Forest Service pitches Fourteeners fee

WESTCLIFFE – The Forest Service is talking about pay-to-play programs again, this time in connection with a basin used by climbers to access four of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks. The agency has talked about $10 for day hikers and $20 for campers in South Colony Basin, a mostly above-timberline valley in the Sangre de Cristo Range commonly used to climb several 14,000-foot peaks.

But if it works there, government officials tellThe Denver Post, the same fee system may be employed at other popular backcountry areas to help pay for maintenance and such things as backcountry privies.

The state has 54 of the 14ers, and all but one are located on public land. The problem, say officials, is that government budgets for recreational maintenance have not keep up with growing use – nor do they expect them to.

“We don’t see in the big picture, that recreation funding is going to be a top priority with all the other issues – the war on terror, health care, saving Social Security, and cutting the federal deficit,” said Mike Smith, a forester with the San Isabel National Forest.

Hikers tell the newspapers that some people will accept the fees, but others fear what one described as a slippery slope of incremental costs for use of public lands. The Forest Service already levies fees for access to big peaks in Washington State, Oregon and California.


Aspenites remain loyal to home town

ASPEN – Already, Aspen has a distinctly grayish tint to its population. In future years, as baby boomers begin to retire, 88 percent of locals want to stay in Aspen. That works out to a potential market for 1,200 people for retirement housing.

“They don’t want to move down valley, or to Arizona, or Timbuktu,” said Iris Marsh, executive director of the Aspen Valley Medical Foundation. “Some of these people have been here 30, 40 years or more, and this is their home. They have invested in the community, contributed to the community. Their friends and family are here.”

With that in mind, the foundation has assembled conceptual plans for a continuing-care retirement community. Included would be 60 independent-living apartments, 40 assisted-living apartments, and 20 skilled nursing rooms, as well as communal facilities such as a dining hall.

TheAspen Times reports that the foundation hopes for 10 to 20 acres of land as close to Aspen as possible for the retirement community. There is already a substantial waiting list for rooms at an existing assisted-living facility in Aspen.


Researchers unravel decline of moose

JACKSON, Wyo. – Moose populations have declined dramatically during the last 20 years in Jackson Hole. Why? Researchers don’t have a simple answer. While some point to the introduction of wolves in 1997 as a basic cause, scientists contacted by theJackson Hole News&Guide point to broader changes in the ecosystem.

Joel Berger, a wildlife researcher from Montana State, said that the overall pregnancy rate in female moose has declined from 90 percent to 75 percent, and that the percentage of those having twins has dropped from 10 percent to 5 percent.

“This suggested it wasn’t predation, but that it had to have some basis in nutrition,” he said. He noted that malnutrition accounts for 60 percent of known deaths in adult female moose, while predation, roads, and human hunting account for only 10 percent.

One hypothesis is that the moose have depleted the willows. Another is that less extensive conifers in the wake of the 1988 Yellowstone fires reduced the amount of shade available to moose, which means they must spend more time looking for summer shade and less time eating.


Telluride buys another backcountry plot

TELLURIDE – The Telluride Ski and Golf Co., the operator of the ski area, has purchased a mining claim in Upper Bear Creek.The Telluride Watch notes that the site might be used for a ski lift, but the ski area operator said no decision has been made whether to seek the right to extend lift-operated skiing into the valley.

Dave Riley, the chief executive of the ski company, told the newspaper that the land could also be used for an exchange.

This 4-acre parcel is not to be confused with more than 40 acres assembled by rogue developer Tom Chapman. Chapman has made a career in the last 15 years of assembling private land within national forests, wilderness areas and national parks. In one case in the mid-1990s, he began building a luxury log cabin in the West Elk Wilderness on land that he had purchased for $967,000 then persuaded the Forest Service to swap it for 105 acres near Telluride that he later sold for more than $4 million.


Forester rejects Crested Butte appeal

MT. CRESTED BUTTE  – After much ado, nothing much has changed at Crested Butte, where the ski area operator has been hoping to expand onto nearby slopes of Snodgrass Mountain.

Shocking many, the regional forester for the U.S. Forest Service last autumn announced he would not accept the proposed expansion. This delighted a significant proportion of the Crested Butte population, who would like to keep things pretty much as they are.

But the ski area operator was dismayed, believing the forester had indicated that there was a green light for environmental review – which, in most cases, results in approval of ski area expansions. Many in the community similarly have believed that more intermediate terrain will be crucial if Crested Butte hopes to rebuild its slipping tourism economy.

The ski area appealed that decision to a higher-level official in California, Jim Peña, who concluded that the regional forester had not done anything wrong. The ski area indicated it will appeal the decision up another level yet, to Tom Tidwell, the Forest Service chief in Washington, D.C. No matter what decision gets rendered, the case almost certainly will go to court.


Resort status eludes town of Revelstoke  

REVELSTOKE, B.C. – A few years ago, it looked like Revelstoke might be the next big thing in the resort world. Revelstoke Mountain resort did open, with the promise of having the most vertical descent of any ski area in North America. Real estate product began going up at the base.

But a report from Alan Mason, the director of community economic development in the town of 8,000, suggests it’s nowhere near Whistler just yet. Public-sector and forestry jobs lead the wage-paying jobs, both accounting for more than twice as much employment as tourism. The Canadian Pacific Railroad is also a major employer. This income diversity has served Revelstoke well.

Real estate prices rocketed as the new resort got under way, going from a median price of $130,000 to $540,000 in the span of three years. But they have since slipped to $370,000.

Mason said that the experiences of Fernie and Golden, two other resort towns in British Columbia, suggest a slow, steady gain in population can be expected. He noted that Whistler, with a base population of 9,000 people, hasn’t grown hugely because of the millions of visitors.


Short sales help push real estate activity

KETCHUM, Idaho – More evidence is appearing that the Western real estate market has been recovering. In the Wood River Valley, homes have been selling at double the rate of last year, and prices in those transactions have also increased. Total sales volume for the year was reported to be $72 million, compared to $47 million for the first four months of last year. Foreclosures have also been up, but just a little. The biggest story, real estate agents say, has been in so-called short sales, when the mortgage holder agrees to take less money than what was owed on the property.

– 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