A look back at 2007 ‘Year of the beetle’
Ten years from now, 2007 might be known as the “Year of the Beetle,” even though the pesky little critter was invading our forests a decade ago. The past 364 days saw local, state and federal government officials talk about the “pine beetle,” while most of our hillsides became their favorite meal. Just look at the Frisco Peninsula, which got a brand new management plan in 2007. When it was healthy, the forested recreation area provided dense cover for enthusiasts. When it was dead, it looked like it had felt the broad blade of the Grim Reaper. Then came the strange looking machinery that clear cut the dead trees, and wa-la, a new forest is starting to grow.Yet the cutting goes on, and will for years to come. The Forest Service, for example, is set to begin clearing a wide swath of forest around the Wildernest and Mesa Cortina area, where hundreds of homes could be threatened by a wildfire.And the agency is also finishing the large-scale Dillon Reservoir forest health project. The overall project calls for forest health and fuel reduction projects on 3,300 acres through 2018, including 290 acres of defensible space treatments along the wildland-urban interface. The first phase targets about 1,400 acres in areas hardest hit by mountain pine beetles.Lake Hill (on both sides of I-70 between Frisco and Dillon) and the Heaton Bay area will see some work, and after that, the focus will shift toward Keystone area and the Frisco peninsula.
If it wasn’t the beetle’s year, perhaps it was the environment’s as a whole. From Al Gore winning an Oscar for his climate change documentary, “The Inconvenient Truth,” to the growth of local volunteer organizations like the Friends of the Dillon Ranger District and the Friends of the Eagles Nest Wildnerness, more people became in tune with their “carbon footprint,” and therefore, more people bought a Prius.In Summit County, we saw very few new challenges, but we did see a few new successes. After being all-but extirpated from Colorado, lynx are returning to the White River National Forest. A Colorado Division of Wildlife program aimed at re-establishing a self-sustaining population of the wild cats showed early signs of success in 2006, as biologists reported a healthy crop of kittens born to lynx transplanted from Canada and Alaska.News arrived that playground might be getting bigger, too, although that didn’t please everyone. Citizen groups are gearing up for a push to add about 30,000 acres of new wilderness areas in Summit County. The draft plan has been aired in front of local stakeholder groups with mixed reactions. Mountain bike riders and motorized users are afraid the proposal could result in the loss of some popular trails.Perhaps the best news was our pristine roadless areas being given shelter by a federal panel, ending the back and forth battle over how to manage 60,000 acres of roadless national forest land in Summit County. That said, a new administration in 2008 could mean we have to start all over …
Boo. Our history is still coming back to haunt. A surge of toxic metals washing out of Peru Creek into the Snake River killed hundreds of trout in August, showing why local officials are putting a focus on cleaning up abandoned mines.With some new initiatives from the federal government and the involvement of Trout Unlimited, there was some progress in tackling the Pennsylvania Mine in Peru Creek, one of the worst sites in the county. A model agreement covering volunteer cleanups could help speed a remediation project at the Pennsylvania Mine.In the Blue River drainage, Breckenridge and Summit County have started construction of a water treatment facility at the site of the Wellington-Oro mine. When it’s finished, the plant will remove zinc from French Gulch and improve water quality downstream in the Blue River.And in another cleanup project, the EPA and the Forest Service removed tons of rock tainted with high levels of lead from the federal Claimjumper Parcel along Airport Road. The material was moved to a repository in French Gulch, where it will remain indefinitely.The project stirred local opposition, as residents of the French Gulch area questioned why they should have to live with new mine waste in addition to the large piles of tainted rock already present near their neighborhood.But federal officials touted the Claimjumper cleanup as a win-win, citing improved environmental conditions in both locations.
For those interested in old-school political battles, look no further than the county’s ban on cyanide heap-leach mining. The Colorado Mining Association successfully challenged the county’s ban in district court, but were rebuffed by the Colorado Court of Appeals. Late in the year, the Colorado Supreme Court announced it would take on the case in 2008.At issue is the ability of local governments to set controls over mining practices that could lead to massive pollution. The mining industry claims that state regulations preempt local control although, as you can guess, our county government disagrees. In another head-scratching move and under the guise of “streamlining the planning process,” the U.S. Forest Service radically revamped its rules for creating forest plans. Environmental groups claimed the changes would render forest plans toothless and end any meaningful public involvement in the process.Forest Service officials said the changes will save time and money, giving the agency more resources for on-the-ground work, by cutting red tape. Don’t worry, a legal battle is ensuing, proving that by even trying to avoid red tape, the government can introduce a little bit more.
Breckenridge and Frisco have more in common then their town planners like to think. The two towns connected by Highway 9 found their kinder, nicer side in 2007, putting a tremendous amount of time, money and effort into building community resources like affordable housing and daycare.In Breckenridge, the Town passed resolutions that authorize grant agreements for debt relief, salary supplements and tuition assistance at its childcare facilities. Also, in October, they broke ground on the Valley Brook Childcare Center that will serve about 60 families. It is expected to be completed in the summer.Not to be outdone, in Frisco, the Town Council dedicated about $130,000 toward supporting early childhood education, with most of the money going toward subsidizing teacher salaries and paying for professional development. Frisco planners are tackling the design for between 60 and 100 affordable housing units on the town-owned Peak One parcel.Some citizens thought the plans were too detailed for early in the process.In Breckenridge, the Town is making its entryway a mecca for affordable housing. The Town’s vision for its Block 11 property along Highway 9 includes a sustainable model community with recreation, a variety of affordable home styles and a connected neighborhood. In total, between 210 and 400 affordable housing units could be built. In 2007, we saw Breckenridge residents show their teeth. In this case, these were the dogs and they actually began to control the time in public meetings. When dog owners ran into issues with the temporary solution for a dog park at Carter Park in the summer, a community group created a more permanent solution. – a 1-acre permanent dog park that will be fenced in on part of the field and at the end of the tennis courts was agreed upon. Construction will begin in 2008, which should get some tails wagging …
Across the pond, development is changing the way Silverthorne looks, feels and operates. Developers presented ideas for a pedestrian-oriented core along the Blue River, requiring the town council to think about how it wanted to see that area progress.Sapphire Plaza, Rainbow Run and Blue River Lofts, which are all proposed along different sections of the Blue River, gained at least preliminary approvals over the past year. Each proposal depicts a mix of commercial space and residential units.Away from the riverfront, Home Depot submitted plans for a 100,000-square-foot home improvement store in November on two vacant lots between the CDOT maintenance building and I-70 in Silverthorne. The planning process is in its preliminary stages, but store representatives said they hope to break ground in the spring.
Shortly after two Summit High School girls were injured when struck by a car while crossing Highway 9 in front of the school, local officials got together to work on an improved safety plan.Summit School District began offering a shuttle service to the Summit Stage Frisco Transfer Center so less students would cross the street to get to the bus stop. Also, the Colorado Department of Transportation put up school zone signs and began looking into a speed limit reduction. This should please the four new school board members, as Alison Casias, Brad Piehl and Erin Young officially began their four-year terms in November. Voters also re-elected Jon Kreamelmeyer, who the board voted to be vice president.After an intense campaign, Summit County voters passed Summit School District’s mill levy. The question asked if the district’s taxes should be increased by $7.97 million annually beginning in 2008 for facility improvements, full-day kindergarten and rising transportation costs.The mill levy passed by about 200 votes. Since the election, a facility team has been planning implementation of safety and security projects that will funded by the mill levy.
The brand new, 3,500-square-foot facility in Breckenridge for Colorado Mountain College will be located on the Town’s Block 11 property near Coyne Valley Road and Highway 9.Leah Bornstein, Ph.D., who worked on the exterior design of the new building while she served as dean for the Summit Campus, accepted a position as president of Coconino Community College in Arizona. She left in August and a new dean, Alton Scales, began at the college in late November, ready to delve into the project that will likely break ground in spring.
Silverthorne Democrat Dan Gibbs won a seat in the state House of Representatives last November and quickly got to work when the session began in January. As a freshman legislator, he tackled tough issues such as stiffening the state’s chain law and succeeded with five of the six bills he sponsored signed into law.Gibbs’ work certainly isn’t done. In November, he was appointed to former Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald’s Senate District 16 seat after she resigned to concentrate on her run for U.S. Congress. School Board President Christine Scanlan was chosen to fill Gibbs’ House seat.
Following a nearly two-year push for it, a digital mammography machine will soon be on its way to Summit County. A dedicated fundraising committee raised more than $250,000, half of the cost needed to bring the machine here. St. Anthony Summit Medical Center will supply the other half of the cost and at the end of November the final papers went through to order the machine.It is expected to arrive within about three to five months.Flight for Life finally got a helicopter hangar after wishing for one for more than 15 years. The 3,000-square-foot facility which was completed in February, is located behind St. Anthony Summit Medical Center. The $1.1 million project was completed donor funded, and it allows the operation to recover more quickly and reduces the impact of weather.Results of a countywide study done every five years for Summit County Public Health showed that access to and capacity of mental health care, including substance abuse treatment, ranked among the top concerns. The assessment’s steering committee decided on six priorities for improvement based on resident surveys, focus groups and talks with local health experts. In addition to substance abuse treatment, the top needs also includes affordability of services, presence of services including care for low-income residents, specialty services and senior services, awareness of services, nutrition and healthy lifestyles.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the area lost two important pioneers who both served as symbols of the county’s ranching roots this year.Howard Giberson, a third-generation native, died in July at the age of 95. Giberson spent nearly his whole life ranching on his land in Frisco, which sits at the base of Buffalo Mountain. He spent his childhood raising pigs, cows and chickens, growing hay and producing dairy products on the farm. He and his late wife took over the ranch in 1937, and Giberson worked there for the next 63 years until moving to a nursing home after an injury in 2000. Giberson protected 179 acres under a conservation easement in 1998.In November, the area lost another longtime rancher when Karl Knorr died at the age of 94. Knorr ranched for five decades on his land in the Lower Blue River Valley. Compiled by Bob Berwyn, Lory Pounder, Nicole Formosa, Leslie Brefeld and Ryan Slabaugh.
A $10 million plan to recycle Blue River water by pumping it from near Dillon Reservoir back to Breckenridge in a pipeline died this year, as the Summit County commissioners stood firm in their desire to exercise permitting authority over the project. The pumpback was aimed at sustaining operations at the Breckenridge Water and Sanitation District and improving flows in the Blue River between Breckenridge and Dillon Reservoir.According to the san district, the county added unreasonable and unlawful language to a nearly completed memorandum of understanding that would have opened the door for the project. Bob Berwyn
The Riverwalk Center tent served its last year, much to the dismay of locals who enjoyed coming up with new names for its twin peaks. In the fall, construction of a roof began, and the Towns deadline for completion is June of 2008, when the National Repertory Orchestra musicians arrive for practices and performances.Also in 2007, the Keystone Neighbourhood Company began planning on the now dubbed Keystone Cultural Arts Center, which they will build from scratch. Executive director Molly Speer said they are now meeting with architects and working on numbers, and are still hoping for a construction start in 2010. Leslie Brefeld
The biggest crime-related story of the year in Summit County was the disappearance of prominent Breckenridge attorney Royal Scoop Daniel, III, whos accused of defrauding up to $1 million from his clients some of whom were close friends before skipping town.News of Daniels disappearance in April sent waves through the close-knit community, and dozens of people helped police scour the area around Daniels Ski Hill Road office for the well-liked man whod just recently given a guest sermon at Father Dyer Church.Several weeks later, when police held a press conference to announce Daniel was a wanted criminal, locals gathered in disbelief to listen.Daniel, who still hasnt been located, is suspected of scamming clients through his work as a qualified intermediary for 1031 real estate exchanges. In that role, he would hold money from a property sale in a trust in his name until his client was ready to make another purchase.Police said in late October that they anticipated filing additional charges in the case against Daniel based on an ongoing investigation.In the other big crime story this year, District Court Judge David Lass knocked three years off of Brandon Robbins original 25-year punishment for his role in the 2002 beating death of Cody Wieland at a resentencing hearing in late May. Earlier in the year, Robbins unsuccessfully attempted to withdraw his guilty plea so he could have a jury trial to determine his fate. Nicole Formosa
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