Biting my tongue . . . or not

Blogging and writing has been more difficult these last 10 months. It is not because I have nothing to say. I actually do.  I realize that not everyone agrees with me and that is ok. But I find myself mulling over the word decorum – behavior in keeping with good taste and propriety.  I find myself walking a very thin line.  So mostly I find I bite my tongue and stay away from my computer.  For me this is painful.   

The reason for my discomfort and disconnect is simple.  I was elected to a local office. So now, rather than speaking my mind, I am trying to listen more and search for the common ground.  I now represent more than my one opinion. Sadly, sometimes I fail miserably.  But I continue to try to maintain a certain decorum fitting of one holding an elected office. 

More frequently I find myself trying to choose my words, and explain my position so carefully that I get lost in the weeds and I fail to make my position clear. I rarely put words down on paper — or in the computer — because, quite frankly, you never know where they will end up and how they may be interpreted.

While I intend to maintain decorum and seek common ground, I find I must continue to write . . . to clarify to me, my position. I need to write both sides of a situation, to more fully understand it. I need to explore the issues and my thoughts.  It will benefit me and those I serve. Some will end up here.  Some will remain on my laptop.

Right now, three issues jump to the forefront.

Grand Ave Bridge (still)

First is the ever-present Grand Avenue Bridge. I will not belabor the point, but I, like many others, are looking forward to the possibilities a new bridge will bring, rather than looking backwards at what Glenwood was, 20, 30 or 50 years ago. I am amazed that after as long as we have been cussing and discussing this bridge that so many people don’t understand the need and don’t see the potential benefit. Yes, it will be painful. During the height of construction and closure, my 7 minute commute will likely be five times that — if I drive.  If I am practicing what I am preaching, I’d better be walking, biking or on the bus. But more than that, I need to find ways to get others out of their cars and using alternative transportation.

Snow Removal

sidewalk parking garage

Courtesy of the Glenwood Post Independent

The second deals with snow and the fact that it is still around on many of our streets, trails and sidewalks. And another storm is looming. This is when exploring both sides of the issue helps — just a little.

Viewpoint one: There is still a lot of snow on the city streets and it has been a few days since the heaviest snowfall. I don’t like it. But what I like even less is that we  have such a hard time properly clearing sidewalks and trails. I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist (no laughing, please) and so it bothers me to see sidewalks that have a single shovel width haphazardly scooped, or worse yet, no attempt made. In my opinion, if it is a city code that sidewalks be cleared within 24 hours, then  they should be cleared and made safe and easily passable for anyone. I would ask that the city set the example.

This was discussed by council last week and we requested that city staff provide the protocol for clearing streets.  Public Works Director Robin Millyard provided the following Information:

As follows is a listing in order of priority for snow plowing of City of Glenwood Springs’ streets.

A. Emergency routes, school bus routes, and main traffic areas such as Alternate Route – Midland Avenue to Glenwood Park, South Grand Avenue, Pitkin Avenue, Blake Avenue and Donegan Road.

B. Downtown Commercial areas.

C. Steep streets such as Cedar Crest area, Vista Drive, Sunny Acres, Traver Trail, the North Glenwood area, the Red Mountain area, and steep streets East of Grand Avenue.

D. All remaining streets in low and/or flat areas.

Grand Avenue and U. S. Highway 6 are plowed by the Colorado State Highway Department.

Robin Millyard asked that if you have question to call Rick Turner, Streets Superintendent at 970-384-6379

I am still awaiting information from the Parks Department on trails and sidewalks.

Viewpoint two:  Within the city limits of Glenwood Springs there are 84.04 “Lane Miles” of streets that must be cleared.  There are also a significant amount of sidewalks and trails. It should be noted that clearing much of the sidewalks within the city is the responsibility of adjacent residence or business.  It is the city’s responsibility to clear snow around parks, parking garages, city buildings and city trails.  Like it or not, the city has a limited budget and a finite number of staff to carry out those duties. If money and resources are put into plowing and shoveling, it is likely that some other program will be reduced.

Hot Springs Pool Outflow Pipe Relocation

Glenwood Hot Pots

Photo Courtesy of Glenwood Post Independent, John Stroud

The third is more of a comment. I believe the city made the right decision on the location of the Glenwood Hot Springs outflow pipe for a number of reasons:

The change in the floodplain mapping has created a hardship for one of Glenwood’s largest tourist attractions.

The move farther downstream mitigates some of the flood potential and the Glenwood Hot Springs liability

The pipes (the pool outflow and stormwater drainage) would have been moved by CDOT anyway with the construction

The Hot Springs is paying to have them taken farther downstream to a more optimal location.

The location to which CDOT would have moved the pipes would have meant a greater likelihood of future hot pots and the outflow pipe would not have been buried

The outflow pipe (not the stormwater pipe) will be four feet below the low water like in faster flowing water ensuring better mixing.  The flow rate of the river will help prevent random hot pots from cropping up.

The Hot Springs intends to work with the city in making some shoreline improvements while they are in the area, hopefully moving a shoreline restoration project in that area along.

Until next time, I remain your committed public servant!

The Devil’s Playground – South Canyon

If you Google “mountain biking in Colorado”, Glenwood Springs does not appear on the list of popular destinations.  Those destinations include Fruita, Crested Butte, Gunnison, Salida, Winter Park, Telluride and more . . . but not Glenwood.

There is a group that is trying to change that; Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association (RFMBA), which is a chapter of the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA). Active since about 2008 this group plans, executes and maintains mountain biking trails throughout the Roaring Fork Valley.

Ken Keister - Red Mtn Trail

Photo courtesy of Ken Keister, Red Mountain Trail

Supporters tout the economic benefits of becoming a mountain biking destination. And one probably only needs to look to Moab or Fruita to see that mountain biking is indeed a popular sport and seems to be growing.  As a matter of fact, Glenwood Springs High School now has a mountain biking team of at least 20-30 enthusiastic young people. Several coworkers are mountain bike enthusiasts and I enjoy riding, albeit vicariously, with them through their GoPro cameras.

Last Wednesday, April 29, I attended an open house at the Glenwood Springs Community Center sponsored by RFMBA to explain their current plans for the Red Mountain/Jeanne Golay trail upgrades. The improvements on this trail seem reasonable.  It would run nearly parallel to the existing road that traverses Red Mountain to the cross. The plan, if I understand it correctly, would keep the trail at about a 5-7 percent grade and improve some fall-line trail where some erosion is taking place.  My biggest concern is parking in this area although the City owns the right-of-way that is currently being used for parking. An additional concern, with increased usage will be proper toilet facilities.  My guess is that these are not new to the RFMBA and they may have thought them through.

South Canyon Trail Proposal

Propose South Canyon Trail

At the City Council meeting of April 2 (before I was elected) Council also approved a $15,000 appropriation to study the South Canyon area for potential mountain bike trail use.  I am also aware that the Historic Preservation Commission is planning an interactive historic trail for the old South Canyon camp and settlements that were in the area.

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Donald “Rusty” Ford near his the site of his former home in South Canyon.

Today, I had the privilege of a tour of the South Canyon area with Donald “Rusty” Ford.  Rusty, understands this area as few residents of this area currently do.  He spent much of his youth in this area. Rusty is a coal miner and the “son” of a coal miner.  He spent 31 years in the mines of the area, mostly in Coal Basin.  He was there when Mid Continent Resource’s Dutch Creek No 1 mine exploded. Those memories still haunt his dreams.

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Smoke rising from the Coal Seam in South Canyon

Rusty loves South Canyon and the hills come alive as he tells of his escapades going into tunnels with his pal Joe Llewellyn or tossing rocks into a gaping hole left by the coal seam fire, and never hearing it hit bottom.  There is a part of South Canyon he calls the “Devil’s Playground” and it does seem to be that.  Apparently, this is the area in which the Coal Seam Fire started.

Rusty reached out to me, as a member of City Council, to express his concern for human safety.  The tunnels of the South Canyon mines criss-cross the area, some directly under the road, and many of them are burning. It will be critical, as we move forward with any plans, whether they are for historic trails or mountain bike trails, to understand this area and map it well to ensure public safety. 

We simply cannot take chances with human life. I understand the fascination with this area, with the fire underground. It is human nature to want to get just a little closer look. 

My request of RFMBA is to take this concern seriously as their plans and study move forward. Take advantage of the memory and the facts that people like Rusty have of this area.  The Coal Seam is still burning.  

And as for Rusty . . . I hope to continue more of his story later!