Glenwood’s Police Deserve Our Respect

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” — Matthew 5:9

Shield

Glenwood Springs is a special place. We have it all: natural beauty, great amenities, wonderful people. We are truly blessed to be able to call this town home.

Yes, we have it all. And we also have a dedicated group of professionals helping to make Glenwood Springs one of the most desirable places to live in the United States — the Glenwood Springs Police Department.

I had the privilege of being allowed to do a “ride-along” with Glenwood’s officers last weekend. Although it was a relatively quiet night, it gave me a glimpse into a side of Glenwood that I knew, intellectually, existed, but I minimize. It allowed me the opportunity to watch them in action, watch other’s reactions to them, and most importantly, talk with them and begin to get to know them.

As I told Chief Terry Wilson — I am in awe.

First, a disclaimer; I have law enforcement officers and first responders in my family. Perhaps I have a bias because of close relationships to these people. However, after this, I will never look at their jobs in the same light.

For about the same wage as the average skilled office worker, these individuals leave their homes and families, put on their Kevlar vests and utility belts, and hit our streets to protect and serve, not knowing if they will see their families again. Am I being melodramatic? Absolutely not.

In Glenwood, almost every category of criminal activity, from petty offenses to felonies, have seen an increase through July over the entire year of 2014. Felony cases are up 37 percent.

Glenwood Springs Police Department is a finely coordinated team that protects us from the frightful and disagreeable elements that find their way to our Mayberryesque town. They do so with such finesse that we see little of the sordid underside, allowing Glenwood to remain a great place to raise a family or to vacation.

Recently, two disturbing nationwide trends are having an impact in our community. The first is the increasing number, changing demeanor and level of drug use among the homeless, vagrant population. The second is the increasing threats and disdain toward our police.

The entire community is attempting to grapple the vagrant issue, and more information will be forthcoming regarding a community meeting in the next few weeks.

The negativity and threats toward our police is heartbreaking to me. The reality is that the public never hears about the thousands or millions of times these peace officers make the right decision under incredibly stressful conditions. Is that gun a pellet gun or a rifle? Is the driver of the vehicle reaching for insurance information or a gun?

police 1You say these things only happen in Denver or Los Angeles or Ferguson? Hardly. Just ask Colorado State Trooper Eugene Hofacker. Or for that matter, ask our own officers. The media, both social and traditional, focus on the one in 100,000 as Kenneth Berkowitz, chief of police of Canton, Massachusetts, so aptly describes in a recent article. Often, the good is overlooked.

Believe me, there is plenty of good. During a traffic stop an officer encountered a lost and distraught driver pulling a trailer in an unfamiliar town at rush hour trying to get to a gas station on the other side of the highway. He gently eased into traffic behind and allowed the driver to make the lane switch to get where they needed to be.

On two occasions on foot patrol, two separate officers encountered someone well-known. In one case, the officer talked with and comforted someone who was distraught over the loss of a wallet and offered additional assistance if the person was not able to locate the wallet by the next day. The other officer was sought out for counsel and advice because he was considered a trusted friend. I am also aware of an officer in a nearby community who promised to buy a 25-cent glass of lemonade from a neighborhood lemonade stand, only to realize all he had was a $20 bill — but a promise is a promise. Imagine the image that young person has of their community police.

On many occasions the officers are greeted cordially or at least respectfully. That is not always the case and many tire of hearing expletives or seeing obscene gestures as they walk or drive through town. They are often punched, kicked or spat upon. They work long shifts, holidays and weekends, when most of us are sleeping or enjoying festivities. And they do so without complaint.

Why do they do this? Why do they put their lives at risk, see little of their family and stay in one of the most stressful jobs in the world for a nominal salary? Most would say it is because they love their job and want to make a difference. In my opinion, they do make a difference — a huge difference. We owe them our respect and admiration. Glenwood Springs’ finest certainly have mine.

Come Together!

Well tomorrow’s a big day for me and I am very excited!!  Election Day!

I am not sure I will ever look at another election or Election Day in the same way again – whether I am involved or not.2015-04-06_1742

First, I would like to thank all those who have supported my campaign. I am truly honored by the support of the citizens and business community of Glenwood Springs. Your support, whether time or financial support or both have enabled me to reach hundreds of citizens with my vision of a strong, connected community. For that I am truly thankful!

Our community will have a new bridge in a few years that will bring countless opportunities and last long beyond my time on this planet.  Now it is time to work on building bridges of a different nature.

In recent months various issues have caused some polarization and division between citizens within our community, between local governments, and even within our own city hall. With such great opportunities ahead of us it is more important than ever that we come together and work together to make Glenwood the best place to raise a family, start a business or just enjoy life.

What are the differences . . . really?

Aiguille_du_Midi_passerelle

photo by Rémih, from wikipedia

For several months you have been trying to determine what the big differences are between the candidates.  While it is a bit of the eleventh hour there may be some of you still trying to make a final decision. Let me help by repeating:

We must come together.

Let me explain.  Council is divided from each other and from city staff. City staff is in departmental silos as are the boards and commissions.  The city and the county are still finding it difficult to work together.  There appears to be little interaction or cooperation with neighboring jurisdictions.  Citizens feel disenfranchised.  We need a bridge builder – that can bring people together.

    I am that bridge builder.

I am excited and have worked very hard to win this election.  I am the person to help Glenwood come together and work together to get things done.

A more effective government and better relationships starts by council, in spite of some philosophical differences, working together to define a vision, goals, and expectations of themselves and city staff.   It’s a small bridge to start with, but no less scary to cross. I am convinced we can build it and cross it safely and be a better, stronger, more effective town government for it!

Let’s build a few bridges together.  We all want what is best for Glenwood.  Join me in making Glenwood a

Strong Connected Community.

I would greatly appreciate your vote!   If you have not voted, there is still time. If you did not get a ballot, please contact the City Clerk, Catherine Mythen.  You can vote until 7 p.m. Tuesday!

2015 A Crucial Year for Glenwood Springs

I am not a huge fan of poetry. Some I get. Some I don’t.  But I remember hearing the Road Not Taken by Robert Frost for the first time in fifth grade. It clicked. It still does decades later.

two roads

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood . . . “

Both Glenwood Springs and I stand at the point where there are multiple paths before us.

Glenwood is at a crucial point. What does the future hold?  Change seems to be coming from all angles and at a pace that seems overwhelming at times. The new Grand Avenue Bridge alone could bring significant changes.  It can be exciting and terrifying at the same time.

I, too, stand at a pivotal point.  Choices must be made. Thoughtful consideration has been given, but ultimately, it is simply a choice.

“Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

So like Mr. Frost, years from now, I want to be able to say that I chose the road less traveled, and it made all the difference.

The Choice: To Run for Glenwood Springs At-Large City Council Seat

The choice I have made for 2015 is to run for the At-Large seat on Glenwood Springs City Council currently being held by Dave Sturges. Dave will be stepping down after two terms, eight years, on City Council and participation in numerous other boards and commissions throughout our area. Though not large in stature, he will leave immense shoes to fill. 

Sturges

Dave Sturges

In addition to having served as councilor, he also served as mayor pro tem, chaired the Transportation Commission, and served on the Planning and Zoning Commission for six years. He was a member of the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission and currently represents Glenwood Springs on the Northwest Council of Governments board. If that all is not enough, he is on the Garfield County Senior Services Committee, the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and is a member of the Colorado Municipal League Executive Board. I am sure I have missed some things. See what I mean . . . enormous shoes! 

As a mediator and facilitator, Dave has tried to carefully and thoughtfully approach issues, listening to various viewpoints and then, ultimately choosing what he thought was best for Glenwood. He has worked tirelessly advocating and lobbying for what would bring the most benefit to the citizens of Glenwood Springs.  As a citizen of Glenwood Springs I am very grateful to Dave for the perspective he has brought to the table for eight years. Thank you, sir.

Four Seats Open

Todd Leahy - Glenwood Post Independent Photo

Todd Leahy – Glenwood Post Independent Photo

In this election, four of seven seats are up; those held by Todd Leahy, Ted Edmonds and Michael Gamba as well as the one held by Dave Sturges.

This is a very exciting time for Glenwood. The opportunities are endless!  There is renewed energy and

Michael Gamba - Glenwood   Post Independent Photo

Michael Gamba – Glenwood Post Independent Photo

vibrancy. Things are happening.  But we must recognize that change is not always easy.  For some of us that fondly remember Glenwood Springs as it was “when we were kids” – when there was a Christmas tree in the middle

of the intersection of 9th and Grand, a drive-in theater in West Glenwood and a tunnel formed by trees over Grand Avenue – comes the realization that our town has, and continues to grow — whether we like it or not.

Ted Edmonds - Glenwood Post Independent Photo

Ted Edmonds – Glenwood Post Independent Photo

Growth and change is natural, like birth. It is often a painful process to get to a beautiful result. The result must not only work for the present, but for the future – for my grandchildren’s grandchildren — and yours. The answers are not always as black and white as some would have you believe. But it is City Council’s job to see that policies are in place and decisions are made with the greatest care and consideration for what is best for the community.

Kathryn Trauger

Kathryn Trauger

I bring a vision for a prosperous, beautiful, dynamic Glenwood, balanced with a sense of our history and identity. I bring integrity and experience. I bring a drive to make your local government accessible, open and inclusionary.  It is time to break down silos. Glenwood no longer has the luxury to just let things happen but must have a clear direction.

I Want to Hear From You

You will hear more about me and my goals very soon, I promise.  But first, I want to hear from you.

Listening is an important part of what I do. What are the major issues facing Glenwood?  How should City Council tackle some of those problems? And maybe more importantly, what can we do to create our future — the way that we want it?  You can leave comments here or you may email me at ktrauger@rof.net or call me at 379-4849.  Please let me know. I really do want to know what you think.

Does EA stand for Eaten Alive?

Battered and bruised at the Grand Avenue Bridge EA hearing

I am feeling a little bit beaten up and if I am feeling that way, I can only imagine what Joe Elsen must be feeling.  To say that the public hearing on the Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Grand Avenue Bridge was interesting is a bit of an understatement.

GAB EA CoverThe Good

The night was not without merit. Some universal themes repeated themselves, the best of which, in my opinion had nothing to do with CDOT or the Grand Avenue Bridge.  That is regional transportation planning.

Regional Transportation Planning

I fully support the idea of regional transportation planning.  It is high time that Garfield, Eagle & Pitkin counties, along with the municipalities of Rifle, Silt, New Castle, Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Basalt, Snowmass, and Aspen form a Regional Transportation Commission to address regional needs.  That need is apparent with the Grand Avenue Bridge and it also came to the forefront with the FedEx approval. 

I would suggest that a 12 member Regional Transportation Commission be formed, consisting of a single representative from each of the above counties and municipalities.  I would also suggest that a representative from RFTA be included, making up the 12th member. I would suggest that a CDOT representative be included as an ex officio member.  Like it or not, they are a major player in transportation in our area and we need their voice at the table.

One Voice

For project funding and statewide support, we —this region — must speak with one voice.  We are competing with major metropolitan areas and we can no longer afford to compete with one another for the extremely limited transportation funding available.

The first charge of this group would be to develop a 25-30 year regional transportation plan. Only then can shorter range solutions be found.  This doesn’t have to be rocket science and studies costing hundreds of thousands of dollars are not needed.  Bring existing plans to the table and see what are common needs, and what are the greatest impact to the region. Start simply and build a strong plan.

Time

Mayor Leo McKinney appealed to CDOT to extend the length of the comment period, if for no other reason than to give city staff a chance to thoroughly study and adequately comment on the EA. This also would give the public a better chance to read and try to understand what is contained in this document. A 30-60 day extension seems to be a good idea.

Negative is more compelling

I love the passion that people have for Glenwood and for the region.  It was a good turnout and no, I don’t think John Haines or the Citizens to Save Grand Avenue “stuffed the ballot box” so to speak. But frankly, as humans, we are far more comfortable complaining than we are expressing how satisfied we are.  When I was in advertising many years ago, there was an adage that people who had a bad experience were likely to tell 10 people, but those that had a good experience were likely to share it with no one. I have personally talked with many who are very much in favor of the Grand Avenue Bridge project. Were they at the meeting tonight? No. Most were home playing with their children, helping with homework, visiting friends, or out for a brisk bike ride. Will they take the time to comment on the EA? Probably not. That is the unfortunate reality.

Does the EA have flaws? Absolutely!  And the scope of the project and its purpose are probably some of  the largest.  A much larger area should have been considered – an area covering Midland to 27th Street at least.  This would open a more likely partnership on a permanent 8th Street Connection .  The purpose statement of the EA is weak.  It does not address the regional importance of the bridge.

The Bad . . . this is gonna hurt

fist fight

Frankly I am going to irritate some people by what I say next.  As an admirer of Abraham Lincoln, one of his quotes comes to mind:

“Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.”

I believe my feet are in the right place, so here goes.

There were many comments from people tonight who, as sincere and impassioned as they were, had absolutely no idea what they were talking about.  They may have thought they have all the information they need, and that the information they have is accurate, correct, and complete, but there are some suggestions and recommendations that absolutely fly in the face of reality. 

“Tell City Council to stop this.”

Seriously?  How?  It is the State’s bridge.  It is the State’s highway.  Could CDOT walk away from this? Maybe . . . but then what?  What if CDOT said, fine – the bridge and Grand Avenue through town is yours, Glenwood.  You maintain it. You replace it.  Do you think city sales tax, the minuscule amount of property tax and lodging tax is going to cover that? I don’t think so.

Ah . . . the Bypass

I am not anti bypass.  Let me be clear.

However, two questions loom and no one tonight addressed the biggest one.

1. Where? 

and the biggie . . .

2. How do “we” pay for it?

For the where – I heard some suggestions.  Twin tunnels from Canyon Creek to South Bridge. Cut and cover tunnel along the railroad corridor. Just condemn some houses and go along the old railroad. No problem.  Well . . . maybe it’s not that easy.

pennies from heavenLet’s talk money 

No one addressed the financial piece.  Several said there “must” be some money “somewhere” for this. If you think so, then please come forward with a concrete suggestion.  And again I heard, ‘just move the money from Grand Avenue Bridge and build a bypass.”  Is anyone listening?  Even if you had Governor Hickenlooper’s support for doing that and the backing of the state governing body those funds are constrained. 

The massive amount of repair to the highways to Estes Park were mentioned as an example of found money. Those come from federal emergency funds.  If CDOT walks away from the Grand Avenue Bridge, I certainly hope emergency funds are available in a few years.  We may need them.

If you want funding to build a bypass, then let’s be honest.  It will probably involve TAXES. The Federal Government is not going to roll over and hand us the money.  Rather than calling for a vote whether to allow a new bridge, perhaps Citizens to Save Grand Avenue should be pulling together a referendum to take to regional voters for a tax to fund a bypass.

Insulted

Honestly, I am insulted by some of what I heard tonight.  There have been groups of local citizens, perhaps your friends and neighbors, who have been meeting for months and months, spending hours of their own time pouring over plans, talking with other people,  listening to alternatives, sitting in public meetings, workshops and forums and asking nothing in return.  I have been part of those groups.  I have seen how seriously they have taken their charge.  They have simply been trying to work to bring some resolution to a very real safety concern, and find the best solution for Glenwood Springs. Yet there are armchair quarterbacks stating the process is flawed and the design is bad.  Perhaps it isn’t perfect – but then the next time there is an opening on the Transportation Commission or some other opportunity to give your time – I hope to see you there.  Get out of your armchair and be part of the solution.

If you haven’t read the Environmental Assessment (EA) you can find it here.    To submit a comment send an email to Joe Elsen:  Joseph.Elsen@state.co.us

I could have spoken up at tonight’s meeting, but three minutes was not nearly enough time as it was not for many who spoke.  What do you think?  Am I totally off base?  Let me know.

What is this thing called “Transparency”?

“If You Are Paying Attention . . . It Should Be Transparent” . . .NOT!

City_of_GWS_LogoI have been underwhelmed by comments on my latest Glenwood Post Independent column, and I am not surprised.  The city budget can be a dry subject to most and I did little to bring it to life. However,  I did receive two comments from Mayor Leo McKinney involving three items I mentioned; transparency, goals and creative thinking.  So, while I am no authority,  let me explain my view.Tweet

The first of Mayor McKinney’s comments, read “the process is transparent for anyone who wishes to pay attention & goals are laid out in the manager’s budget message.”

So What Is Transparency . . . Really?

I will address the transparency issue  in this post since it is the largest and ties into the other two.  In a subsequent post I will talk about goals and creativity. 

In his book, “Transparent Government: What it Means and How You Can Make it Happen”, Donald Gordon defines transparency as:

“The principle by which those affected by administrative decisions and legislation are made aware of the basic facts and figures as well as the mechanisms and processes of their government. This information must be presented in a way that is accessible, comprehensible and enticing, thus motivating citizens to engage in the dialogue necessary to improve the efficiencies of government and mitigate corruption.  It is the duty of our elected representatives and of civil servants to act in such ways as to enable this transparency.”

Accessible

While this is kind of a mouthful it contains key elements that are missing in the budget process – as well as other areas – of the City of Glenwood Springs, and frankly from most governmental entities.

The basic facts and figures are present in the 100-plus pages of the City of Glenwood budget. However, the mechanisms and processes as to how those facts and figures were determined are not.to be found anywhere.  Once again, this is NOT an indictment of the city’s finance department who is responsible for preparing the draft budget, but in the policies that govern the process of determining the over-all budget as well as the final recommendations that council receives on each line item of the budget.

Micromanagement?  Maybe . . .

Some may assert that is micromanagement.  That may be.  Sometimes micromanagement is good and even necessary at times. As a taxpayer, our elected representatives and we, the citizens of Glenwood, have the right to know the basis for those decisions.  Not to pick on specific departments, but for example, what has been the policy, thought process and justification for 26 full and part time employees and an operating budget of  $3.29 million in the Parks and Recreation department compared with 31 full and part time employees and an operating budget of $3.34 million for the Police department?  What is the data to support those decisions and on what basis were they made?

Three Hurdles to TransparencyPolicy, Technology, Culture

Gary Bass, founder and executive director of OMB Watch, which is now the Center for Effective Government and Sean Moulton, Director of Open Government Policy at the Center for Effective Government note that there are three hurdles to transparency; policy, technology and culture.

Policy & Technology

Regarding policy & technology, Bass and Moulton state,  “Current laws and policies on public access are inadequate for today’s 24-hour-per-day, seven-days-per-week Internet-enabled world.” 

If this is the case, why would it appear the city is not fully committed to bringing their information systems into the 21st Century.  Currently the Information System Director is a .5 FTE – which means that he works in IS about 20 hours a week.  The city has committed to hiring another  Assistant Computer Tech., which brings the number of personnel in this department to 2.5.  Compare this to Durango with a staffing level in their Information Systems of 10 for 2015.  Granted, the population of Durango is about twice that of Glenwood, but it would seem that if the city was committed to upgrading their systems, the number of personnel and capital expenditures budgeted would be higher. Again, it would be wonderful to have access to the process and reasoning behind these budget decision. I attended the budget work session last Monday and I still don’t know.

In his book, Mr. Gordon maintains that information should be released in a timely and efficient manner and “we need to require government agencies to convert that information in to a useable format that prices a level of comprehensibility that does not require a law degree to decipher.”

Culture

The budget process speaks to the culture within City Hall. There are, of course exceptions.  Bass and Moulton maintain that those in civil service (i.e. those who are employed in any government agency except the military) do not get rewarded for improving public access and, furthermore, the way governmental agencies operate discourages openness.

To illustrate, I will use an example I am very familiar with – that of information surrounding items coming before the Planning and Zoning Commission.Wizard_of_Oz_1939_Insert_Poster It was not until approximately 2010, after my repeated requests as Chair of that commission, that the agendas and minutes of the P&Z were made available on the city’s website.  As it is now, there is a significant delay in posting the minutes – either in draft or accepted form, which I am told is due to workload issues as well as issues with the website.  Furthermore, the online availability only goes back one calendar year.  Why is that?Additionally, if a citizen would like to review an application before the public hearing, they must go to the Community Development office and request a copy, which is normally provided in paper form.  This information should be readily accessible to the public, via the internet.

Please know that I am not asserting that Community Development, or any one department  is attempting to discourage citizens from obtaining information. It is simply the way it has always been done.  In my opinion, this must change.

Wizard of Oz Wisdom

I understand that with the recession the city has been keeping a tight rein on expenses – and that is as it should be.  However, that does not preclude citizens from asking tough questions and being involved in that process.   It is no longer ok for someone to infer  “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” – as the Wizard told Dorothy and her pals.  Citizens need the information, and it needs to be understandable and timely.  From this will come authentic citizen engagement and better decisions.

So, I must respectfully disagree with Mayor McKinney’s stance that, “the process is transparent for anyone who wishes to pay attention . . .”  I pay attention and the process is not transparent to me. As citizens and taxpayers, it is time for some changes.

What do you think transparency is?  Do our local governments have it? What works well and what doesn’t?

Old Library . . . new ideas

Glenwood’s downtown is an award winner!

Last Thursday,  Downtown Colorado Inc. announced that the Downtown Development Authority was one of four winners of “Best Group Effort” Award for Downtown Excellence.  What a wonderful accolade for Leslie Bethel and the DDA and the City of Glenwood!  The energy and momentum for Glenwood, not only downtown, is exciting.  When my family and I went to dinner last Friday at the Glenwood Canyon Brew Pub, the downtown streets were alive with people of all ages enjoying the evening and bringing strength to Glenwood’s economy. 

Problem in Paradise

Old Glenwood Springs Library

Vacant former Glenwood Springs Library Building at 9th and Blake.

However, empty buildings and storefronts in the downtown area present a problem.  They can become unsightly due to lack of maintenance and they present a less than vibrant image.  Glenwood is fortunate to have less empty space than many small towns, but what does exist  still presents a problem.

Front entrance to old library building

Last Thursday evening, City Council had the second reading of an ordinance authorizing the sale of the vacant library building at 9th and Blake and referring the question to voters in November.  Although the city has not committed to putting the building up for sale, the discussion continues as to what should be done with this building.  I commend City Council for asking the question, and, according to the Post Independent, many ideas were presented at the June 5 Council meeting including a senior center, a new museum, or a concept similar to Carbondale’s Third Street Center.  Others suggested a joint use by several non-profits for meeting space, office space and programing needs.  Use by the Salvation Army was put forth as well.  The Salvation Army made a second request for use of the building for, as I understand, offices and a distribution center at the July 17 City Council meeting.  

Careful Consideration

Determining the best use for this building or parcel should be done thoughtfully and deliberately.

It might be wise for City Council to use the City’s Comprehensive Plan as guidance in this matter. The  Comp Plan was the fruition of many meetings with stakeholders in the community as well as citizen charrettes and brainstorming sessions, and I believe, distills the wishes and values of the community. 

Comp_Plan_CoverrThe Comp Plan lists nine goals:

1. Promote long-term, sustainable, diverse economic development

2. Maintain Glenwood Springs as the regional tourism, retail, commercial and governmental center of Garfield County

3. Preserve the small town character while maintaining the livability of Glenwood Springs and increasing the vibrancy and commercial success of the Downtown

4. Address transportation needs and provide multiple convenient travel choices

5. Direct development to locations and building forms that are cost-effective to serve

6. Provide housing for the entire community

7. Support social diversity

8. Preserve cultural resources

9. Preserve natural resources

Historic Residential Area near old library 9th & Blake

Historic neighborhood surrounding former library building.

The area at 9th and Blake is a difficult, transitional area as part of the downtown area and the surrounding  historical residential area. The use of that building could have a tremendous impact on the downtown and those neighborhoods nearby. 

Best Use?

The use of the building by the Salvation Army, Lift Up, Feed My Sheep or a host of other similar groups may be altruistic, but it does not  fit with the goals identified in the Comp Plan. However, some non-profit uses could fit well into this area  Downtown Glenwood Springs has the momentum to make Glenwood into even more of a destination resort than ever.  The use of the old library building must be weighed very carefully. Even a temporary use of the wrong kind could be an enormous mistake.  Once a use is in place, it can be very difficult to change.

Blake and 9th looking south

Looking south on Blake from the corner of 9th and Blake

The RIGHT non-profit could be a perfect addition to that area.   Whatever the use of that building or parcel, it must contribute to the vitality and economic development of the downtown and insure that Glenwood Springs is a regional hub for tourism and retail.  It should also fit the small town character that so many want preserved. Maybe . . . just maybe . . . the best use for that building has not even been envisioned yet.  Glenwood Springs folks are a creative bunch – so perhaps it is time to get even more creative.

I urge City Council to act very carefully if they choose to keep and lease this building. Any use is going to have a tremendous long-range impact. Let’s find a use that moves Glenwood’s economy forward. I agree that the Salvation Army needs a new home, but not this building.

 

Storm King fire – Hell on Earth

This is a reprint of a column I did for the Glenwood Post Independent on the Storm King Fire in 1994

“This is bad. This is very bad.”

These are the words that I remember my brother, a former firefighter, uttering as we watched the Storm King fire blow up from our deck in West Glenwood as the ash fell around us.

Returning from Yellowstone July 3 and driving along I-70 through the South Canyon area, I remember seeing a small fire on the side of the mountain, thinking that it was odd that there really were no firefighting efforts that I could see. It had been a hot, dry June, and July did not look promising.

ONLY 11 ACRES

Screen Shot 2014-07-04 at 8.28.06 AM

Fire at Noon July 4, 1994. Image courtesy of South Canyon Investigation Report

The following day we planned to celebrate July Fourth. The day after, July 5, was my youngest son’s 10th birthday — all causes for celebration. The fire was not as large as others that had ignited over the region. Resources were thin.

According to the South Canyon Investigation Report, on July 4, the fire was given a higher priority than some others in the area in response to concerns from Glenwood Springs residents. An aerial observer reported that the fire was in “… steep and inaccessible terrain.” It was covering only 11 acres.

On July 5, Incident Command called for an air tanker to support ground crews that had been sent to cut a helicopter landing area and fire line. A 20-person crew was also ordered, but eight smokejumpers were substituted for the ground crew. The air tanker was called off because of winds, steep terrain and the potential of causing rocks to roll onto I-70. The fire grew to 50 acres. We celebrated my son’s birthday.

COLD FRONT

It was back to work on the morning of July 6. Weather predictions called for gusty winds associated with a cold front. The Prineville Interagency Hotshot Crew was assigned to the fire and arrived at the helibase at 11 a.m. and half the crew were on the fire by 12:30 p.m.

Sometime shortly after noon, I was in my supervisor’s office and I looked out the window and the smoke from the fire was billowing ominously west of my house. The sky was turning a dirty brown-orange from the smoke. I pointed out the window and told my boss that I had to head home.

Screen Shot 2014-07-04 at 7.59.31 AM

Image courtesy of South Canyon Investigation Report

A flare-up had caused a group of smokejumpers to retreat up the fire line to the top of a ridge. According to the South Canyon Investigation Report, several firefighters expressed concern about the safety of tactical decisions. However, a water drop via helicopter cooled the flare-up and they continued.

My home in West Glenwood borders BLM land in back and the golf course on the front. I arrived home to find my family on the west-facing deck that looks directly out on Storm King Mountain. They were watching as a helicopter dipped into the lake on the golf course and flew back to the fire. The wind had picked up and the fire was making its way east — quickly.

Soon, my brother arrived. As a firefighter in California, he had been called to fight numerous wildfires in the hills and mountains west of Los Angeles. He also specializes in wildfire mitigation. He understood the situation. And while I was trying to determine what to throw into our RV should we needed to evacuate, his concern was for the firefighters.Screen Shot 2014-07-04 at 8.08.18 AM

By 3 p.m., the other half of the Prineville Hotshots were on the fire. Winds began to pick up and the smoke grew thicker as the fire activity increased. By then my brother was quite concerned about the wind and the effect it would have on the fire.

“Someone is going to get hurt,” he observed.

HELL ON EARTH

Screen Shot 2014-07-04 at 8.03.07 AM

Image courtesy of South Canyon Investigation Report

At 4 p.m., all hell broke lose. The fire exploded. Incident Command called for the firefighters to come up from the bottom of the fire line. One jumper radioed that the fire was “rolling.” The fire spotted to an area just below the crew walking out.

Firefighters Kevin Erickson and Brad Haugh were above the crew encouraging them. Haugh said later that it appeared the crew was unaware of the spot fire below them until they heard its roar. Haugh, Erickson and crew member Eric Hipke made a run for the ridge while the rest of the crew deployed their shelters.

According to the investigation report, “as the three running firefighters dove over the ridgetop, 200-foot flames blasted over the ridge …” Hipke was knocked down by the force of the heat and flames. Pushed by 40 mph winds, the spot fire reached the ridge line in 2 minutes. The rest of the crew — Don Mackey, Roger Roth, James Thrash, Jon Kelso, Kathi Beck, Scott Blecha, Levi Brinkley, Bonnie Holtby, Rob Johnson, Tami Bickett, Doug Dunbar and Terri Hagen — died just short of the ridgetop. Helitack crew members Richard Tyler and Robert Browning raced along a ridge above Helispot 2 when their route was cut off by a steep chute. The fire overtook them as they attempted to cross the chute.Screen Shot 2014-07-04 at 8.13.14 AM

From our deck, we watched as the flames crested the ridge. It was very bad indeed — worse than we could know or ever imagine. Storm King Mountain stands as a silent memorial to those 14 fallen firefighters and their teammates whose lives were changed forever. We will never forget.

Strawberry Days – the best of small town character

The following is a column I wrote for the Glenwood Post Independent published June 6, 2014:

After a morning rain shower, I am basking in sunshine in my backyard, watching my neighbor mow his yard and listening to the hummingbirds zing by my head. Oh, how I enjoy summer — even more so now that I am a “mature” citizen! As I enjoy the warmth, it makes me think about everything that I love about summer, and in particular, summer in Glenwood Springs.

Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 5.02.12 PMWe have sped through Memorial Day weekend and are careening toward Strawberry Days, Glenwood Springs’ celebration about everything that is summer! Our community has come together since 1898 to revel in the bounties of the season with neighbors and friends. Much has changed about the festivities over the years, but much has also remained the same.

I have not always lived in Glenwood Springs, so my earliest memories were of a long drive through a winding canyon road to come and eat ice cream from Glenwood Creamery topped with fresh strawberries on the courthouse lawn. It was different then — no crafts fair — just a community gathering. As I remember, in my young eyes, the parade was marvelous, complete with my favorite part — horses, as well as queen contestants riding on the hoods of convertibles.

According to the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, as well as other sources, Strawberry Days, Colorado’s oldest continuously held civic festival west of the Mississippi, is now in its 116th year. So what are the benefits for holding this festival year after year?

FOUR BENEFITS OF STRAWBERRY DAYS

One is tourism. When my husband and I travel and let people know our home base is Glenwood Springs, many people who know our town talk about attending Strawberry Days, along with some of the other highlights such as the Hot Springs Pool, or Glenwood Caverns, or rafting. It creates lasting memories that are often shared with friends and co-workers. Since Glenwood thrives on tourism, this is critical.

Closely related to the first benefit is the second: identity and branding. Strawberry Days is the business card for Glenwood Springs. It gives visitors a clue to what we are about. A fun celebration, it also serves to educate and inform with booths and displays for projects like the Grand Avenue Bridge and entities like Colorado Mountain College. Local talent take the stage with well-known entertainers. Regional crafts are showcased along with art, jewelry and food originating from all over Colorado. Kids, dogs and horses trek the parade route along with politicians, local business floats, a band or two and of course, the Shriners. This is hometown America at its best.

Small-town character and sense of community is the third benefit. During many public meetings I attend, people often mention “maintaining small-town character” as a goal — and really a value — that Glenwood must preserve. While views differ on what constitutes “small-town character,” my perception is that it is people in the community working together to make Glenwood a better place than it was five or 40 years ago, and knowing that those who come after will continue to make it ever better than today.

Strawberry Days is a perfect example. It is a lot of work for those involved. It is not the same as it was 50 years ago, but it serves this community well, the way it is now. It has grown, just like Glenwood, but it still holds that sense of the community working and gathering together.

The fourth benefit — and perhaps the most important — is connection. It is connection with the people and this place. It is walking down Grand Avenue after the parade or strolling through the park during the weekend, inevitably meeting friends and neighbors and stopping for a moment to reconnect after the long winter. It is knowing that, even though you have moved to another locale, you can return and see familiar faces and places and take part in memorable experiences. It is our connection to generations that came before, and it will be the memories that our children and grandchildren remember when we are gone.

THANK YOU, GLENWOOD CHAMBER

Once again, the community will come together to celebrate all the goodness of summer and the best of Glenwood Springs, June 20-22. This year’s Strawberry Days theme is the “95th Anniversary of the Glenwood Springs Chamber — Celebrating Business and Community.” I extend a huge thank-you to the chamber and community volunteers for all their hard work to carry on this special tradition. The chamber also does a superb job supporting the local businesses — year-round — to make this a great place to live. No wonder it was named 2013 Chamber of the Year by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives.

It is the perfect time to enjoy summer in Glenwood Springs and reconnect with friends and family. Here is to 116 years of fun, parades, ice cream, strawberries and community.

For more information on Strawberry Days contact the chamber at 970-945-6589 or visit its website at http://www.glenwoodchamber.com/.

Ah, Memorial Day!

No Better Place for  Fun!

Ah. Memorial Day! The official start of summer!  There are not many better places to spend a long weekend or summer vacation than Glenwood Springs. Apparently lots of other folks think so too!  I started to notice, particularly Wednesday evening and Thursday, there seem to be more people out, strolling along Grand Avenue, shopping. I watched several generations walk along 6th Street toward the Hot Springs Pool with floatation devices and observed cars turning toward the tram to head up the mountain to Glenwood Adventure Park, where Music on the Mountain starts tonight.

Cabin Fever

I have perhaps a greater appreciation for this time of year in Glenwood than some. Although I have lived in Glenwood Springs for many years, I also remember a time when long winters — the kind that stretch from September through the first part of June — brought bouts of cabin fever, the likes of which could only be cured by a trip to Glenwood Springs.

Leadville Colorado May 23, 2014 courtesy of Colorado Mountain College Web Cam

Leadville Colorado May 23, 2014 courtesy of Colorado Mountain College Web Cam

You see, I was born and raised at 10,200 feet in the mining town of Leadville.  While much of the snow has gone from the town of Leadville now, in spite of a very heavy snow year, the temperatures are still low.  It takes things awhile to green up in Leadville.

So it was on a weekend like this that we would jump in the car and head where the grass was literally greener.  Like so many I see now, we would shop in the stores downtown, stop for ice cream or a hot fudge sundae at the Dairy Kreme, of course spend an afternoon at the pool, and maybe take in a movie at the drive-in . . . yes, I am that old.

It was glorious fun and the best part was that we would do it several more weekends or weeks throughout the summer.

Anticipation!

This summer my son and his wife and my two granddaughters are coming “home” from the Dallas area for a couple of weeks. I can’t tell you how excited I am to share Glenwood with them.  The girls are old enough to enjoy some of the very best Glenwood Springs has to offer.  I am a planner by nature and so I am trying to make sure that they will enjoy it all . . . with a little down time in between while I catch up on work.

The last time they were here was at Christmas, so the girls are a little sad that they won’t see snow.

Glenwood Springs Hot Springs Lodge and Pool courtesy hotspringspool.com

Glenwood Springs Hot Springs Lodge and Pool courtesy hotspringspool.com

But I send them postcards now and then and the one of the Hot Springs Pool caught their attention. That is at the top of their list.  We will also do Glenwood Adventure Park, get ice cream at Sweet Adventures, let them pick candy at Glenwood Sweets,

Doc Holliday's Headstone at Pioneer/Linwood Cemetery in Glenwood Springs

Doc Holliday’s Headstone at Pioneer/Linwood Cemetery in Glenwood Springs

biking in the canyon, a hike to Hanging Lake, dinner at Glenwood Canyon Brew Pub, a Tuesday evening at the farmers market, hike up to Pioneer/Linwood Cemetery and a visit to Doc Holliday’s grave, probably camping for a night or two.

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. Photo courtesy glenwoodcaverns.com

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. Photo courtesy glenwoodcaverns.com

 

My sons and I will probably play a round or two of golf at the Glenwood Golf Club.  Of course there will be family BBQ’s and evening walks around the neighborhood.

If you want to come and play in Glenwood Springs this summer there is no better place to start your planning than with the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.

http://www.glenwoodchamber.com

 flags-in-memorial-day-2004-photo-012Memorial Day – Lest we not forget

I love Memorial Weekend for the anticipation and promise of summer that it brings.  But while I plan for my summer I will take time to remember the real reason for Memorial Day.  This weekend, take time to remember all the military men and women who served and died so that we can enjoy our families and our summers of hiking, golfing, fishing and playing.  Keep their families in your thoughts and prayers.

 

 

 

 

Thankful for Glenwood Springs!

I had the opportunity to spend the day in Denver not long ago. Not in the suburbs, but in downtown Denver. I don’t have that opportunity often, but when I do, it makes me so thankful to live in Glenwood!

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy going to Denver on occasion with my family to take in a game, a museum or the zoo.  Two sons used to live in the ‘burbs and I spent much more time in the Denver area at that time. Now my time in the mile-high city is rare – and that is just fine with me.

My occasional visits to Denver and other cities reinforce my love of Glenwood and here is why.

People

Noemi Kosmowski painting a utility box 4-5-13I love walking down Grand Avenue or going to the grocery store and seeing familiar faces and talking with people I know.

I love shopping in the local stores and being greeted by the owners.  I love that people care enough to stop me on the street to tell me about something going on in the city that bothers them.  I love that the people in Glenwood seem to have a real connection with each other.

People in Glenwood walk down the street looking up . . . at each other, at the mountains at what is going on, People in downtown Denver walk looking at the sidewalk, looking at their smart phone or just looking vacant.  In Glenwood, it seems you see smiles and hear laughter . . . yes even over the traffic noise on Grand Avenue. In Denver there are very few smiles while walking the streets.

Color   

800 Block - West side -  of Grand Avenue

800 Block – West side – of Grand Avenue

We have emerged from the dregs of winter — my least favorite time of year — the grey season. It is the time between all the beautiful, white snow and the chartreuse of the emerging leaves on the trees in Spring.

Downtown Denver seems perennially devoid of color. I know that there are beautiful, lush green spots in Denver – the Botanical Gardens for one.  But in Glenwood, the signs of spring morphing into summer are everywhere.

It is in the trees, the tulips and lilacs and even in the storefronts. Here there are evergreens and red mountains providing stunning vistas, even in winter. There is color and vibrancy. In Denver, I was struck by the color grey . . . grey parking lots, steel and glass buildings and concrete.

Nature

Glenwood Springs Golf Course

Glenwood Springs Golf Course

Walking out the door to work in the morning I am greeted with the cheerful calls of the robins and the meadowlarks.  I hear the zing of a hummingbird fly by. I walk a block or so from my work in downtown Glenwood and I can sit and watch rafters coming down the river.  In a  few more blocks I can be climbing up a mountain that overlooks Glenwood.  In downtown Denver I am met with the sounds of cars.  Granted, Glenwood has its issues with cars and traffic – but it is nothing compared to downtown Denver.  The area I was visiting had nary a tree. Quite honestly, I didn’t even see a pigeon.

Community

I know I don’t “get” city life.  I am sure I could adjust if I had to – reluctantly. 

Chatting at the corner of 8th and Grand

Chatting at the corner of 8th and Grand

But given a choice, I choose life in the small town of Glenwood Springs.  I know Denver is filled with action and excitement, theater, restaurants and shopping.  Glenwood is as well.  

We have all of that –  everything that Denver has and SO MUCH MORE!  We are connected to this place and to each other.  We are a community.