| AspenTimes.com

Mountain bikers: Continue to stay socially distant, notice wildlife closures, wet trails

As the snow melts and the novel coronavirus lingers, getting out on the mountain bike trails will become difficult to pass up. And while local officials are encouraging people to get outside and exercise, it needs to be done in a way that won’t go against social distancing protocols or ruin the trails for other riders.

“You can definitely go to trailheads and go out and do exercise, but it’s not really meant for you to do with a ton of friends and hang out in the parking lot,” Pitkin County Open Space and Trails director Gary Tennenbaum said. “As long as you practice social distancing and you really limit your group size, getting out for a bike ride is completely healthy and really something that will reduce your stress and it’s totally something we want people to be able to do.”

However, the spread of COVID-19 isn’t the only concern. Many of the trails in the Roaring Fork Valley, especially from the midvalley up, are far from ready and it’s important that people stay off of them despite having cabin fever.

The reasoning is twofold: seasonal closures for wildlife and limiting trail damage.

“If the trails are dry, we are not telling people to hold off. Our biggest thing is don’t ride muddy trails,” Tennenbaum said. “And whichever ones are closed seasonally are still closed seasonally. Wildlife doesn’t know anything about this virus whatsoever. So the reality for the seasonal trails is you need to say off of those until they are open.”

There are many trails that won’t be open until later this month, if not well into the summer months, for wildlife, and notably for elk calving. Regardless of the weather or any pandemics, wildlife has priority in those areas and recreation is strictly forbidden until those closures are lifted. This includes popular routes such as the Government Trail.

“That’s one of the reasons a lot of people enjoy living in Colorado and in the mountains, is that we are sharing our spaces with beautiful creatures and we want the populations to remain healthy,” said Mike Pritchard, the executive director for the Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association, which does a lot of trail maintenance in the valley. “But respecting those closures is important for the mountain bike community as a whole because when we respect the closures the land managers gain confidence when they build, let’s say, a new trail that has to have a similar closure. They can proceed with confidence that that sensitive season and that closure will be respected.”

Other trails that may not be in sensitive wildlife management areas can remain closed as the trails dry. Whether it’s the county or independent organizations like RFMBA, one message remains the same: do not ride on muddy trails. Tennenbaum called it a “major no-no” and Pritchard wanted to emphasize the work and manpower that is involved to repair trails damaged while ridden in wet conditions.

“We’ve got our slogan out there on a bunch of trails in the valley; we like to say, ‘Ride dirt, not mud.’ It’s not just in the spring. It can happen all summer long, especially in late summer and monsoon season with afternoon thunderstorms,” Pritchard said. “So if people are patient and wait until the trails are dry, it means less maintenance. It means trails stay in better shape.”

Pritchard said most mountain bike trails are built in a way where water runs off the side and not down the trail itself. When trails are ridden while wet, such as during mudseason, small ruts can develop, as well as berm-like features that can trap water on the trails. This, over time, can ruin trails and ruin a rider’s experience.

“A lot of the spring season we spend time educating people about those closures and openings, and the reminder is to ride dirt, not mud,” Pritchard said. “We are lucky we live in a fairly dry environment where the trails do dry out pretty quickly after rainstorms. But whether it’s after a rainstorm or in the spring when a lot of snow is melting and the trails are still wet in certain sections, you are right to bring up that ruts can easily be formed.”

As it goes every spring, mountain bikers are encouraged to stay away from those wet trails and out of wildlife areas. While Gov. Jared Polis has extended the state’s stay-at-home order through April, Tennenbaum said there is nothing wrong with going for a ride as long as people follow social distancing protocol and stick to the dirt.

Unfortunately for those in Aspen, this can mean longer drives to find dry trails, including trips out of the valley. And as long as COVID-19 continues to be present, such travel is discouraged. Meaning, locals will need to be extra patient and extra smart about their two-wheeled adventures this spring.

“I would emphasize people need to be kind to each other and friendly and they need to step off the trail extra distance and turn your face away, if that makes sense,” Pritchard suggested of riding crowded trails. “It’s a time to go out and enjoy this pursuit solo. At this point I wouldn’t encourage people to gather or even ride with a group of friends, even if they are trying to keep their distance. It’s just not a good time for that yet.”

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Aspen Skiing Co’s Pandora’s ski lift and terrain proposal to be tabled again

The proposal to expand Aspen Mountain’s ski operations by adding terrain and a chairlift in the area known as Pandora’s is slated to be tabled by the Pitkin County commissioners again Wednesday.

The delay is being sought by Aspen Skiing Co. to provide more time to refine the proposal.

“We have been refining our proposed plan, researching and gathering additional data and information in support of it, and considering amendments or alternative for submission to the county and consideration by the Planning Commission, before returning to the (county commissioners) with substantive proposals,” Skico said in a statement. “We’d hoped to submit materials to county staff by now, but the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted and delayed our efforts. We’ll proceed as quickly as we can given the constraints of home sheltering and social distancing.”

The commissioners’ also tabled the hearing in January. Suzanne Wolff, assistant director of the Pitkin County Community Development Department, said staff would recommend tabling the issue for another three months.

The county commissioners were deadlocked Aug. 27 on a critical rezoning of land necessary for the expansion. Skico asked the county to rezone 132 acres from Rural and Remote to Ski-Recreation and rezone another 35 acres from Agriculture Residential to Ski-Rec.

Commissioners Steve Child and Kelly McNicholas Kury opposed the rezoning. Commissioners Greg Poschman and George Newman supported it. Commissioner Patti Clapper recused herself because her son-in-law works for Skico.

Child suggested that Skico could reconfigure the alignment of the proposed Pandora’s chairlift to avoid changing the Rural and Remote Zoning. Skico officials were hesitant to go that route because the cost of adding the lift would yield only a small amount of terrain. It is unknown what direction their refinements are taking.

Pitkin County’s financial health good despite virus impacts

Thanks to a large bump in sales tax revenue and 2020 financial planning that included fears of a recession, Pitkin County’s current and post-coronavirus budget outlook is fairly good, officials said Tuesday.

“Because we budgeted conservatively, it puts us in a better position to deal with some of the loss we’ll see this year,” county Budget Director Connie Baker said.

And while it’s too early to know the true financial impacts of COVID-19, county finance officials believe the pandemic will have an approximately $3 million negative impact on this year’s budget, and a possible $7 million impact over five years, said Baker and Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock.

“Our foresight put us in a position where we can be strategic in how we approach this,” Peacock told county commissioners Tuesday during their regular weekly work session.

However, he warned that it was still early in the pandemic to accurately calculate the true impact. In a worst-case scenario, the county could end up having to absorb an approximately $13 million negative impact over five years because of the coronavirus, Peacock said.

“We’re trying to calculate the unprecedented shock to the economy,” he said, noting that analysts will likely need 30 to 60 more days for a better understanding. “It’s very, very early in the cycle of this economic impact.”

Pitkin County’s budget is generally made up of revenue sources that include sales tax, property tax, use taxes, fee-based monies and government grants. Of those, sales tax is the most volatile, Baker said.

Partially due to much higher 2019 sales tax collections, Pitkin County added $3.5 million more to its general fund that was initially budgeted back in December when commissioners approved the $141.7 million 2020 budget, Baker said.

That larger sales tax revenue turned out to be 22.4% higher in 2019 than it was in 2018, she said. The increased sales tax, which was reported to the county in February, was thanks to a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision that allowed the state to collect sales tax on internet sales beginning last year, as well as state court decision that positively affected the county’s sales tax collection, Baker said.

In addition, county sales tax collection was up 13% in January over 2019 and estimated to be 10% higher in February, Baker and Peacock said Tuesday. March sales tax is expected to be 50% to 60% lower this year than last March because the economy shut down midway through the month, Peacock said.

The upper Roaring Fork Valley naturally sees a dramatic decrease in sales tax collection in April because of the offseason. However, the combination of more people being kept in town this year than in a regular offseason thanks to restrictive public health orders and anecdotal information indicating an increase in online shopping might temper April’s sales tax losses to somewhere in the 15% to 20% range, Peacock said. The real question surrounds Aspen’s summer economy, he said.

“We will probably be unwinding (the public health orders) by then … but there’s been so many cancellations,” Peacock said.

Pitkin County experienced a 3.4% drop in sales tax collection after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and it took two years to regain the losses, Baker said. The 2008-09 recession forced a 17.4% drop in county sales tax collections, which took five years to overcome, she said.

Commissioner George Newman said he thinks the current situation is more akin to 9/11 than the Wall Street-triggered “sub-prime mortgage fiasco” of a decade ago.

“This wasn’t an economic crisis, this was a health crisis,” he said Tuesday. “So getting back to the 9/11 scenario … when people can travel again, it will provide a better turnaround timeframe.”

The county’s other revenue sources don’t look bad, either.

Property taxes are based on valuations done in June 2018, so revenue projections that fund the Open Space and Trails program, the Ambulance District, the Healthy Community Fund and the library won’t change, Baker said.

The fee-based funds — which include the Community Development Department, the airport and the landfill — appear to be in relatively good shape, she said. The Aspen-Pitkin County Airport is already slated to receive $3.5 million in federal stimulus funds, Peacock said Tuesday.

Finally, those departments like Health and Human Services, Public Health and Road and Bridge that rely more on government grants and not yet expected to be hard hit by the virus, Baker said.

Also, the county is not considering layoffs for county staff members, Peacock said.

Pitkin County’s outlook is a somewhat reminiscent of the situation in Snowmass Village, where the town manager said Monday that despite declining projected sales tax revenue, the municipality is on solid ground.

jauslander@aspentimes.com

Airport expansion not expected to fix pollution, noise

Before the COVID-19 pandemic prompted stay-at-home orders and caused an abrupt decline in flights, a busy weekend in March would have meant a long line of jets on the taxiway at the Aspen airport.

In a normal year, about 1 in 4 of the planes taking off from Aspen-Pitkin County Airport is a CRJ-700, the passenger jet used by commercial airlines, which officials say could be phased out by 2028 as airlines transition to newer models that are too large for the current Aspen runway.

On March 10, a county-appointed citizens group called the ASE Vision Committee, which has spent over a year reviewing options for the expansion project, voted 20-1 in favor of recommending that Pitkin County widen the runway by 50 feet to accommodate aircraft with longer wingspans and build a new, larger terminal.

The expanded runway is expected to increase commercial flights from 8,950 in 2015 to 11,808 in 2033, while private flights are projected to slightly decrease from 30,001 in 2015 to 29,335 in 2033, according to an environmental assessment completed in 2018.

Through the long process that led up to the committee’s recent recommendation, locals have expressed concerns about toxic smells, roaring engines and carbon emissions.

According to the 2018 environmental assessment, or EA, expansion of the runway would bring about 2,000 more flights of larger planes and an increase in overall carbon emissions.

It also would change the mix of air pollutants coming off the end of the runway, but it’s unclear how that might affect the smells that residents report on busy days.

In terms of noise, some of the planes landing and taking off would be quieter, but there also would be more flights. The sound of idling jets at the North Forty neighborhood, across from the airport, could be mitigated by a large sound wall.

Committee members heard from experts about the air pollution, carbon emissions and noise but decided that the threat of losing commercial service into Aspen outweighed the potential environmental impacts.

However, the committee hopes to mitigate the impacts through their stated goal to reduce pollution and emissions by 30% “as soon as possible, but no later than 2030.” But the committee did not determine a baseline to measure that goal against.

The EA identifies current and potential pollution and carbon emissions, but committee members saw the document as a worst-case scenario since it does not consider the effects of their proposed mitigation measures.

Those measures include offering a biofuel blend to decrease greenhouse gas emissions from the 5.4 million gallons of jet fuel now dispensed each year at the airport and incentivizing carriers and owners to fly quieter, cleaner models.

The committee recommends that the county prioritize establishing a baseline and acknowledges that reducing emissions will depend on negotiations with airlines and the voluntary cooperation of private-aircraft owners, which account for three-quarters of airport traffic. The updated airport will bring more and larger jets to Aspen, but it’s not clear which jets that airlines and private owners will choose to fly. There also has been limited on-the-ground testing, so the environmental impacts of the expansion are uncertain.

Air pollution and toxic smells remain mysterious

Airplanes departing from the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport roll down the taxiway toward Aspen and then do an about-face to line up for takeoff. Once air control gives the go-ahead, pilots lay on the throttle and jet exhaust erupts from the engines, pointed right at the base of Buttermilk, where kids are learning to ski about a half-mile away on Panda Peak.

“It’s toxic — a thick smell in the air like something’s partially burned. There’s a sudden thrust when they rev the engine up, and you get these blasts of bad air,” said Tim Mooney, an activist opposing the expansion who sat on various advisory committees.

Mooney doesn’t know what he’s breathing downwind from the airport on a busy day, and neither do county officials as no ground-level air quality measurements have ever been taken at or around the airport.

The 874-page EA, based on a Federal Aviation Administration modeling tool, uses a potential future fleet mix to extrapolate impacts to air pollution, carbon emissions, noise and traffic from 2015 to 2033.

That is not uncommon, said Mary Vigilante, president of Synergy Consultants, which produced the EA. Ground-level measurements are significantly more expensive than modeling, she said, and “based on these results, there was nothing to indicate warranting doing more detailed work.”

But locals still complain of a stinging in their eyes and the burned, metallic taste of jet fuel at the Aspen Business Center and on the nordic ski tracks laid each winter on the city of Aspen golf course.

“My guess is that people are making reference to exhaust associated with volatile organic compounds,” Vigilante said, noting that it also could be nitrogen oxides, or NOx, a family of poisonous, highly reactive gases that form when fuel is burned at high temperatures and help create smog.

The research on the odors is hazy, and there’s no way to know for sure without taking an air sample.

The pollution data in the EA is measured in tons per year, and the specific fumes a person breathes at any moment are jumbled in the average. Plus, the odors vary and are more noticeable on busy days at the airport. There is nearly four times as much activity at the Aspen airport on a busy day in March than on a quiet day in May.

The EA found that if the runway expansion is approved, by 2033 the air pollutant sulfur oxides, or SOx, would increase 1 ton annually — from 6.9 tons to 7.9 (14.5%) — and nitrogen oxides would increase by approximately 7.4 tons annually — from 42.8 to 50.2 (17.3%).

These changes are nominal and well within federal standards, Vigilante said. They also are probably overestimated, because the FAA’s model is based on a Boeing 737-heavy fleet mix, and no airline has officially expressed interest in operating the 737 out of Aspen. The plane favored to replace the CRJ-700 is the Airbus 220-100. It is quieter, more fuel-efficient and generally cleaner than the CRJ but produces slightly more NOx.

The EA also found that with newer jets, yearly emissions of carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and particulate matter would drop slightly, but it is not known whether that is enough to eliminate the taste and smell of burned jet fuel in the community.

The committee hopes the airport will be able to negotiate with the airlines to operate a clean fleet, and the new class of aircraft that would replace the CRJ-700 on routes into Aspen are generally quieter and more fuel efficient than older models.

There’s no way to know for sure how private-jet operations will change with the expansion, but the committee hopes jet owners can be encouraged to transition to newer, greener planes through mechanisms such as a carbon-based landing fee.

“The only reason the proposed expansion is not a slam dunk is that we still have all the private planes,” said John Bennett, chair of the vision committee. “Dealing with them is a totally separate challenge.”

The Clean Air Act forbids the airport from regulating emissions or discriminating over which models can land, so Aspen’s wealthiest residents and visitors will have to do their part willingly.

This does little to assuage the concerns of the opposition group Save Our Skies.

“No one seems to understand the concentration of environmental impacts,” said Wayne Ethridge, a founding member of Save Our Skies and a former Pitkin County commissioner.

Noise complaints contrast with data

There are two places where residents are particularly concerned about aircraft noise. Those living and working at the ABC and North Forty hear jets idling and revving up for takeoff, and Woody Creek residents report their windows shaking and conversations stopping as jets roar overhead.

The EA used the FAA model to consider potential changes to noise. It found that, although the update would probably expand the area around the airport exposed to high-operating noise by nearly 2 acres, it would not increase noise by 1.5 decibels or more where people live or work.

The EA notes that there are no homes located within an area that would be exposed to a 65 day-night average sound level, or DNL, the threshold for what the FAA considers to be significant and measured in decibels over a 24-hour period. Woody Creek’s exposure is 51.5 DNL, according to the county’s study.

As with the air pollution data, this measure does not describe a specific moment.

If airlines choose to go with the Airbus 220-100, noise from commercial operators is likely to decrease, as that plane is quieter than the CRJ-700 at takeoff, on the approach and at flyover.

Still, the airport cannot regulate which planes owners operate.

The committee did recommend that the airport construct a concrete or earthen barrier to protect the ABC and the North Forty from the sound of jets idling and gearing up for takeoff. The EA found that a 14-foot-high wall would lower noise by 5 decibels.

The county now measures noise at Woody Creek year-round and, through its Fly Quiet/Fly Clean Program, encourages pilots to fly considerately over Aspen.

A study of the program’s data from 2015 to 2017 by a national engineering consulting firm found that, on the whole, private-aircraft operations have gotten quieter. The study scored the private traffic coming out of Aspen a 7.9 on a 10-point scale and noted that the number of extreme noise events — those above 90 decibels — was 0.1 per day, a reduction over previous years.

“The Fly Quiet program is designed to encourage operators to operate their quietest aircraft at ASE and to fly as quietly as possible,” Ryk Dunkelberg, who worked on the study for the firm Mead and Hunt, wrote in an email.

Still, residents in Woody Creek are concerned that larger jets will not be quieter.

In a letter submitted during the EA process, the Woody Creek Caucus raised concerns that increased traffic and larger, heavier airplanes could “dramatically increase the discomfort of the many residents around the airport and in the flight path. It would be yet another step in Aspen’s path toward commercialization and the loss of Aspen’s unique character.”

Carbon emissions will increase with expansion

In the bigger picture, Save Our Skies and many others question whether Aspen should be pursuing growth at all, given the advancement of climate change. Over the past half-century, the region has lost 12 days with subzero temperatures, and the EA acknowledges that the ski industry in Aspen could be history by 2100.

The city of Aspen’s Climate Action Plan seeks an 80% reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions below 2004 levels by 2050. The airport is not owned or operated by the city but is included in its emissions inventories.

In 2017, the airport contributed 81,566 tons of CO2 — 5% of all GHG emissions in Pitkin County — of which 89% was attributed to aircraft, according to the city’s 2019 GHG inventory report.

The EA estimates that by 2033, the new terminal and widened runway, with the accompanying new fleet makeup and increased operations, would result in an annual increase in GHG emissions of 18%, or 2,515 metric tons.

This projection does not account for the potential use of solar power, a biofuel blend of jet fuel or a carbon-based landing fee — mitigation measures that don’t go far enough for Save Our Skies.

“The county has declared a climate emergency,” Ethridge said. “At the same time, they seem more than willing to introduce much larger aircraft that will burn more fuel.”

Aspen is not alone in questioning airport expansion. In February, England quashed plans for a new runway at Heathrow Airport in London because it was found to be inconsistent with the country’s climate goals.

The potential ripple effects to the Aspen community and the resort because of the airport’s expansion are even more difficult to quantify, but there will be “growth,” as the number of people flying into and out of the city is expected to increase by about 100,000, from 233,541 to more than 333,000.

Moving forward, county commissioners will consider the committee’s recommendations, which Bennet, the chair of the vision committee, said must be taken as a complete package. It’s not clear when the recommendations will be passed onto the county commissioners, and the COVID-19 crisis is expected to delay the process.

If the county does not accept the plans for expansion and the means of addressing the impacts as a package or if the airlines refuse to negotiate to meet the goals, the committee can take another stab at its proposal.

At that point, Bennet said, rather than being in near-unanimous agreement, the committee will probably split over whether to proceed.

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization supported by its donors and funders. For more, go to aspenjournalism.org.

Judge dismisses lawsuit over Mill Street Plaza in Aspen, says claims ‘unripe’

A federal judge’s dismissal of Mark Hunt’s lawsuit over municipal zoning regulations doesn’t spell the end of the developer’s land-use dispute with the city of Aspen.

Chief U.S. District Court Judge Philip Brimmer on March 10 threw out the suit filed by the Hunt-controlled North Mill Street LLC, which owns the two-building Mill Street Plaza across from Clark’s Market.

Yet Brimmer’s dismissal of the case and its five claims was made “without prejudice,” which means the LLC can renew the litigation if its updated claims meet certain legal criteria.

Development rights at the Mill Street Plaza are at the center of the dispute.

The complex houses a number of locally serving retailers — an athletics consignment store, a coin-operated laundromat and an auto-service shop, for instance — that operate on the property that is zoned service-commercial-industrial, or SCI.

Hunt bought the center for $15 million in June 2018 and wants to build free-market residential there, while keeping a retail element, as well.

The complex comprises the 465 N. Mill St. property, a 20,000-square-foot building that sits on 49,901 square feet of land; and the property at 557 N. Mill St., an 8,000-square-foot building on 6,301 square feet of land, according to property records.

Hunt sued the city in January 2019, claiming Ordinance 29 — one of six new ordinances City Council adopted from 2016-17 — threatened the building’s potential for future redevelopment because it is “economically unviable.”

Hunt has been unable to rezone the property for his redevelopment at both the Planning & Zoning and City Council levels.

Yet the city has said he hasn’t exhausted the process because he also didn’t seek variances to approve the project through a planned development. The city’s attorneys previously argued in a court pleading that “whether the city has altogether prevented (North Mill Street LLC) from such free market development is still an open question.”

Hunt’s attorneys have argued it would be “futile” to bring a planned development of the Mill Street Commercial Center to the city because it would be rejected.

Brimmer agreed with the city’s motion to dismiss the suit, which it filed in July 2019, saying the LLC’s claims were “unripe”; in other words, Hunt litigated prematurely because the project he is suing over has yet to exhaust’s the city’s land-use approval process.

Brimmer noted “nowhere in its complaint does plaintiff indicate that it has submitted a specific plan for Mill Street Plaza to defendants that would allow for the pursuit of a compromise. The failure of plaintiff’s rezoning application is insufficient to show that defendants have reached a final decision as to the permitted uses of the Mill Street Plaza.”

North Mill Street LLC, meanwhile, on April 1 filed a notice to challenge Brimmer’s ruling in the Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. The LLC’s law firm, Garfield & Hecht PC of Aspen, has yet to file an opening brief. Chris Bryan of the firm declined comment when reached Tuesday.

The city is getting its legal representation in the matter from Berg Hill Greenleaf & Ruscitti, which was not available for immediate comment Tuesday.

The LLC’s five claims against the city include seeking a declaratory judgment that Ordinance 29 is invalid and unenforceable, that the LLC’s due process was violated, and that the city devalued the property’s values because of its redevelopment restrictions.

rcarroll@aspentimes.com

We’re Open: Rocky Mountain Pet Shop

Business name: Rocky Mountain Pet Shop

Address: 107 S. Monarch, Aspen

Web: www.rockymountainpetshop.com

Phone: 970-925-2010

Facebook: www.facebook.com/rockymountainpetshop

Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday to Saturday

Aspen Times: How have you gotten creative during this time? What have you done to keep your customers engaged?

Rocky Mountain Pet Shop: We have opened up new options to better serve our customers during this time! Customers can call in orders or view and purchase our products on our website and then opt to pickup curbside or we can offer limited delivery. We also still have our doors open but are limiting the number of people in the store for healthy customers who wish to come in and abide by social distancing protocol. We are sanitizing surfaces around the store several times a day and always have hand sanitizer available.

AT: What’s the most important thing the community can do to support you?

RMPS: Buy your pet supplies from us and tell your friends we are here! We’ve been here for 50-plus years because of the locals and visitors who shop our old-school Aspen store. We can only stay here to answer all your pet questions and feed your pets with your support.

AT: Where can we find your most current offerings and updates?

RMPS: Any updates, information and our 50th anniversary specials are posted on our Facebook page. Most of the items we sell are on the “shop now” page of our website.

AT: What has been the best customer experience or comment you’ve had since the crisis started?

RMPS: I have several customers a day thanking us for remaining open during this crazy situation.

AT: Is there anything else you’d like to add regarding your business during the pandemic?

RMPS: We are planning a huge 50th-anniversary bash once we can all get together and party again! In the meantime, follow us on Facebook for other ways we are celebrating you, our loyal, local customers.

Bears are out in Snowmass; police encourage starting wildlife safety practices

Bears in the Snowmass area are starting to grow more active with the warmer spring weather, Snowmass police officials confirmed Tuesday.

According to Brian Olson, Snowmass police chief, officers know of at least two bears that are out and about in the village area and have been for the past two weeks.

On Monday morning, one of the bears paid resident Ellen Turner and her husband a visit, wandering into their kitchen and snagging a loaf of bread from their pantry.

“He passed up two plates of huevos rancheros with applewood smoked bacon for Dave’s Killer Superseed Bread in the pantry. What’s wrong with my huevos?” Turner said via email.

Olson said this bear in particular has been a problem bear for Snowmass police, as it has adapted the ability to get into homes. In fact, many Snowmass area bears have a lifetime of experience getting into homes, Olson said, learning from their moms as cubs and honing their skills as they grow older.

Snowmass officers are partnering with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to address bears that exhibit “bad behavior” to get them back to their natural foraging habits.

“We’re working with CPW to get bears to return to their normal activity and if they can’t be unhabituated they’ll be removed from the village area to another location,” Olson said.

As bears grow more active in Snowmass, Olson urged residents to pay attention to their food and food wastes, storing all waste in a wildlife-resistant dumpster or taking it to a town dumpster (which are wildlife-resisitant) immediately. He also said residents should lock their ground level doors and windows, especially if they aren’t home.

To help Snowmass police stay on top of bears exhibiting bad behavior, Olson also asked locals to call police immediately when they see a bear so officers can track the bears’ locations and get a sense of which bears are causing problems.

mvincent@aspentimes.com

Glenwood Springs requires residents to wear face coverings for essential activities

Glenwood Springs residents and retail workers must wear face coverings until at least April 26 for all essential activities outside of their home.

In a 6-1 vote Monday night, council directed staff to draft an order that would not only recommend wearing face coverings in public but also require them in certain settings. Specifics of the order were announced Tuesday afternoon.

The city’s public health order requires face coverings for people “when entering and while inside of a place or conveyance open to the public.”
According to city attorney Karl Hanlon, the public health order does not require people to wear face coverings whenever they leave their home.

Instead, the order requires a face covering when individuals go to a public place where people cannot maintain safe social distancing. The order does not require face coverings for people younger than 2 or if it would cause impairment due to an existing health condition. The city encourages individuals to keep a face covering in their possession whenever leaving the house. Face coverings may include bandanas, scarves and other clothing without visible holes.

“There’s a reason that the governor’s order for the recommendation on face coverings does not say masks and that’s because we have a shortage of masks and (personal protective equipment),” Mayor Pro Tem Shelley Kaup said at a special city council meeting Monday. “We do not want people going out and putting strain on that limited supply.”

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended wearing cloth face coverings in public settings, especially where social distancing proves challenging like in grocery stores and pharmacies. The CDC was clear in recommending cloth face coverings, not surgical masks or N-95 respirators to protect supplies for healthcare workers and first responders.

“Do I feel like it’s important to have a face mask on if I’m walking down the Rio Grande Trail and nobody’s there? No,” Councilman Steve Davis said. “I think the intent, in my mind, would be when you’re in those public spaces where you cannot really control the distancing.”

Mayor Jonathan Godes, Mayor Pro Tem Shelley Kaup as well as councilors Steve Davis, Paula Stepp and Charlie Willman supported requiring residents to wear face coverings in specific public settings.
Councilor Tony Hershey did not.

“As a more conservative person, I can’t support micromanaging people’s lives,” Hershey said. “To some extent we have to legislate… but this is a city council, we should do it in cooperation with the county government and with the state government and, yes, with the federal government.”

Failure to comply with the city’s public health order may result in a fine of up to $1,000 or 364 days in jail.

mabennett@postindependent.com

Three coronavirus models have very different takes on how Colorado’s outbreak will develop

There is no crystal ball to show the future of the coronavirus pandemic, but researchers across the country have been working quickly to come up with the next best thing: an accurate statistical model.

These are the now-familiar arcing graphs showing case numbers rising above hospital capacity — or, hopefully, not rising above capacity — and then dipping back down. But, because the coronavirus is so new, there’s no scientific consensus about how contagious it is and what percentage of people stricken by it will require hospitalization.

That makes the current models vary quite a bit and, in turn, means policymakers have to essentially pick their model when deciding how to respond to the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. You see this playing out now in disputes between the federal and state governments — where states are preparing hospitals for massive patient surges that the feds say won’t arrive.

This uncertainty in modeling is particularly evident in Colorado. One model last week showed the state likely coming up thousands of hospital beds short of what it needs. Then, this week, that same model updated to say Colorado is already past its peak, even as the state continues to build up treatment capacity.

Read the full story from The Colorado Sun to learn more about the three models with an explanation about how they were constructed and what their limitations are.

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Basalt holds municipal election today

Basalt is holding its municipal election today for mayor and three council seats.

The mayor’s race features candidates Bill Infante, Bill Kane and Rob Leavitt.

Six candidates are running at-large for the three council seats. The candidates are Glenn Drummond, Tiffany Haddad, Elyse Hottel, David Knight, Jennifer Riffle and Kirk “Dieter” Schindler.

All terms are for four years. Current Mayor Jacque Whitsitt cannot run again due to term limits. In the council race, the only incumbent is Riffle. Incumbents Auden Schendler and Katie Schwoerer aren’t seeking re-election.

Even before the coronavirus outbreak, this was scheduled as a mail ballot election. Town Clerk Pam Schilling said 2,538 ballots were mailed to registered voters last month. As of Monday, about 770 ballots were turned back in, according to Town Manager Ryan Mahoney through the mail or dropped off at a ballot box outside of town hall. At this point, ballots shouldn’t be mailed. They should be dropped off. In addition, voting is possible at town hall, but only one person will be allowed in through the main door at a time.

Schilling is hopeful that results will be available around 9 tonight.