build giant commercial complexes along nearby Interstate 70. It sent the first suitor packing, and the town’s Planning Commission proposes to similarly offer the door to the latest developer, who wants to build 550,000 square feet of commercial space and 581 housing units.

If the project does get built, the planning commissioners say, then buildings should be maxed at 45 feet. The recommendations now go to the Town Board. TheEagle Valley Enterprise says one way or another, the issue is likely to be decided directly by voters.

Damned Water backs off dam closure

SUMMIT COUNTY – The Denver Water Department has partially backed off from its closure of the road across Dillon Dam. The road parallels Interstate 70, connecting the towns of Frisco and Silverthorne.

Denver abruptly closed the road in early July after getting new information about the vulnerability of the dam to a potential terrorist threat, presumably a bombing of some sort that would cause the dam to fail. The closure was announced with virtually no advance discussion with local authorities – an omission that ruffled feathers and rekindled old animosities.

– Allen Best


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