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Breckenridge Town Council votes to remove controversial trail troll

Citing public safety concerns, Breckenridge Town Council is ready to say goodbye to Isak Heartsone, an art installation that’s been a runaway success with visitors, but whose popularity has also rankled residents living nearby.

The 15-foot wood troll sits about a mile up the Wellington Trail in Breckenridge, built there for a summer arts festival that ended in August. The original plan was to leave the troll in place as long he could withstand the elements and wasn’t vandalized. Enough town council members were ready to cut the troll’s lifespan short on Tuesday, however, that he’ll soon be coming down.

Exactly when it might happen was not announced at Tuesday’s council meeting.

Since the festival, the troll has been drawing large crowds, and the throngs of troll-seekers have caused numerous problems for some of the nearby homeowners, who’ve been dealing with illegal parking, littering and a severe a loss of privacy since the troll came to life, among other issues.

After some of those homeowners voiced their complaints, council had decided to keep the troll through the winter and reevalute the situation in the spring with hope that some of these issues would subside with mitigation efforts and colder temperatures.

That hasn’t happened, though, said Councilman Jeffrey Bergeron, who originally supported keeping the troll but has visited the site on multiple occasions and said he witnessed some of the safety hazards himself.

“I might, at this point, feel comfortable rolling over on Isak,” Bergeron said Tuesday.

In deciding to remove the troll, council repeatedly applauded Breckenridge Creative Arts, the organization that put on the festival and paid Danish artist Thomas Dambo $40,000 to create the troll, for hitting “a homerun.”

While council members said they didn’t want to discourage the the group from doing things like the troll in the future, they also felt like the sculpture is now presenting public safety issues and has “run its course.” Council members called this “a learning experience.”

The decision to remove the troll wasn’t unanimous, but the two biggest supporters, councilwomen Elisabeth Lawrence and Wendy Wolfe, both said they weren’t ready to “fall on a sword” to keep the troll.

Lawrence also didn’t want to announce any definitive date for removing the troll because, she worried, doing so could ramp up the troll traffic until the sculpture can be removed.

Carbondale and Colorado Creative Corridor win state grant

Carbondale and four other mountain towns are proving that it pays to work together when it comes to promoting tourism.

The Colorado Creative Corridor, which includes Carbondale, Paonia, Crested Butte, Ridgway and Salida, received $25,000 in matching grant funds from the Colorado Tourism Office to promote a 331-mile route through the Western Rockies.

Each of the five towns will contribute $5,000 to the marketing effort, bringing the tourism promotion board’s budget to $50,000.

“We are delighted to receive a second year of funding from the Colorado Tourism Office to fund this initiative which supports rural destinations,” said Andrea Stewart, executive director of Carbondale Chamber of Commerce and Carbondale Tourism. “Tourism is a critical pillar of Carbondale’s economy, and we believe this PR and marketing campaign will help many local businesses thrive thanks to more tourism dollars.”

The Colorado Creative Corridor launched in July 2018 as a collaboration of the tourism boards and chambers of the five towns. The group received the same amount of matching grants from the state a year ago, and the new funds will be used to continue the promotional efforts. That will include content development, website work, paid advertising, promotion of events and distribution of maps of the region to Colorado welcome centers.

The Colorado Creative Corridor’s mission is to invite tourists to visit lesser-known recreational spots and experience mountain towns in a different way. The group developed a map of the area around the five towns, designed by Carbondale artist Laura Stover, and itineraries of suggested activities.

The Colorado Tourism Office awarded matching grants to 23 organizations for 2019, ranging from small awards of around $11,000 to $25,000, the maximum amount.

Carbondale and the other four towns are designated as creative districts by the state, making them eligible for certain grants to help attract greater artistic and entrepreneurial energy. The Creative Corridor is the first collaboration of designated creative districts that have begun working together to promote tourism.

Carbondale Tourism spokesperson Sarah-Jane Johnson said the Colorado Creative Corridor came about as the town was trying to find creative ways to promote tourism.

“The funding for most tourism marketing that we do comes from lodging tax,” Johnson said. With relatively few accommodations, Carbondale began looking for ways to tap into funding from the state tourism office.

When Carbondale received the creative district registration, it seemed natural to collaborate with other local mountain communities with the same designation.

“This is the first real collaboration of creative districts to promote tourism offerings,” Johnson said.


Garfield County opioid, meth issue priority for Commissioner Tom Jankovsky in 3rd term

Last week, Garfield County voters re-elected County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky to serve a third term in office, during which Jankovsky has pledged to combat the opioid and methamphetamine issue.

It’s a larger issue that has not only plagued the country and Colorado as a whole, but has also taken a fatal toll on Garfield County.

“If it is going to be addressed, it has to be addressed locally,” Jankovsky said following his re-election. “I thought with an improving economy that this issue might decrease, but it has not. It has actually increased.”

The Republican commissioner from Glenwood Springs was re-elected with 52 percent of the countywide vote over Democratic challenger Paula Stepp in balloting that concluded Nov. 6.

Jankovsky, who sits on the county’s Human Services Commission, speaking frankly said he was not entirely sure what role he could play as it pertained to working on the opioid and methamphetamine crisis, but he emphasized education and partnering with other agencies.

According to Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario, for many years in Garfield County methamphetamine has been the drug of choice among users, and remains so. However, opioids, both through prescription abuse and via street drugs like heroine, has increased.

“One of the challenges we have had in Garfield County is the lack of a detox facility,” said Vallario, who also easily won re-election over write-in challenger Paramroop Khalsa.

“We have not had one in years, so the opportunity for immediate and continued care is lacking,” Vallario said of the lack of a detox facility.

While numerous funding structures for such a facility have been modeled before, according to Vallario, no agreement between the necessary entities like local government and area hospitals has been reached.

“It is frustrating, because other communities have great success with funding a detox, but not us,” he added. “That is clearly an area where the BOCC [Board of County Commissioners] and partners can work to improve the opioid issue.”

Jankovsky described how, while sitting on the Human Services Commission, he has seen firsthand the groups that work on the back end of the issue, such as A Way Out. The nonprofit organization based in Western Colorado, among other services, provides free substance-use disorder and mental health assessments.

“How do we get on the front end of this?” Jankovsky asks. “Law Enforcement is a different perspective, but they are taking care of the issue kind of on the back end, as well.

“How can we get into a more preventative situation, and I do not have the answer to that other than … more education,” Jankovsky added. “It is a new initiative, a new direction for me, but I plan on working with the groups and being at meetings and, from there, there will be some solutions.”

A licensed addiction counselor, Oyen Hoffman has treated substance abuse disorders for 17 years and for the last three has served as a substance abuse treatment supervisor for Mountain Family Health Centers.

“Per Capita, the Roaring Fork Valley averages about the same as the rest of the country when we think about opioid use disorders and overdose deaths from opioid use,” Hoffman said. “In the state of Colorado, we have the equivalent of two fully loaded jumbo jets crashing every year, killing everybody on board.”

Hoffman adds, “We know that substance use disorders are the highest potentially avoidable costs in health care, so if they wanted to save money they would want to invest in treating substance use disorders, across the board, and if we are talking about opioid-use disorders, we would want to use something called MAT [Medication-Assisted Treatment]. … It is the gold standard for treating opioid use disorders today.”

MAT uses a variety of medications to replace street opiates.

“Ninety percent of people on MAT stop their IV drug use. So we prevent the overdose deaths and we also prevent the health complications that come along with street heroin use,” Hoffman added.

When asked how local government could help fight the issue of opioid and methamphetamine addiction, Hoffman stated, “It is all of the above. … The economy idea is great, but a job does not treat a disease like addiction. Only treatment treats a disease like addiction.

“Going to jail does not treat the disease of addiction,” Hoffman also said. “These folks are not bad. Bad behavior usually comes with the addiction, and if we treat the addiction the way we know how to treat it, the bad behavior usually goes away.”

Sheriff Vallario added, “We all work together within our respective areas of responsibility to address this problem to improve our community.”

That’s a sentiment Jankovsky shares and has pledged to hone in on in his third term.

“It is a commitment on my part,” Jankovsky said.


Vail, Beaver Creek opening early for 2018-19 season

VAIL — With more than 4 feet of natural snowfall last week and cold temperatures helping with snowmaking conditions, Vail and Beaver Creek mountains will join other Colorado resorts in opening early for the 2018-19 season.

Vail, originally slated to open Friday, Nov. 16, will open for the season on Wednesday, Nov. 14, at 9 a.m. Beaver Creek will open Saturday, Nov. 17, four days ahead of its scheduled Nov. 21 opening date.

Vail will open with skiing and riding out of both Vail Village and Lionshead with more than 500 skiable acres and access to seven lifts:

  • Gondola One
  • Eagle Bahn Gondola (#19)
  • Born Free Express Lift (#8)
  • Avanti Express (#2)
  • Wildwood Express Lift (#3)
  • Mountain Top Express Lift (#4)
  • Little Eagle Lift (#15)

Beaver Creek will open with more than 220 beginner and intermediate skiable acres with access to four lifts:

  • Centennial Express (#6)
  • Cinch Express (#8)
  • Red Buffalo Express (#5)
  • Haymeadow Express Gondola (#1)Vail will offer top-to-bottom skiing and riding through Lionshead Village as well as upload and download access to the Mid-Vail area via Gondola One. Complimentary breakfast burritos and hot cocoa will also be available for early risers. (At Vail, the Golden Peak base area and Riva Bahn Express Lift are a designated race training area only.

    Beaver Creek will have top-to-bottom access via Cinch Express, as well as the beginner terrain in Red Buffalo Park. Opening Day festivities include a special Cookie Time in the morning.

    Slow down, cowboy

    All skiers and snowboarders are reminded that they must observe all posted signs, closures and slow zones, especially during the early-season. Closed trails may contain hazards due to early snow coverage. Accessing closed terrain is a violation of the Colorado Ski Safety Act and will result in the loss of skiing privileges and could involve prosecution and a fine.

    “We are thrilled to be kicking off the 2018-19 season by opening early and truly setting the tone for the season to come at both Vail and Beaver Creek,” said Doug Lovell, Vail chief operating officer. “This is the first time we’ve been able to open both resorts early in more than 10 years. We owe a big thank you to our mountain operations teams for their hard work in making this possible for our loyal guests and season pass holders.”

    Passes and Parking

    Epic Pass: The last chance to purchase the 2018-19 Epic Pass is by Sunday, Nov. 18. The pass provides access to more than 65 resorts in eight countries and costs $949. The entire lineup of passes is available for purchase at http://www.epicpass.com.

    Parking at Beaver Creek: Parking is $10 per day at the Bear and Elk lots at Beaver Creek, and complimentary after 1 p.m. A 10-day punch pass is available for $75 at ticket offices in the village. Free shuttle service is provided from each lot. For more information regarding parking, call 970-949-4911.

    For more information, visit http://www.vail.com and http://www.beavercreek.com.

Snowmass Village and Basalt have fire district levies passed

Separate proposals by the fire districts of Basalt and Snowmass Village to adjust their mill levies to maintain current property tax revenue levels were approved by overwhelming margins by voters in Tuesday's election.

Preliminary results showed the Basalt and Rural Fire Protection District ballot question had an insurmountable lead. Early voting from Pitkin and Eagle counties showed there were 3,235 in favor and 778 against. That's a margin of 81 percent to 19 percent in favor, according to the clerk's offices.

The vote on the Snowmass-Wildcat Fire Protection District question was 673 in favor and 265 against though numerous votes were still to be counted in Pitkin County.

"I feel very grateful that our constituents would support us," said Ed Van Walraven, president of the Basalt district's board of directors.

Without voter approval to adjust the mill levies and keep revenues, Basalt would have lost an estimated $279,000 in 2020 while Snowmass would have lost $373,000.

"We carry on without this cloud hanging over our head," Van Walraven said.

The Basalt fire department, which also handles emergency medical response, will be able to carry on the same services people have come to depend on, he said.

Bill Boineau, president of the Snowmass-Wildcat Fire Protection District, also expressed gratitude for the community support.

"There had been concern the community might not support it," Boineau said. The district had successfully got a property tax increase a couple of years ago to fund construction of a new firehouse.

Colorado Ballot Questions: Voters reject oil and gas setbacks

Seeking to establish new setback restrictions between oil and gas operations and homes, Proposition 112 was shot down by Colorado voters on Tuesday as oil and gas facility statewide setbacks will remain 500 feet from residences.

While the proposal received both widespread criticism and support from officials throughout Colorado, just being on the ballot, which required nearly 100,000 signatures from Colorado residents, may open the door for future setback rules discussion in Colorado, supporters said.

The current setback rules, established by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in 2013, set a 500-foot statewide setback from residences, as well as a 1,000-foot setback from high occupancy buildings such as schools, nursing homes and hospitals.

As of 10 p.m. Tuesday, the measure was failing in the statewide vote with 57 percent opposed.

Prop 112 sought to push that setback to at least 2,500 feet from occupied buildings and other vulnerable areas.

Prop 109 38.7% For, 61.4% Against

Prop 110 40.33% For, 59.67% Against

As of 10 p.m., both propositions 109 and 110, which would both provide funding for transportation initiatives, appeared headed toward failure.

Proposition 109, otherwise known as "Fix Our Damn Roads," was losing by a margin of over 300,000 votes. Proposition 110, better known as "Let's Go Colorado," was losing by more than 340,000 votes.

Proposition 109 would have authorized $3.5 billion in bonds to fund statewide road projects — primarily bridge expansion, construction, maintenance and repairs. Proposition 110 would have raised the state's sales tax rate by 0.62 percent for 20 years to fund transportation projects.

Amendment Y 71.26% For, 28.74% Against

Amendment Z 70.87% For, 29.13% Against

The proposal to establish a new process for congressional and state legislative redistricting has earned the overwhelming support of Colorado voters.

The amendments were passed by a three-to-one margin with roughly 71 percent of statewide voters casting their ballots in favor of Y and Z, which garnered wide bipartisan support.

Amendments Y and Z will create a commission made up of four Republicans, four Democrats and four unaffiliated members, with half chosen by lottery and half chosen by a panel of retired judges.

Amendment 73 44.29% For, 55.71% Against

For the third time in eight years, Colorado voters turned down additional state funding for education Tuesday as Amendment 73 was defeated.

As of 10 p.m., the amendment held 43.29 percent of votes tallied; the amendment needed a 55 percent super-majority in favor to pass. Amendment 73 would have generated $1.6 billion through an increased tax scale on the state's flat tax (which is 4.63 percent) for those individuals and companies making between $150,000 and $500,000.

Amendment A 65% For, 35% Against

Slavery is officially prohibited under all circumstances in Colorado after voters approved a ballot measure to remove the exception to allow slavery or indentured servitude in the case of punishment for a crime.

The majority of voters, 65 percent, voted to remove the exemption from the Colorado Constitution.

Supporters said it was important to remove the exception for moral and ethical reasons. Though the measure would not have a direct impact on prison reform, proponents believe the change reflects the state's values of freedom and equality and the vote is important symbolically.

Amendment V 34.8% For, 65.2% Against

Colorado voters decided not to lower the age limit to serve as a representative or senator from 25 to 21 years old. More than 65 percent of votes were cast against lowering the age requirements for state office, as of 10 p.m.

Amendment W 53.24% For, 46.76% Against

As of press time, it was unclear whether citizens of Colorado will find a different format for judge retention questions in future elections.

Amendment W, a 2018 ballot measure that seeks to change the format of judge retention questions in future elections. As of 10 p.m. with 1.7 million ballots counted, the amendment had about 53 percent of the vote. The amendment needs a 55 percent super-majority to go into effect.

Amendment X 60.71% For, 39.29% Against

More than 60 percent of statewide Colorado voters favored the change of the state's official definition of industrial hemp, as of 10 p.m. The basis of the ballot measure comes from Colorado's Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana in the state when the voters approved it in 2012. Amendment 64 created a constitutional definition for "industrial hemp."

Amendment 74 46.5% For, 53.5% Against

This measure would have allowed property owners to file a takings claim against the government when a government action or regulation reduces their property's value. It was turned down by voters by a 53.5-percent to 46.5-percent margin with more than 1.7 million votes counted at 10 p.m. Tuesday night.

It needed 55 percent of the vote to pass.

Amendment 75 33.86% For, 66,14% Against

State voters appeared to overwhelmingly reject a constitutional amendment that could help those running against wealthy candidates. In statewide results as of 10 p.m. Tuesday, Amendment 75 was being soundly defeated by a 66 percent to 34 percent margin.

The amendment was an attempt to cut the campaign spending advantage held by wealthy candidates.

Prop 111 76.67% For, 23.33% Against

Proposition 111 places interest rate limits on payday loan service, and as of 10 p.m. nearly 77 percent of voters supported the proposition.

The proposition will do away with the current fee structure and instead implement a maximum annual percentage rate of 36 percent on the payday loan industry.

Colorado Mountain College easily wins tax revenue proposal

Western Colorado voters approved Colorado Mountain College's bid to adjust property tax rates during lean budget years in a ballot initiative Tuesday.

Early results for the college's district — which includes Garfield, Eagle, Pitkin, Lake, Routt and Summit counties — showed the measure winning with more than 70 percent support.

Ballot Question 7D was not a property tax, but a way for the college to make up for budget shortfalls caused when the state reduces property tax assessment rates. The CMC board of directors had asked for the ability to change the mill levy rates in order to restore tax revenue that may be lost when the assessment rate changes in the future.

"We are honored that voters in our communities took the time to learn about how a quirk in the state Constitution put local services in rural areas at risk and have entrusted the college with the ability to maintain revenues that otherwise would have been lost," the board of trustees said in a statement Tuesday.

"We humbly accept this responsibility and are committed to providing the essential education and training that our students, employers and communities need to meet the demands of our regional economy."

The residential mill levy is typically adjusted down, due to the Gallagher Amendment to the state Constitution, which requires a certain percentage of revenue to come from businesses compared with residential property taxes. That system has caused CMC to lose revenue, according to the board.

CMC proposed a similar change to offset losses from the Gallagher Amendment during the 2017 election, but that measure was defeated with around 45 percent report.

As part of the ballot language, CMC promised to maintain a transparent accounting of how it uses its funds and its justification for increasing a mill levy over the assessment rate.

"As has always been true, we will continue to publicly and transparently report the actions of the CMC Board of Trustees, when and if they ever exercise the provisions of 7D," the statement said.

In 2017, CMC changed employee benefits and implemented reductions in operations, along with raising tuition, to accommodate the drop in revenue. If the assessment rate drops in 2019 — a certainty unless the legislature can devise a way to change Gallagher — the college would have faced an additional reduction for $3.8 million without the passage of 7D, according to the trustees.

Critics of the measure said that in future years, if CMC raises the mill levy rate as the assessment rate drops, it would be, in effect a tax not subject to community vote.


Eagle County Commissioner: Jeanne McQueeney solidly wins re-election

EDWARDS — As she entered the Eagle County Democrats' watch party in Edwards on Tuesday night supporters told District 3 county commissioner candidate Jeanne McQueeney that she had already won her re-election race.

"I couldn't get my head around that. People were staying that to me, and I just couldn't process it at all," McQueeney said.

But when the first results were reported at 7:15 p.m., McQueeney had already built up a commanding lead over her Republican challenger, Jacqueline Cartier. That lead held through the night. According to unofficial results posted around 1:30 a.m., McQueeney had amassed 12,176 votes to Cartier's 7,195 — a 63 percent to 37 percent difference.

Working families

McQueeney's campaign centered on what she believed were important issues for Eagle County working families — housing, early childhood education, quality of life and mental health.

"It's always good to go out and knock on doors and talk with people," McQueeney said. "Generally people seem to like the direction the county has taken."

That was particularly true regarding the issue of affordable housing.

"I did a lot of door knocking, and affordable housing was people's No. 1 issue," McQueeney said.

The Vail Valley Partnership's recent Eagle County Workforce Study showed that 61 percent of the employees surveyed cited finding affordable housing as a "major frustration." McQueeney said that during her first term as a county commissioner, more than 683 affordable housing units were approved for construction by the county.

McQueeney said the commissioners are always looking for ways to do more. In August, they announced plans for a 22-unit workforce housing project adjacent to the Castle Peak Senior Care Community in the Eagle Ranch neighborhood. The $6.5 million project, which is proposed as a joint effort between Eagle County and the Eagle County Housing and Development Authority, can eventually transition into an independent living center associated with Castle Peak Senior Care Community.

Mental health

Out on the campaign trail, McQueeney said Eagle County residents also cited improved mental health services as a priority.

"We are so fortunate the voters approved mental health funding in 2018. That has allowed us to build up a program and start to fill in some of the gaps," she said.

Health care costs and transportation improvements were also on voters' minds this year, McQueeney said. She noted the solutions to those problems extend beyond the reach of the Eagle County commissioners, but the current board is working with other leaders throughout the state to address the issues.

McQueeney added she was thrilled by the results from the county open space ballot question, which drew 81 percent support.

"I loved the margin of the open space victory," she said. "That shows support for the overall open space program and for the most recent open space purchases."

Steady snowfall allows Breckenridge, Keystone to open early for first time in almost 10 years

The past week's parade of impressive snow storms here in the High Country have resulted in such promising conditions that Vail Resorts' two premier Summit County properties will open early, each for the first time in nearly a decade.

Both Breckenridge Ski Resort and Keystone Resort will open on Wednesday, rather than the originally-planned Friday, for the 2018-19 winter season. The resort's say up to five feet of snow has fallen across Breckenridge and Keystone since mid-October, with up to four feet of snow in the past week alone.

At Breckenridge, lifts will open at 9 a.m., while the BreckConnect Gondola will provide access from town to Peak 8 beginning at 8 a.m. On Peak 8, skiers and riders will have access to terrain off of the Colorado SuperChair and Rip’s Ride. The resort says terrain updates will continue to be made throughout the week.

Keystone will offer skiing and riding on beginner trails Schoolmarm and Silver Spoon, with access provided by the River Run Gondola and the Montezuma Express Chairlift on the frontside of Keystone's main peak, Dercum Mountain, beginning at 9 a.m. There will be an early season A51 Terrain Park located on Schoolmarm with eight features.

Soon thereafter, Keystone will officially open North Peak on Friday, Nov. 9 with intermediate terrain available. Guests will have access to the intermediate trail Prospector via the Outpost Gondola and Santiago Express.

To celebrate opening on Wednesday at Breckenridge, guests can enjoy complimentary waffles provided by The Waffle Shop — a new on-mountain dining offering that will open this season at The Maggie on Peak 9 — and music from DJ DC.

Additional opening weekend celebrations will continue on the morning of Friday, Nov. 9 with the Brothers of Brass, bringing the sounds of New Orleans street music to the slopes of Breck. The resort will also honor a local Veteran and the Summit County High School choir will perform the National Anthem prior to first chair.

“This is the first time in nearly 10 years that either Breckenridge or Keystone will be opening early,” said John Buhler, Breckenridge’s vice president and chief operating officer. “It’s been a snowy start to the season and it is official; the skiing and snowboarding season is here. We are thrilled to kick off the winter season this week and anticipate opening up a variety of terrain quickly at the resorts.”

On Wednesday, Keystone will offer homemade breakfast treats from Keystone’s new executive pastry chef, as well as hot chocolate and coffee at the base of River Run Gondola.

Guests will also have access to ski and snowboard lessons with the Keystone Ski & Ride School, rentals, food and beverage options including 9280 Tap House and Starbucks in River Run Village, and the Summit House atop Dercum Mountain.

Then on Friday, Keystone will celebrate with raffles and prizes, including Helly Hansen hats and backpacks and Starbucks gift packs, music and expanded terrain.

Despite the in-bounds openings, uphill access at both Breckenridge and Keystone is currently not permitted due to early season mountain preparations and snowmaking. Each resort says they will announce when uphill access is open to guests once early season operations are complete and there's adequate terrain to safely permit.

Skier causes avalanche in Summit County, able to self-rescue

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center is reporting the first case of a human caught in an avalanche in or around Summit County this season.

The incident was minor, and the skier was unharmed and able to self-rescue.

According to the CAIC's avalanche report, the incident occurred in a popular touring area in the slopes above the North Star neighborhood, directly above County Road 2. The avalanche was likely caused by the collapse of a slab of old snow under the season's new snow.

A small pocket within the slide stepped down to the ground while the caught skier was touring below the slope. The skier then yelled "Avalanche!" when the slide quietly broke.

Only a few inches of snow washed over his skis, but he tripped, falling downhill. The skier's lower body was partially buried. The skier was moved a little over 3 yards downhill on the toe of the slide.

Both the skier and companion were equipped with appropriate gear and beacons.