Editorial: Summit County’s tinderbox
June 20, 2012
It’s a strange thing right now, enjoying what are essentially beautiful summer days while we also nervously cast glances at the forests all around us and hope and pray we see no smoke. As fires rage in Fort Collins and in Park County and in other spots around the West, as fire danger hits the “extreme” level and Stage 2 fire restrictions go into place, as fireworks shows are canceled around the state … here we sit, hoping and waiting for more moisture and no fire.
With the exception of the one reprehensible individual deliberately setting small fires near the Breck Nordic Center recently, the citizens of and visitors to Summit County have done a great job not sparking any blazes – and may it remain that way. We may not be able to do anything about lightning, but if we can remove the human factor we at least stand a chance of making it through this fire season without a major incident.
Some old-timers we’ve spoken to recently have said they’ve never seen it quite so bad. Certainly the level of drought is similar to the conditions of 2002, although we do have a bit more water in the reservoirs compared to then. On the other hand, there’s more dead wood on the forest floor and beetle-killed trees still standing, and as one Forest Service official noted this week, even the soil is bone dry: only 5-10 percent compared to the normal 40-60 percent.
This is a good time to make that plan for fire, whether it’s making your home safer by cutting down trees close to structures or preparing an evacuation plan for your family. This is it, right now, we’re in the crosshairs of a potential big burn, and preparation can make a lot of difference if, when it comes. Make sure you’re signed up to receive emergency information at http://www.scalert.org, and find information and tips at http://www.wildlandfirersg.org. And please, be safe out there and observe all the warnings and restrictions.
On a lighter note, we have to say we’ve been delighted to see some exemplary examples of cooperation in Summit County lately. For starters, the Town of Breckenridge and the Breckenridge Ski Resort are quite sensibly looking at ways to improve the transit service in and around the town and the mountain by consolidating things. In the past, it’s been a somewhat confusing patchwork of buses for visitors to Breck, with the town’s Free Ride buses and the resort’s own fleet. A common branding of the buses and a unified schedule would go a long way toward improving service, and we may see some of those tweaks as early as this fall.
It’s often been the case that the town and the resort are like two kings in the same kingdom, each pursuing different goals. Perhaps this transit solution is the beginning of a better spirit of cooperation which, ultimately, will no doubt be good for both entities as well as the town’s residents and visitors.
Another encouraging sign of comity comes from the task force charged with solving Summit County’s looming trash problem. In short, the landfill near Keystone has always been funded by fees charged for trash dumped there, but as the county’s aggressive recycling and composting efforts have diverted more trash from the landfill, that source of funding has been on the wane. What to do? Comprised of county and town officials, local trash haulers and others, the task force has taken a hard look at the situation and is kicking around some interesting solutions.
One idea – “pay as you throw” – is not without its problems, but the notion that those who trash more and recycle less should pay a higher rate seems an equitable approach. After all, if you, for example, neglect weatherproofing your home and consume more gas or electricity to heat it, you pay more. Why, then, should the waste stream coming from your home or business be a flat rate regardless of your usage?
There’s plenty more to come on this issue, but we hope for an outcome that works for the consumers as well as the haulers and for a system that’s a model for other communities facing the same problems.
One more trashy feel-good story: If you were at the Frisco BBQ Challenge last weekend, you no doubt noticed the army of volunteers working with the town and High Country Conservation Center to help BBQ-goers get their trash in the right place. The notion of striving for zero-waste event seemed almost quaint a few years ago when it first started, but we’ve seen it grow to the point where people are truly cooperating with the effort and, as a result, a tremendous amount of recyclable and compostable material was diverted from the landfill.
There’s no doubt America – which generates more trash per capita than any other country – is in need of some serious rethinking when it comes to how we consume and dispose of stuff. In Summit County, we’re taking the lead with events like the Frisco BBQ Challenge. Events are notoriously trash-intensive, so by rejecting some of those old ways at an event where visitors from around the country can see it, we’re on the vanguard of something important. So kudos to the town, HC3 and all those volunteers who helped make it happen.