Summit County’s top 10 news stories of 2012 |

Summit County’s top 10 news stories of 2012

Caddie Nath
summit daily news

The first months of 2012 were marked by more sunshine and less snow than anyone in Summit County hoped to see.

After a disappointing December generated only 4 inches of snow, ski resorts and snowsports enthusiasts alike pinned their hopes on the normally plentiful powder of March. But the third month of 2012 came in like a lamb and went out the same way, with unseasonably warm temperatures, with more snow melting than falling.

The meager snowpack in Summit County’s Upper Colorado River Basin dropped 26 percent in March, setting the stage for a summer marked by drought and wildfires.

A dead body is not something a hiker is likely to find when navigating the backcountry trails around Breckenridge.

But that was exactly what volunteers discovered while picking up trash near the Burro Trail Trailhead during town clean-up day in May.

Karl Kohler, a local forest-dweller, was found beaten to death near a campsite on Peak 9. Within weeks, authorities closed in on a suspect, Gregory Scott Gavin, who also lived full-time in the forest.

Gavin later confessed to killing Kohler with a baseball bat and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

After two weeks of testimony, it took a jury only a few hours to come back with a guilty verdict, convicting former Silverthorne photographer Dale Bruner of his wife’s brutal murder in 2010.

Bruner was convicted of second-degree murder and first-degree assault in July after the defense failed to convince jurors the man his wife was seeing before she died might have been her killer.

Bruner was sentenced to 112 years in prison, but maintains his innocence.

Stephanie Roller Bruner, a mom and dance instructor, was found strangled and bludgeoned in the Blue River near her home just after Thanksgiving 2010.

After years of controversy and environmental analysis, the U.S. Forest Service officially approved a Breckenridge Ski Resort application to expand the ski area to Peak 6.

It will add 550 acres and two new lifts to the resort. Construction is set to begin this summer. Resort representatives say the expansion is needed to ease overcrowding.

As wildfires tore across Colorado fueled by one of the worst droughts in a decade, Summit County managed to escape a frightening fire season with only a few close calls.

Minor wildfires ignited near Montezuma, at the Summit County Shooting Range, on Peak 7 in Breckenridge and over the ridge in Eagle County, but all were contained fairly quickly and none wreaked the havoc caused by other wildfires across the state.

Still, the summer was marked by safety precautions. Fireworks were cancelled, water restrictions implemented and campfires banned across the county.

Silverthorne voters rejected a special election question 2-1 in August, refusing to limit the town’s power to use eminent domain and effectively ending an ongoing community debate over the construction of the Blue River Trail.

Silverthorne homeowners in opposition to a portion of the trail being expanded over an easement on their properties called for the vote through a citizen’s initiative.

A Whole Foods Market will soon set up shop in Summit County, after the Frisco Town Council approved development for a town-owned parcel near the Safeway off Interstate 70.

The company was given a 50-year lease earlier this year for the 9.4-acre property amid much community excitement and support.

For years neighborhood residents had warned officials the crosswalk at Rasor Drive and Highway 6 near Keystone Resort was a dangerous place for pedestrians.

In March, a drunk driver proved them right.

Wildernest resident Wesley Wilson struck and killed 33-year-old Mircea Basaram, a tourist from Romania as he was crossing the road.

In the wake of the accident, neighbors teamed up with Colorado Department of Transportation and Summit County officials to design and implement $85,000 worth of safety improvements targeted at making the crosswalk more visible to drivers.

After 26 years in operation, the Summit Prevention Alliance, an organization dedicated to promoting healthy lifestyles in the community, announced it was closing in April, amid financial problems.

The board of directors claimed it would take an undetermined period to reprioritize and determine a new direction for the organization, while the nonprofit’s ongoing commitments and projects were handed off to other organizations.

For the first time in 2013, Breckenridge will host a stage start and a finish for the third annual Pro Cycle Challenge road bike race, organizers announced in December.

Breckenridge hosted a stage finish in the first year of the race and a start this year. Both events drew tens of thousands of spectators to the county as the town organized bike-related festivities to mark the occasion.

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