Mountain Town News |

Mountain Town News

Banff, Alberta Prescribed burns have tourism officials upsetThree wildfires near the Banff townsite in the past three years, one of them unnervingly close, have led local fire managers to start plotting deliberate fires, to prevent out-of-control fires.Parks Canada, which administers Banff National Park, is planning to burn 1,330 hectares (2,226 acres) during the coming decades. But the idea of smoking up the Bow River Valley has some tourism officials sounding alarm bells, reports the Rocky Mountain Outlook. Smoke in the valley would be disastrous for the tourism industry, said Julie Canning, president and chief executive officer of Banff Lake Louise Tourism.Minturn, Colo. Giant real estate plan annexed into MinturnThe camel officially is in the tent. Last week the Minturn Town Council approved on second reading the annexation of 4,300 acres of former mining lands planned for high-end real estate development. Not yet authorized are the 1,700 homes, ski area and golf course proposed by the Ginn Co., a Florida-based developer. The property is located south of Vail, and adjacent to a one-time mining town, Red Cliff. The story goes back to the late 1980s, more than a decade after zinc- and lead-mining operations in the area were suspended. A trio of lawyers began buying the properties, many of which had been purchased for back taxes by speculators. Ginn purchased the property several years ago for $35 million.There has been some grumbling in Minturn all along by residents who fear the impacts. Already, Main Street becomes crowded morning and night with commuters headed to homes in Leadville, 35 miles away. There is no easy way to reroute traffic in the narrow valley.The agreement between Minturn and Red Cliff calls for new sidewalks along Main Street, a recreation center, water-system upgrades, and a large amount of affordable housing.Because Minturn has very few sales, town officials for years have struggled with how to make ends meet. Had Minturn not embraced the project, the landowner would have been granted the right to build at least 179 houses, plus accessory units, under Colorado law. Some believe that Red Cliff, the other adjoining town, would have cut a deal with Ginn had Minturn not done so.Crested Butte, Colo. Cloud-seeding finally ends at Crested ButteCloud-seeding operations were suspended in late February because of the snowpack, which is consistently above 150 percent of average in the Gunnison River Basin, and in places is 160 percent of average. The basin has been seeded every year since 2002 by a consortium of agriculture, water and resort organizations, explains the Crested Butte News.Silverton, Colo. Temperatures rise about motors in the San JuansSnowmobilers are mad, and theyre just not going to take it anymore. A proposal being considered by U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management administrators for land between Silverton and Ouray calls for a prohibition of snowmobiles from a section of public lands southeast of Red Mountain Pass.Observers say there has been an increase in use of the pass by snowmobilers in the last several years. In the last century, there were virtually no snowmobilers, and now there are many. Advances in snowmobile technology including lighter chassis, more powerful engines and deeper paddles are allowing them to go where they previously could not go.The Ouray Watch says that one question from snowmobilers is that with motorized use exploding, why are land managers reducing the areas where motors are allowed? Another question and one for which the land managers have no real answer is how will the snowmobile ban be enforced? Skiers want historic use as the template for management. Historic use? This used to be Indian country. We ran them all out, said one snowmobiler, with the royal we meaning all those who had followed, skiers and snowmobilers. Change, he seemed to be saying, is the norm.Telluride, Colo. Town hopes to avert worst of frog-stranglersThree times in the last century a creek that descends through the middle of Telluride before emptying into the San Miguel River has overflowed its banks, the most recent case being last summer. In certain parts of the country, they call such deluges frog-stranglers.Last summers deluge, in which Coronet Creek carried 500 cubic feet of water per second, was tame compared with other summertime cloudbursts in 1969 and 1914, which resulted in floods of 9,000 cfs and 14,000 cfs, respectively. Still, last years flood was enough to cause town officials to take action. They have now agreed to spend $1.5 million during the next two years to enlarge culverts, increasing the capacity of the streambed to 500 cfs. That, obviously, wont handle the bigger floods, but it will require removing 380 dump trucks of material. As well, the creek will have to be cleaned out again every year, as yet more material from the basins continues to erode.Because of all the houses and other structures built along the creeks banks, its impossible to carve out a channel large enough to accommodate the sort of flood that the past suggests is likely in the future.Rico, Colo. Molybdenum mining deal droppedBolero, a giant mining company, has scrapped plans to purchase mining properties east of Rico, which is south of Telluride. The land in question has molybdenum deposits as well as gold and copper, but Bolero could not cut the necessary business deals, according to a notice filed by the company.Crested Butte, Colo. Mile-long tunnel is latest in mine storyOwners of 5,000 acres on a mountain adjacent to the town of Crested Butte propose to drill an 8-by-10-foot tunnel into the mountain in order to retrieve core samples to demonstrate the extent and quality of the molybdenum deposits. State regulators have approved the mile-long tunnel for the project, now called Lucky Jack, but the mining company must still receive authorization from Gunnison County and the town of Crested Butte. Crested Butte last August adopted a moratorium on all development within the towns watershed, which includes Mount Emmons, aka the Red Lady, where the molybdenum deposit is located. The moratorium has now been extended to June.The ore deposit, the subject of intense displeasure in Crested Butte for the last 30 years, is estimated to contain 22 million tons of high-grade molybdenum ore and 220 million tons of low-grade molybdenum. The latter would make the deposit more extensive than that found at either the Henderson Mine, located near Berthoud Pass, or Climax Mine, near Leadville and Copper Mountain.An environmental group in Crested Butte disputed the need for the new tunnel. Bob Slalter, mineral resource director of the High Country Citizens Alliance, predicted water-quality problems and declared that the real intent of the tunnel would be for future mining operations, not simply to document the ore body.Granby, Colo. Land developer says refinancing will occurNational financial uncertainties are causing a slowdown in development at Granby, where development of a giant high-end project called Orvis Shorefox is under way. The project has entitlements to build 600 housing units and 100 commercial accommodations in a resort along the Colorado River that is focused on fly-fishing, among other recreational amenities.There, development officials acknowledge what is described as a change in long-term financing.This is taking longer than expected, given the unsettled conditions in the financial markets and the continuing effects of the subprime meltdown, said Susan Penta, a spokeswoman for Orvis Shorefox. The developers include Grand Elk Ranch, which is doing another project nearby, although for a market aimed at a lower price point.Although Penta described it as not news and not unusual, Granby town officials said they would not allow further changes in the development plan until the money, $30,282, gets paid to the town. Some subcontractors are awaiting payment for work done in 2006.Shorefox Development is working to rectify this situation and intends to get it completed, but it will take additional time and certainly more time than was anticipated, said Penta. She said recapitalization is expected by the time the snow melts. Park City, Utah Swastika allowed to promote performanceA swastika appeared on the marquee of Park Citys premier theater, the Egyptian, and police were summoned. But they did nothing. The symbol, used by Adolf Hitlers Nazis, among others, had been posted for a presentation of a musical called Cabaret, which is set in pre-World War II Germany.Police told The Park Record that the symbol was protected by U.S. Constitutions guarantee of freedom of speech.Play promoters had worried about public response, going so far as to query Jewish groups beforehand. But rabbi Josh Aaronson had no problems with use of the symbol. The play doesnt glorify Nazis. It was, he said, a non-issue.Hailey, Idaho Town considers energy-efficient carrotTown officials in Hailey, located about 15 miles downstream form Ketchum and Sun Valley, are looking to offer carrots, not sticks, in their goal of reducing energy. One proposal now before the City Council would defer building-permit fees for homes built to Energy Star standards. Such homes almost always have more efficient water heaters and furnaces, and are also built more tightly, to avoid heat loss. They are at least 15 percent more energy-efficient than those built to uniform building code standards. In Boise, they would also add a cost of $2,250 to $3,750 for a 15,000-square-foot home to the sticker price, although the presumption is that the money would be returned in the form of lower natural gas and electricity bills within just a few years.Ketchum, Idaho Idaho real-estate sales prices still in shroudsIn Idaho, legislators have again refused a law that would make the sales prices of homes and other real estate property a matter of public record. Right now, public officials must keep the sales prices secret.Driving this continued secrecy, says the Idaho Mountain Express, is a fear that this might lead to fees on real estate transfers. Such fees exist in Colorado, with no harm to the real estate economy, says the newspaper.Resort economies have different needs than those based on agriculture, mining, logging and high tech, says the Express. They operate under worldwide economic pressures that most Idaho legislators apparently cannot imagine, let alone respond to creatively.Indeed, until 1992, Colorado did allow real estate transfer taxes, which were commonly collected by towns to fund open-space transactions. New fees can no longer be imposed by cities, towns or counties, although private developers can incorporate such fees into their projects. Such is the case of Beaver Creek, for example, and in Steamboat Springs there are two such projects. Allen Best compiles Mountain Town News. He can be reached at