Hometown removes Bergdahl welcome

HAILEY, Idaho – Balloons had been ordered, 1,825 of them to represent the days that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl had been held captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan. A company had agreed to donate the helium, and Carole King, who lives in the Ketchum-Sun Valley area, had agreed to perform.

Now, the carpet has been rolled up amid questions about how Bergdahl was captured and whether his freedom was worth the exchange of five prisoners held in Guantanamo.

“In the interest of public safety, the event will be cancelled,” said a press release issued by officials in Hailey, a town of 8,000. It is 12 miles from the smaller but better-known towns of Ketchum and Sun Valley.

The Idaho Mountain Express explains that precipitating cancellation of the event were plans by an anti-Bergdahl group from California to send 2,000 protestors.

Bergdahl grew up in Hailey, working at Zaney’s Coffee House before he enlisted in 2008. The Wall Street Journal talked with soldiers who served with him in Afghanistan.

“Like many soldiers heading into a war zone for the first time, the 22-year-old Army private was eager to get into the fight….The bravado didn’t last,” reported the Journal. Fellow soldiers say he began spending time with Afghani soldiers and then, in June 2009, disappeared. His disappearance came as little surprise to his fellow soldiers.

“It seemed like he was this die-hard, Rambo-esque soldier who wanted to kick a— and take names who then became this Peace Corps kind of guy who wanted to help the people,” said Zach Barrow, a 27-year-old Army gunner who rode in the same truck as Bergdahl.

In Hailey, police chief Jeff Gunter, a close friend of the Bergdahl family, said he was besieged by calls and e-mails after Bergdahl’s release. “The emotions felt five years ago when he was captured have now been reversed. Women have called saying they have not been able to put their makeup on because they can’t stop crying.”

Debbie O’Neill, an organizer, said she got threatening e-mails. “One of them said there will be ‘consequences’ if we proceed,” she told the Mountain Express.

A childhood friend told the Express her thoughts: “Bring him home and leave him alone.”

Wounds remain 10 years after rampage

GRANBY – It was 10 years ago this June that Marv Heemeyer exacted revenge on town officials, the local newspaper, and anybody else who just happened to cross the path of his home-made armament of war.

Heemeyer was aggrieved by a rezoning of land across the road from his muffler shop that permitted a batch plant. He clandestinely fortified a Komatsu bulldozer with 20 tons of armor and mounted rifles. Then, on the morning of June 4, he spun his contraption out of his muffler shop.

Then he rammed the home of the mayor, the Town Hall and library. Then, he set out to avenge other wrongs he had perceived. At the local newspaper, the Sky Hi News, two editors who had always run his letters of complaint ran out the back door as Heemeyer’s bulldozer crashed through the front.

Nobody died, except Heemeyer, who put a gun to his head after his lumbering bulldozer fell into the basement of the Gambles store. Others could easily have died, though.

The Gambles store has been rebuilt, but it took seven years. “My world just turned upside down,” the store owner told the Sky-Hi on the 10th anniversary. “But I thought ‘Well OK, we’ve got insurance.’ We did. Just not enough.”

Patrick Brower was one of two editors who ran out the back door as the Komatsu’s blades crumpled the front. Brower has written a book about the case, and he’s tried to come to terms with how this one case fits into patterns across the country. “How many people lose petty zoning fights with government in America? Everybody, all the time. That’s not an excuse to go out and tear the town to pieces and shoot at people.”

Mama grizzly a no-show in Banff Park

BANFF, Alberta – The 24-year-old “matriarch” of grizzly bears in Banff National Park hasn’t been seen this spring. Wherever can she be?

Maybe holed up in the high country, to avoid predation of her cubs by male bears, called boars. Or perhaps dead.

“She has lived a long life, and she’s getting right up there with the oldest ones we know of,” says Mike Gibeau, a grizzly bear expert. “She’s getting to the end of her lifespan and certainly to the end of her reproductive stage.”

The Rocky Mountain Outlook explains that residents of the Banff-Canmore-Lake Louise area are fascinated by the bear, known as No. 64, because “she has managed to escape death on the highways and railway lines and carve out a living on a very busy landscape.”

The sow was captured in 1999 as part of a research project. She had not yet had cubs, but since then has had two, possibly three, litters. In 2010, being without cubs, she was videotaped in the company of several male grizzlies, and one in particular. The next spring she emerged from her den with three cubs.

She might still be with those cubs. “Females with cubs can remain scarce for security reasons,” explained Michelle Macullo, a Banff National Park spokeswoman. “While high-quality forage is better in the valley bottoms, female bears can remain at higher elevation to avoid dominant males. Sometimes we don’t see females with cubs until the end of June.”

Telluride bans hash oil manufacturing

TELLURIDE – Telluride has banned the manufacture of hash oil, and a similar ban is contemplated in broader San Miguel County.

The ban is a response to reports from elsewhere in Colorado of explosions and fires since sale of cannabis for recreational consumption became legal Jan. 1.

One way to make hash oil is by packing the leaves and stems of cannabis plants into a pipe, pouring highly flammable butane through it, then heating it to burn off the liquid fuel. The result, explains the Telluride Daily Planet, yields an oil of up to 80 percent THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

Council members indicated that they will likely revisit the marijuana regulations by the end of 2014 to see if further changes are needed.

More towns take up plastic bag ban

CRESTED BUTTE – Some 2,000 signatures have been collected in the towns of Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte to put the kibosh on plastic bags.

The idea is being promoted by the nonprofit Office for Resource Efficiency. A survey taken by the local chamber of commerce showed 52 percent of responding businesses in favor. The general feedback seems to be to eliminate plastic bags and offer paper bags with no fee.

The Crested Butte News reports that businesses with stores in other ski towns seem to be on board with the movement.

In California, the town of Truckee on June 1 required retail stores, including groceries, to cease putting merchandise in disposable plastic bags. Shoppers are instead charged a dime for a recycled paper or reusable bag.

The Sierra Sun reports some grumbling but also acceptance. Roughly a dozen businesses were given exemptions to use their remaining stock of plastic bags. That grace period runs out Dec. 1.

Bookstore on the sales block again

ASPEN – Aspen’s celebrated book shop, Explore Booksellers, is on the sales block. The store occupies a prime location in downtown Aspen and the asking price of $6.5 million presumably reflects that value, not the revenues of a bookstore.

The store was established by Katherine Thalberg in 1975. But after she died in 2007, it wasn’t clear the store would remain in business. Finally, Sam and Cheryl Wyly, part-time residents in Aspen, stepped forward.

The Aspen Daily News explains that in 2007, the Wylys described their purchase of Explore as an act of stewardship. At the time, the Aspen Daily News asked Sam how important the bookstore was to Aspen. He responded: “How important is Ajax?”

Ajax is the local name of Aspen Mountain.

But that was then. “For many years, it was a labor of love. In the business world, that’s what you call an investment that provides a greater good to the community which far outweighs any story the balance sheet tells.”

Wyly was recently in the news after federal court found him and his late brother guilty of violating federal securities, effectively the thievery of about $500 million.

Binge drinking declines but still high in Whistler

WHISTLER, B.C. – Compared to 460,000 of their peers in a database of U.S. students, high school juniors in Whistler are well above the norm in terms of binge drinking .

The study found 60 percent of 11th grade students in Whistler reported indulging in binge drinking, defined as five or more drinks on any one occasion in a two-week period. That is, however, a decline from previous surveys in 2003 and 2006, reports Pique.

– Allen Best For more, go to www.mountaintownnews.net.