The Sopris Sun

Happy trails to 2017

By Will Grandbois
Sopris Sun Staff

There’s no way a single issue can truly capture all the happenings of a year in Bonedale and beyond, but hopefully our 51 other issues have given readers a good sampling. We’ve been in the first row for folks’ highs and lows, tried to branch out without losing the basics and given readers what they want as well as hopefully what they need.

The list that follows is far from comprehensive. We have tried to focus on things we felt made the year stand out, as well as those that might have lasting impacts on years to come. We have also tried to hold our remembrance of those passed until the end, while the news of the newborns has yet to be written.

We’d caution against reading this as some sort of “greatest hits” — although the 17 photos interspersed throughout are almost exactly that. If we had to crown a top topic, The Crystal River Trail certainly generated more letters than almost every other issue combined — but that story is far from over. Instead, we invite you to take a step back. Look at where we’re going, where we’ve been, and how you fit into it.

JANUARY

New energy at the Near New

A new generation stepped up to join the Carbondale Daughters of Rebekah, and help staff the associated Near New secondhand store. It proved a perfect arrangement for Rochelle Norwood, the youngest member in years, and Olivia Pevec of Scavenger Industries, who had been looking for a downtown outlet to support many of the same missions as the Rebekahs. “It’s a culture that is at one time fading and at the same time having a renaissance,” Pevec observed.

Town adds to cemetery capacity

Paul and Celia Nieslanik agreed to swap 1.38 acres of land next to Hillcrest Cemetery (White Hill) in exchange for similar acreage near the Carbondale Nature Park. The move will make it possible for the Town to add new burial plots in the sold out cemetery even as Evergreen/ Weaver Cemetery on Eighth Street began to fill up. “This was long term and a fairly unique opportunity to get cemetery space,” Town Manager Jay Harrington said. “(Land) in the Roaring Fork Valley is hard to come by.”

Protests at home and away

Alice The Magazine coordinated the first of a series of marches in conjunction with demonstrations around the country on the day after Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration. In what became a familiar pattern, a mile-long procession made its way along Highway 133 from The Goat to the Main Street roundabout, with protesters carrying signs and chanting “love trumps hate” before returning the way they’d come. At least 100 people later come out to march for Planned Parenthood — and were this time met with a small counter-demonstration. The marches continued throughout the year, though never with quite the turnout of the first event. Instead, political efforts turned toward boycotts (several shops closed for “A Day without Immigrants”) and meetings (“Indivisible Roaring Fork” and “Save Michelle’s Garden” are two prominent organizations formed in response to federal policies).

Two more trustee appointees

Erica Sparhawk, program director for regional alternative-energy advocacy organization CLEER (Clean Energy Economy for the Region), was picked to fill the trustee vacancy that came open last year when Mayor Dan Richardson was elevated by voters from his original role as a trustee to take on the mayor’s job. Later in the year, Katrina Byars would resign citing cost of living, and Luis Yllanes, a bilingual Florida-born man with a background in the arts, would be appointed to fill her seat. Coupled with the 2016 appointment of Heather Henry to fill a seat vacated by Alexander Hobbs, that means that three incumbents will go through the election process for the first time in 2018, alongside Richardson and a seat vacated by term-limited Frosty Merriott.

KDNK selects station manager

After just nine months as news manager at KDNK community radio, Gavin Dahl was promoted to replace longtime general manager Steve Skinner. Dahl expressed gratitude for the work done by Skinner over the decade that he ran the station and to the community for starting and maintaining the station’s vitality over its 38 years of existence. His training in radio, Dahl said, began at two college stations, at the University of Texas in Austin and then at Evergreen State College, a liberal arts institution in Olympia, Washington. He also worked at a station in Boise, Idaho (KRBX) after graduating from college, where he got his first taste of management.

FEBRUARY

Basalt’s administration shuffle

After Ron Miller, who had been filling Mike Scanlon’s empty shoes as Basalt town manager, stepped down, trustees decided that longtime area bureaucrat Davis Farrar should have the reigns until a permanent appointment was made. Farrar had severed as Carbondale’s town manager for 13 years, Silt’s interim town manager on two separate occasions, and was serving in the role in both Collbran and DeBeque. The Town later settled on Ryan Mahoney, who had previous served as town manager in Buena Vista and Dolores, as their top candidate. Contract negotiations were ongoing as of The Sun’s last report, but he has since fully taken over the role, and readers can still expect a full profile at some point.

Jackel passes torch to Brendlinger

After nearly 16 years as recreation director, Jeff Jackel announced his retirement having overseen projects valued at more than $6.6 million. The Town opted to promote from within, and he was succeeded by recreation center head honcho Eric Brendlinger. Thus far, the transition appears to have been almost seamless.

Land swap agreement inked

The controversial Sutey-Two Shoes agreement encountered a few final hurdles before it was officially signed. Originally slated for completion on Feb. 9, the deal called for the exchange 1,200 acres of public land in Eagle and Pitkin counties for a 557-acre ranch near Red Hill owned by billionaires Leslie and Abigail Wexner. It was held up pending a ruling by the Interior Board of Land Appeals, but eventually approved and signed in March.

Art bus rolls out

Sopris Sun Intern Laney Devers featured Carbondale Arts’ efforts to turn an old school bus into a “mobile maker studio” offering multimedia art courses to schools. Named Rosybelle in honor of the late Ro Mead, it saw plenty of use throughout the summer despite being technically still a work in progress. More recently, an electrical fire in the battery compartment caused a temporary setback, but the bus is expected to be back at full capacity early next year.

School threat proves bogus

When the FBI informed Carbondale Police that an online post indicating an 18-year-old was going to “take weapons and go to his high school and use them,” had pinged to a local IP address, Roaring Fork School District issued blanket lockouts and closed select schools. Other area schools followed similar precautions. It turned out at the threat was unwarranted and had been called in around the country, but both school officials and law enforcement stood by their cautious approach and called it an excellent chance to practice and improve emergency plans.

Welcoming Winston home

at TRTC

The opening performance of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” at the Thunder River Theatre was given special significance as the back box performance space was officially dedicated “The Lon Winston Theatre.” Winston had founded the institution and served as its executive director for more than 20 years, overseeing the construction of its permanent home at 67 Promenade. He’d turned the keys over to Corey Simpson the previous year, but continues to direct select performances.

Robbery leads to manhunt,

murder connections

After police identified cousins Benjamin Weeks and Nicholas Ameral as suspects in an armed robbery at the Cowen Center in Carbondale, the pair were spotted boarding a downvalley RFTA bus. As police prepared to conduct a stop, however, the young men kicked out an emergency window and escaped, prompting an extensive pursuit. Police dogs, drones and an airplane combed the hills near Basalt until the pair were stopped in a car two days later with signs of exposure. Ameral later pleaded guilty to robbery charges and was sentenced to six years in prison followed by five years of mandatory parole. Weeks, it turned out, was wanted for murder and other charges related to a case in Las Vegas. He remains in jail in Glenwood Springs and is slated for a January trial before being sent to Nevada for prosecution there.  

CRES hits enrollment hurdle

With fewer students anticipated for the next school year, Crystal River Elementary School was forced to cut back on staff. It was a counterintuitive conundrum for a school that has otherwise made tremendous strides with significantly improved test scores and a new sense of identity around “project-based” learning. With a broad array of school choice and “baby bust” altering demographics, however, the school braced to try to offer the same quality with fewer resources.

MARCH

Teacher housing becomes a reality

Two years after the Community Partnership Development was finally deemed economically infeasible, a smaller Roaring Fork School District housing complex was proposed along South Third Street. Backed by $5 million in bond funds, RFSD was mostly exempt from standard approvals but opted to go through the Town process for 20 apartments totalling 33,000 square feet on a 1.37 acre plot currently mostly occupied by a bus barn. With few objections from the Planning and Zoning Commission or Trustees, construction began in earnest and is well underway.

Safe paths through the dark

Following several violent crimes in unlit areas, trustees attempted to address concerns with a map of safe routes through town. They also agreed to a number of “next steps” in making the streets as safe as possible at night, including adding lights to the east-side pedestrian trail along Highway 133 at the north side of town and installing a sidewalk along Village Road at Gianinetti Park, where people currently must walk either in the road or through the dark park. Many of the Parks and Recreation Commission’s recommendations have since been carried out.

‘Panic! Pánico!’

at Basalt High School

Budding nonprofit VOICES helped Basalt high schoolers produce a special, one-time performance that wasn’t exactly a play, or a dance recital or even a variety show. As “devised theatre” the unscripted production included a mix of formats with some “connective tissue” on common themes.

Third Street gets a makeover

A $493,000 renovation and rearranging of South Third Street began with a planned (and accomplished) goal of wrapping up by Memorial Day. The row received new sidewalks, landscaping and ditch access on both sides of the street. It took a while for folks to adjust to the new parking arrangement, but eventually the orange plastic fences came down as clover began to grow. The jury is still out on how everything will work under a foot of snow, but as long as there are some bike tracks in the concrete our nostalgic editor is happy.

Hard work pays off

for RFHS scholars

With a graduating class of around 80 students, the Roaring Fork High School Class of ‘17 boasted six students awarded some of the state’s top scholarships — two Boettchers (a full ride anywhere in the state) and four Daniels (a full ride anywhere in the country). Tavia Teitler later opted to accept financial aid at Stanford instead (we don’t blame her), while Nick Penzel, Julia Lee, Enrique Gonzalez, Lorenzo Andrade and Fabian Rico are all off taking advantage of the support to make us proud.

APRIL

Don’t walk out, waffle in

As the community at large balked at Roaring Fork School District’s replacement for departing Roaring Fork High School Principal Drew Adams, students staged a “waffle in” — a show of support with tinges of a peaceful protest. After five years, Adams was leaving at the end of the school year to work and live abroad with his family. Vice Principal Kelsie Goodman applied for the job, but Superintendent Rob Stein offered it to Brett Stringer, who was working at the North Middle School Health Sciences and Technology Campus in Aurora. While the student message was one of unity and empowerment, the school board heard a series of strongly worded objections from parents, faculty and others before opting to approve Stein’s choice. Despite the controversy, Goodman didn’t hesitate to stay on as vice principal, and Stringer expressed excitement for the school.  “I think Kelsie is amazing and the attributes she brings to the community are a true asset,” he said. “I’m looking forward to both of us working together.”

KDNK studio rezoned

Upon discovering that the former Town Hall turned radio station’s technical status as high density residential prohibited certain types of gatherings, KDNK set out to change that. Citing Historic Commercial Core to the north (although that property itself had only recently been rezoned from Commercial Transitional), they asked for the same and recieved it.

You know that it ain’t Vail

Town Manager Jay Harrington was among three finalists for the same position in Vail. Harrington had been at his post in Carbondale since 2011, and boasted 23 years of experience. In the end, he pulled himself out of the running before the final decision was made. He said that family considerations played the biggest role in his decision.

MAY

Thompson Park ‘in a hiatus’

Developer Frieda Wallison of Basalt opted to reduce the scope of the The Thompson Park housing project, which had been in the works for nearly eight years. The project, which initially was planned for a little more than 10 acres along Highway 133 between Triangle Park and the Keater Grove neighborhood, at one time was expected to result in construction of between 45 and 85 homes. The current plan calls for a handful of homes in a small corner of the property now that Wallison has sold a two-acre site for the newly built Ross Montessori School and turned the Historic Thompson House and its immediate surroundings over to the town to be used as a museum run by the Mt. Sopris Historical Society.

Fatal wreck prompts charges

A 17-year-old was killed and others were injured when a car full of teens went off Sweet Hill just west of town. The driver, 18-year-old Gerardo Banda, later pleaded guilty to felony vehicular homicide, vehicular assault and driving under the influence of alcohol and was sentenced to six years in prison.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall

When the Carbondale Public Arts Commission debuted its new year of art, one in particular garnered a lot of attention. Minneapolis sculptor Kimber Fiebiger’s depiction of the classic nursery rhyme perched outside the Carbondale Branch Library was viewed by some as off putting but by many more as a perfect fit. A group of citizens have since been fundraising (www.youcaring.com/HumptyDumpty) to make the placement permanent, and are less than a $1,000 short of their $6,000 goal.

A different kind of service

The Third Street Center got a new coffee shop, with Mid Valley Church pastor Lance Norton serving as barista. Named “Cilundu” — “mountain” in the Chitonga language, the Zambian title provides a perfect opportunity for Norton to talk about the New Day Orphanage, which the proceeds from those morning mochas support. While Lance has been The Sun’s main supplier thanks to proximity, we’re also well aware of the relatively new Carbondale Creamery shop on Highway 133, and hope to catch up with them in a more ice creamy season.

Moments of zen

The Roaring Fork Valley’s Buddhist practitioners now have focal point at the Way of Compassion Dharma Center in Carbondale. Located in The Sun’s former office at the Third Street Center, it the first such center to open up in the valley, according to its Spiritual Director, John Bruna (who also goes by a traditional Buddhist name, Jangchub Chophel). The center has wasted no time in hosting an array of distinguished visitors and events.

BOA blocks building permit

on Euclid

After numerous meetings and neighbor protests, the Carbondale Board of Adjustment (or at least, the Planning and Zoning Commision acting in that capacity) vetoed a proposal for a five bedroom, 4,455-square foot house on Euclid Avenue. While it fit the letter of the law, BOA members felt the house didn’t meet “the intent” of the Old Town Residential zone district, while the applicant disagreed. The Town later received a summons to District Court on the matter.

JUNE

A new bar

The scion of the Roaring Fork Beer Company, Batch took over the European Antiques space on Main Street with a completely remodeled interior (complete with a hidden staircase). The “tasting room,” as it is styled, features 24 taps — four times what the Dolores Way location offered. It has since hosted numerous new and old events and established itself as a core element in the downtown scene.

Connecting cameras to cops

Carbondale Police began a slow roll out for  “body-cams,” which will capture images and sound recordings of everything from traffic stops to street encounters with citizens, similar to the devices worn by big-city cops and made famous in news stories about controversial acts by police around the country. But the local police say the move was not driven by national news stories or complaints about police behavior, but rather by a desire to enhance evidence collection and accountability for everyone involved.

No longer a gym

The Third Street Center raised $90,000 for the first phase of its “Let there be Light” campaign to overhaul the building’s former gym. Perhaps the most striking change was the installation of six large windows and two sets of glass double doors. At the time of the story, fundraising was ongoing for window shades, new flooring, improved sound and lighting and more. The TSC was also soliciting suggestions for a name.

A brick-and-mortar bookstore

Bookbinders Basalt debuted in Willits, and although owners Catherine Maas and Lisa Krass had never run a bookstore before, they seemed optimistic. Indeed, the cozy interior, eclectic selection with some local favorites and regular book clubs seem to have made it a hit. Just don’t ask our staff about the length of their to-read shelves.

Polo planned for TCI Ranch

One of the last historic ranches between Aspen and Glenwood Springs — a 100-acre parcel formerly known as the McClure River Ranch near Catherine Store — sold for $7.2 million. Marc Ganzi, who co-founded the Aspen Valley Polo Club at Catherine Store with his wife, Melissa, confirmed that a partnership affiliated with the club recently acquired the Ace Lane property. “Our goals with the land are consistent with the goals we had when we bought the Aspen Equestrian Estates barn/facility next to Catherine Store, which is to grow and introduce this great equestrian sport, namely polo, in the Roaring Fork Valley,” he told The Sun.

You can’t kill a dandelion

With their lease up at the end of the month and no renewal in the cards, The Carbondale Food Co-Op considered all its options before a solution presented itself. At a meeting at the library earlier in the year, one member had advocated for dissolution of the board and perhaps the whole organization to allow for a fresh start as a nonprofit. His fellows seemed disinclined to take so drastic an approach, but as the deadline approached, bare shelves and staff layoffs had things looking grim. At the last minute, the owners of Rhumba Girl Liquors stepped in with an offer the remaining board members couldn’t refuse. After several weeks of absence — during which time the old building on Main Street was leveled and the property sodded and fenced off — Dandelion Market reemerged on Highway 133. It’s still in need of more volunteers and customers. Theresa’s Market and Sweet Coloradough, the other businesses on the property believed to belong to local landowner and philanthropist Bren Simon through Equanimous Holdings LLC, appear to have given up on a Carbondale location.

JULY

TRTC takes home Henrys

It the first year Thunder River Theatre Company was able to impress the judges necessary to qualify for the Colorado Theatre Guild’s Henry Awards. An impressive 11 nominations lead to two top prizes Outstanding Sound Design for “The Tempest” and Outstanding Set Design for “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” — both credited to Sean Jeffries.

Snowmass Avenue trail considered

In a joint meeting, Carbondale and Garfield County explored the possibility of putting a pedestrian path alongside Snowmass Drive, the one-time bypass for coal trucks hauling loads from mines near Redstone to the coal loading facility on Catherine Store Road east of town. Before anything concrete happens, it will be up to Carbondale to come up with estimated costs of such a project, as well as an idea of whether the town should annex the road and perhaps the adjacent Vetter Trailer Park (aka The Garfield Court Mobile Home Park), both of which currently are in the county’s jurisdiction. More recently, they had some added encouragement in the form of letters and presentations from third graders asking for a safe path to school.

Crown trail system improvements

Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers went to work on new and improved hiking, biking and equestrian trails in the Crown area off Prince Creek Road near Carbondale. In a series of evening events, crews built bridges, cleared brush and established a link to the proposed site of a future parking lot — although Pitkin County Open Space & Trails has not yet made a final decision on the subject.

AUGUST

Grand Avenue Bridge Project

While the construction of a new span across the Colorado River and Interstate 70 was ostensibly a Glenwood affair, it had significant impacts throughout the Valley. Despite mitigation efforts, epic traffic jams were the norm as much of area’s workforce passed through the construction zone. Many Carbondale municipal positions shifted to four 10 hour days, and the Town also modified construction hours and other policies to ease the impact. In the end, despite an unexpected collapse, the bridge was finished in less than the estimated 95 days, and there was much rejoicing.

Carbondale, AirBnb reach tax agreement

Airbnb started collecting and remitting sales and lodging tax to the Town of Carbondale on behalf of hosts. A 3.5 percent sales tax rate and a 2 percent lodging tax were arranged as part of the Voluntary Collection Agreement — the ninth such in Colorado and one of around 300 worldwide.

Carbondale gets

a new postmaster

The 81623 zip code has a new postmaster after some time without one. Soft spoken and polite, Reza Tehrani came to the United States from Iran as a teenager in 1987. After some time in Denver, he ended up getting a job as a postal clerk in Aspen, and eventually began to work his way up in the organization using his management background and some encouragement from an existing postmaster. He served in various roles in Glenwood, Old Snowmass and Carbondale before being officially sworn in as the head honcho in Carbondale.

Bear incidents up

While you’d generally expect to encounter a bruin in Aspen or Glenwood, Carbondale saw its share over the summer. In one particularly unfortunate case, a young bear cub, roaming with its mother around the streets of old town, was electrocuted when it climbed a power pole and had to be put down by the Carbondale Police Department. A pair of bears — possibly relatives — were seen for several weeks in the same area, but cleared out after attracting large crowds to their tree during the Our Town One Table event. Residents were cautioned that they had better make sure their trash containers are sufficiently bear-proof to avoid penalties that can reach up to $1,300 in fines, but compliance remained low. The trustees have made it a priority to tackle the problem before hibernation ends.

New ownership at Miser’s

Miser’s Mercantile and its contents were seized by landlord Dale Eubank, who contended that former owner Sam Hunter owed more than $12,000 in back rent. After a brief closure, the store reopened under Eubank, with consignment honored for new sales but not for back credit. The building has since undergone considerable renovation. Back Door Consignment also underwent an ownership change, but the voluntary sale and less significant physical changes made for far less drama.

Trustees take immigration stand

A proposed resolution aimed at protecting Carbondale’s Hispanic community from deportation and other anti-immigrant actions, by police or by the town, was passed by the town’s Board of Trustees (BOT). Although reworked somewhat, it was based on proposal by Carbondale Middle School eighth-graders Vanessa Leon, Jessica Koller, Keiry Lopez and Cassidy Meyer — all members of a CMS organization known as The Issues Club — earlier in the year. Specifically, it “recognizes the importance of all persons in the community, regardless of immigration status,” and clarifies that the town “supports a clear path for immigrants to legally live, work and become citizens of the United States.”

(Not quite) total eclipse of the sun

While many of the most enthusiastic astronomers made the trip to “the path of totality” in Wyoming, Carbondale had a pretty good view of the solar eclipse and took advantage of it. The Sun’s eclipse viewing party was a hit with adults but even more popular with the kids, while a smaller group gathered on White Hill. The next total solar eclipse over town will take place in 2045.

A living letter

A special live performance of “Letter To Congress: a WILD Sanity” at Sustainable Settings combined spoken sentiments with dance against a wild backdrop. The core of the project is a film which will help illustrate the power of public places to lawmakers who may never experience them first hand. Almost all the footage was shot earlier this summer in various locations throughout the White River National Forest.

The Temporary becomes a happening hangout

Although it’s official grand opening wasn’t until December, the new performing arts space in Willits has been hosting events for months, from comedy to theatre to film. Tucked in harmoniously with offices and a hot tub retailer, it’s about as unassuming a performance venue as one could imagine. But those who pass through the gigantic door off of Market Street will encounter spacious lobby and well-stocked bar allow and space for 140 spectators in a large open room with a slightly elevated stage. Long term its founders are hoping to raise up to $8 million to construct a stand-alone, state-of-the-art facility, but for now, The Temporary provides a small taste of that vision.

SEPTEMBER

Riverview School

Pre-kindergarten through eighth grade students, most of whom had previously attended Glenwood Springs schools, found themselves in a brand new building across from Ironbridge for the new school year. The school was proposed as part of the 2015 bond issue to relieve overcrowding in Glenwood Springs schools and address the population growth expected over the next five to ten years. At the same time, Roaring Fork School District implemented a new enrollment process, which continues to guarantee enrollment and transportation for children living within a school’s attendance area, with the option to cross over if capacity isn’t met.

New school leadership

In addition to a new principal, Roaring Fork High School hired athletic secretary and former water girl Jade Bath as athletic director. Meanwhile, Crystal River Elementary School Vice Principal Sam Richings-Germain took over as principal at Carbondale Community School, and Liz Meador stepped into that seat to complete the shuffle.

Documentary studies ‘How We Grow’

A film project focused on a group of local young farmers was finishing post production and slated for submission to the Sundance Film Festival. According to co-director Tom Zuccareno, the documentary “is a story of how this community, the Roaring Fork Valley, has built systems that support young people making the decision to become farmers,” despite the well documented obstacles facing anyone who wants to farm in a high-altitude, resort-oriented region where land values generally have outstripped the financial wherewithal of the agriculture industry.

Look out, 5Point

The third annual flagship “No Man’s Land” film festival kicked things up a notch with four days of female-focused outdoor films at The Crystal Theatre and a wide array of events throughout downtown. Once just a dream for  Aisha Weinhold, the enthusiasm of filmmakers, speakers and spectators underscored the resonance of the idea and its future potential.

On the subject of nature…

It was a dangerous season for mountaineering in the area, with eight of 11 fatal accidents across Colorado fourteeners taking place in Pitkin County. Mountain Rescue Aspen recovered five bodies from Capitol Peak, two from Maroon Bells and one from Conundrum, MRA president Jeff Edelson said of the climbing season. With more and more people on the peaks, rescuers and others urged caution and advocated for education — though another incident drove home the point that no one is immune to the dangerous of the backcountry.

Raid turns up more than pot

One suspect fled and another was taken into federal custody when law enforcement busted an illegal marijuana grow on public land near Redstone. Discovered by an anonymous civilian near the apparent remnants of a smaller, older grow sight above the former Placita townsite, the grow contained mostly harvested marijuana, some trimmed and drying and several trash bags worth of already dried and packaged buds. Also in evidence was the rack of a recently killed buck deer and a bag of dead minks. The suspect is charged with conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than 1,000 marijuana plants. If convicted, he will face 10 years to life in prison and/or a $10 million fine.

Beginning in sight for City Market

Along with the six plat-filing deadline extensions in two years, Kroger offered a timeline for the construction of a new grocery store north of the current building. If all goes as planned, closing on the property will take place in February 2018, with site work later the same year and vertical construction in early 2019.

OCTOBER

50 years of CMC

As the school celebrated 50 years, Governor John Hickenlooper proclaimed Oct. 2, 2017, “forever after” as Colorado Mountain College Day. CMC also arranged an array of programming around its campuses throughout the year and pursued, but did not achieve, a ballot item looking for a loophole in the Gallagher Amendment.

A grand ARTway

After nearly two years of planning, community members celebrated boots-on-the-ground progress of the Rio Grande ARTway with two volunteer work sessions at the new DeRail Park near Highway 133 and one at the Latino Folk Art Garden along the path near Eighth Street.

Carbondale Arts will continue to develop the 1-mile section of the Rio Grande Trail that bisects Carbondale in an effort to establish a “creative place-making project that reflects the cultural diversity of the community, inspires greater use of non-motorized transportation, preserves our heritage, and strengthens our core creative community,” according to the ARTway master plan.

See you around, Town

Lease negotiations between Town restaurant owner and the building owner — believed to be the aforementioned Bren Simon — fell through. Rather than pursue a new location, Fischer opted to close the relatively young but beloved eatery’s doors. He’ll still have plenty on his plate with Phat Thai right across the street and The Pullman in Glenwood.

Crystal River Trail

It’s hard to decide exactly where to place the latest chapter in this decades long debate. Pitkin County Open Space and Trails kicked off the year with open houses in Redstone and Carbondale, Wilderness Workshop commissioned a 114-page report on possible wildlife impacts from a Boulder-based wildlife biologist over the summer, and a series of presentations were held in September. Governor Hickenlooper even weighed in by including a Carbondale to Crested Butte route on a list of priority connections. It really came to a head, however, during a joint meeting with Pitkin County Commissioners, OST and Carbondale Trustees on Oct. 17. With over 100 people in attendance, some folks came down in favor of a trail on the east side of the river, others advocated for a west side route following Highway 133, and still others didn’t want it built at all. The comment period was twice pushed back, and when it came time for the Carbondale trustees to submit their own thoughts, the only consensus was that the process was flawed. The process will continue into 2018, with a joint work session planned for Jan. 16 and open houses on a draft plan slated for March.

Unitarians offer sanctuary

When the Two Rivers Unitarian Universalists announced their intention to offer immigration sanctuary, Sandra Lopez didn’t think she’d be the one to take them up on the offer. But a day after her stay of removal was denied, she moved into the parsonage on Cleveland Place and doesn’t know when she’ll come out again. Federal policy discourages immigration officials from raiding churches and schools, so she although ICE is well aware of her location, it is hoped that she’ll have a safe place to appeal the decision and potentially move toward citizenship. Meanwhile, she is basically on house arrest and welcomes visitors — contact TRUU for more information.

NOVEMBER

Bridges High gets a custom space

While almost every school in Roaring Fork School district saw improvements following the bond issue, the changes at the old Carbondale Union High School building are particularly striking. After 20 years of secondhand spaces, Bridges High School has a tailor made campus in the south side of the building, with its own entrance, a cafeteria and classrooms that aren’t scattered all over. Construction is ongoing in the rest of the building, which will house the district office in addition to existing tenants like YouthEntity and Bonedale Ballet.

Soccer boys go far

The Roaring Fork High School soccer boys had their best season in recent memory, leaving higher ranked teams in their wake as they ascend through the playoffs. The finally met their match against the defending champs Kent Denver, but with most of their top players returning next year, the story is far from over. “I just coach for the season, but I have it in the back of my mind that this team is only going to get better,” Coach Nick Forbes said.

Carbondale Fire keeps funding

Voters gave Carbondale and Rural Fire Protection District three more years at their current property tax level. With two to one support for the measure, it seemed like a return to the norm of public support for the district. A notable exception was 2013, when the fire board was shot down in pursuit of significant increase with no expiration date. Two lean years later and after extensive public discussion and master planning, the board again pursued an increase, this time for 1.75 additional mills with a two-year sunset clause, which proved palatable. The latest vote is essentially a renewal of that rate with a slightly longer sunset.

Proposed history fund goes down

Garfield County voters rejected a tax increase of $3.42 per $100,000 of assessed property value that would have supported seven historical societies located in Garfield County: the Mount Sopris Historical Society in Carbondale, Glenwood Springs Historical Society, Glenwood Springs Railroad Museum, New Castle Historical Society, Silt Historic Park, Rifle Heritage Center and Museum and the Grand Valley Historical Society. The rail museum has since closed, and it’s unclear how the other organizations will fare without the extra revenue.

Stein proposal proceeds

Trustees approved a plan for a mixed use development on the northeast side of the roundabout at Highway 133 and Main Street. The currently vacant lot is owned by Stein Properties Limited Partnership, which also runs the Sopris Shopping Center and Self Storage just across Colorado Avenue to the north. With streets on three sides and a marked drop in elevation on one side, it’s a development challenge despite its prime location. “I’ve always viewed it as the entrance to town,” said Ron Stein, who has hoped to develop the lot for the better part of a decade. The approved design includes 2100 square feet of commercial space and 18 residential units.

‘No for right now’ on assisted living proposal

While the developer for the proposal feels that Sopris Lodge Assisted Living facility, because of the nature of its would-be residents, wouldn’t need anywhere near the 247 parking spaces typically required by the town for a project that size, that didn’t fly with the Planning and Zoning Commission. The proposal was rejected with the understanding that with a different approach — and at least a parking variance — it might be back before P&Z in the near future with a different result.

Rams drop varsity football

Following a no-win season with few upperclassmen on the roster, Roaring Fork High School announced it would nix varsity football in favor of JV for the next two years. Without the numbers for both or the option to go down to a smaller league, it was pitched as the best chance to protect the players with some chance of changing back down the road. “We’re not doing this because we lost,” Athletic Director Jade Bath said. “We’re doing it because it’s best for the kids and we’re trying to keep them safe. It’s gonna hurt, but it’s the decision we had to make.”

DECEMBER

Housing creativity

The Carbondale Creative District and Town of Carbondale held an feasibility study in conjunction with Artspace, an organization dedicated to affordable housing for artists. The possible partnership offers a second chance after Carbondale lost the bid for the Space to Create designation. It’s far from a done deal, but we hope to hear some results soon.

AVLT, Town pursue

Red Hill property

With plenty of help from Aspen Valley Land Trust, Carbondale may end up owning almost 25 acres of land at the base of Red Hill — allowing the construction of a new parking lot and trail getting hikers and bikers off the road.  Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Bureau of Land Management and the Red Hill Council are also closely involved in planning, but it’s AVLT that has already put the land under contract — with a plan to close Dec. 15 — and launched a $500,000 fundraising project to cover it. If things go as planned, a community fundraising campaign would cover the rest of the cost with an endowment for future maintenance.

Zoning change proposed for new housing project

The Garfield County Planning Commission rejected a developer’s application to amend the county’s comprehensive plan in order to accommodate a vision for a new community of up to 400 small houses in the pasture northwest of the intersection of Catherine Store Road and Highway 82. It remains to be seen if the property will be back on the table with a less dense development at a future meeting.