Colorados first-ever criminal charges complying with an avalanche might be slippery slope for backcountry travelers

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The two snowboarders talk about snow conditions and route selection as they drop in, one at a time. Gusting wind is blowing snow across the ridge as they wind between reefy rocks.

“Avalanche!” yells Tyler DeWitt as he cranks to a stop below his friend Evan Hannibal. 

The two watch the slide — captured on video by Hannibal’s helmet camera — grow from a small slough of wind-deposited snow into a deep avalanche that buries the service road above the west portal of the Eisenhower-Johnson tunnels with 20 feet of snow. 

“F***, dude that is what I was worried about,” Hannibal says.

“F***, dude that is not good,” DeWitt says. 

“I really hope nobody was on that road,” Hannibal says. 

After negotiating a safe descent, the veteran backcountry travelers call 911 to report the avalanche. There was no one on the road and no one was injured by the slide. They talk with police and avalanche investigators from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. Hannibal gives the researchers his video, which they use to craft a report that details the specifics of the avalanche. Those avalanche center reports, like hundreds before them, help other backcountry travelers learn from previous incidents and possibly glean insights into the capricious nature of avalanches. 

And this time, for the first time ever in Colorado, the statements and video given by Hannibal and DeWitt are the basis of criminal charges filed by a prosecutor who is seeking $168,000 from the snowboarders to pay for an avalanche mitigation device destroyed in the March 25 slide. 

“We called the authorities in on ourselves. We handled it in a professional manner and tried to be as professional as we could be when a mistake was made,” said Hannibal, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician in Vail who has been snowboarding in Colorado’s backcountry for more than a decade. “I think the backcountry community should be worried about the repercussions here when you report an avalanche and tell the truth and get charged with a crime.”

Boarders charged with reckless endangerment

The avalanche below the Continental Divide barreled down a chute directly above Interstate 70. It started small — 4- to 6-inches deep — and then stepped down to deeper, weaker layers in the snowpack, eventually scouring the ground. More than 400 feet of the Loop Road above the west portal of the tunnels was buried. 

What began as a small slide of a few inches of fresh snow stepped down to a weak layer and ultimately scoured the ground in the March 25 avalanche. The snowboarders who triggered the slide face reckless endangerment charges and fines to replace a damaged avalanche mitigation system, which is marked by the blue ovals. (Provided by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center)

Bruce Brown, the district attorney for Colorado’s 5th Judicial District, said he studied the video of the accident. He points out that the two snowboarders were aware of the risk of an avalanche and discussed how to avoid that risk.

“We charged them with reckless endangerment because it was foreseeable they were putting other people at risk of serious bodily injury in that they recognized the potential for a slide and they could obviously see, right below their skis, I-70, where 100,000 cars go by each week,” Brown said. “They knew if there was a slide, it could end up on the roadway, endangering the traveling public.”

DeWitt and Hannibal had all the avalanche equipment needed for rescue and the video shows them practicing safety protocol —  discussing safe routes, noting hazards, moving one-at-a-time and stopping in safe zones — as they navigated through avalanche terrain. DeWitt had been riding different chutes in the area the weeks prior, with no incident. The chute the two chose to descend on March 25 had two remote controlled O’bellx avalanche mitigation cannons, which the Colorado Department of Transportation installed in the fall of 2018 to bring down smaller avalanches to minimize the chance of a larger slide burying the interstate.

“The riders assumed that the avalanche mitigation to protect the tunnel infrastructure decreased the avalanche hazard on the slope,” the CAIC report on the avalanche reads, also noting the difference between avalanche mitigation to protect infrastructure, which reduces the potential for large slides, and mitigation at ski areas, which reduces the potential for small, human-triggered slides. “Backcountry travelers who are unaware of the differences often overestimate the hazard reduction from an infrastructure mitigation program.”

The Colorado Department of Transportation, which spent $371,000 in 2018 installing three remote control avalanche mitigation systems above I-70 around the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnels and another on Berthoud Pass, had never lost an O’bellx or Gazex avalanche device in a slide. 

The agency and the Colorado Avalanche Information Center use more than a dozen of the remote controlled systems on Loveland and Berthoud passes to reduce avalanche hazards above U.S. 6 and U.S. 40. CDOT has not replaced the O’bellx unit lost in the March avalanche. An agency spokeswoman said CDOT is looking at “alternative plans to ensure the slide path is safe” throughout the 2020-21 season.  

Trial date will be set later this month

Hannibal said he and DeWitt spent the entire climb up from the parking lot near the west portal of the tunnels studying the terrain and analyzing avalanche activity in the area. They only saw  small releases of new snow. 

“Our concern was definitely not reading into an avalanche of that size,” he said. “We were expecting light stuff, like the rest of the chutes we had seen.”

Hannibal said his worst-case-scenario concern was an avalanche that might hit the Loop Road, which is used by service and emergency vehicles and not open to the public. 

The March 25 avalanche deposited as much as 20 feet of debris on the Loop Road above the west portal of the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnel. The road is not open to the public. (Provided by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center)

“At no point was I worried about it reaching the highway,” he said. “This was a relatively small chute and where we were standing was literally 3, maybe 4-inches deep before you hit rocks. We were on the shallow end of the snowpack. There didn’t seem to be that much snow in the chute to begin with.”

Hannibal and DeWitt, who are due back in court in Summit County later this month to set a trial date, are looking for attorneys. Hannibal also is using a GoFundMe page to raise a little more than $11,000 to pay for his defense.

Hannibal recently studied CAIC’s comprehensive list of avalanche accidents in Colorado and the United States. (Colorado leads the nation in avalanche fatalities, with 287 deaths since 1950.)

“So many avalanches. Numerous accidents in the backcountry and so many people have died in the backcountry,” he says. “And there have never been criminal charges and this is the only case that makes it to trial. That is astonishing to me.”

There has been one case in Colorado where an avalanche resulted in litigation and a small-claims judgement against a backcountry skier who triggered an avalanche that injured another skier. 

In that 2017 case in San Miguel County, District Court Judge Cory Jackson ordered Christopher Parke to pay Jayleen Troutwin $7,500 to cover medical costs after she was injured in an avalanche in Bear Creek, a drainage popular with backcountry skiers just outside the boundary of the Telluride ski area. Parke and his partner met Troutwin and her partner as they hiked out of the ski area. Parke said he would call Troutwin to make sure she was clear of the zone before he and his partner began their descent. 

Parke waited and made the call but Troutwin did not answer. He and his partner began their descent and triggered an avalanche that swept Troutwin off a rope as she rappelled down a rock face.

Read more outdoors stories from The Colorado Sun.

Jackson’s ruling had less to do with the dangers of backcountry skiing than the duty of care Parke had assumed when he said he would call Troutwin before beginning his descent. Because Parke began his descent before reaching Troutwin by phone, as he promised, Jackson ruled that Parke “failed to act as a reasonable person would under those circumstances and therefore breached the duty he assumed.”

Brown called Jackson’s ruling “a great piece of legal writing” and he sees similarities in his case against Hannibal and Dewitt. Brown said he is obligated to help victims secure compensation for property lost due to a crime and this case involves taxpayers losing avalanche mitigation devices. 

“People need to double down on safety not only for themselves and other people in the backcountry but also because of first responders whose resources are strained and who are working under heightened risks in the era of COVID,” Brown said. “We all need to have a heightened sense of safety and that may mean not taking as many risks as we may otherwise want to.”

Ethan Greene, the executive director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center said the charges against DeWitt and Hannibal “bring up a lot of complicated issues.” And those issues are becoming more critical as avalanche forecasters and search and rescue teams across Colorado brace for what will be a very busy season in the backcountry. (Backcountry retailers and manufacturers are reporting record sales as skiers prepare for a season that may involve limited access to ski resorts.)

Greene’s team navigates a thin line when it crafts its reports on avalanche accidents. The goal is to create a record of avalanches that backcountry travelers can study to learn from previous miscalculations. Details about missed warning signs can provide insight for other travelers. The report writers at CAIC work to avoid assigning overly critical blame, for fear that future backcountry skiers might not share information about accidents. Greene’s team even provides their avalanche reports to the skiers involved before the description and analysis of the accident is published. That makes the report-writing process more like a discussion, Greene said. 

A district attorney might look at that process differently, Greene said. 

Brian Metzger, a special operations technician with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office who responded to the avalanche and interviewed DeWitt and Hannibal after the slide, reviewed the helmet camera video two weeks after the incident.

Two snowboarders who triggered an avalanche that buried Loop Road submitted helmet-cam video, from which this image is taken, that showed the debris and included them saying they hoped to people or vehicles had been on the road. (Provided by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center)

“Throughout the video, there are several comments made about areas of concern. The pair were clearly worried about avalanche conditions,” Metzger wrote in his report. “After the avalanche was triggered there were comments made about how they hope there were no people or vehicles on the road. They also make comments about being in trouble if the cops show up.”

The same day he received the video, April 6, Metzger said he attempted to contact DeWitt and Hannibal to issue them summonses for reckless endangerment.

Greene said he does worry about skiers possibly not sharing information with his investigators following the filing of charge. 

“The other thing I worry about is people triggering avalanches above other people or onto roads and killing people. We have had some really close calls,” Greene said. “We are seeing more people on the highway and more people in the backcountry and with those increases, this issue becomes more complicated.”

Hannibal and DeWitt said they always check the CAIC daily forecast before venturing into the backcountry. That day, the center’s avalanche forecast for the Vail-Summit County zone decreased the threat of avalanches from considerable to moderate. The warning that day included a note that triggering a slide between the new snow and old layers can shear slabs 2-feet deep that can propagate “wider than you might think.”

Hannibal said he happily gave his video to CAIC, “knowing the video would be used for avalanche education.” 

“I never thought it would be handed over to authorities,” said Hannibal, who pursued emergency medical care as a career so he could be prepared to help himself and his friends when they explored the backcountry.

Threat of charges in 1987 left two bodies buried for days

Jim Moss, a Denver attorney who has specialized in outdoor recreation legal issues for more than 30 years, has never seen criminal charges stemming from a backcountry avalanche. 

“Inbounds, yes. But out of bounds? Never,” he said. 

As he reviewed the case against Dewitt and Hannibal, he flipped through his book of Colorado’s statutes and read the law that constitutes reckless endangerment. The law says a person commits the misdemeanor crime by recklessly engaging in conduct “that creates a substantial risk of bodily injury to another person.”

“According to the statute, I think you have got to have someone at the other end of that avalanche run who could have been injured for this to be reckless endangerment,” Moss said. 

Moss also takes issue with the idea that backcountry travelers recognizing a risk and taking measures to avoid that risk can constitute criminal activity. 

“This criminal charge suggests that if you don’t have any idea what you are doing in the backcountry, you are better off,” he said. “Which is just stupid.”

Moss is concerned that a conviction could set a precedent that opens doors for more criminal charges spilling out of avalanches. Transportation agencies and avalanche centers across the West often create avalanches that cause damage, burying roads and parking lots.

“Everything about an avalanche is unpredictable,” Moss said. “This one has me worried. It’s just so far outside the normal boundaries”

Veteran avalanche researcher Dale Atkins said Brown, the district attorney, “is suffering from a bad case of hindsight bias.”

Atkins fears the chilling effect that could come from pursuing criminal charges, not not on backcountry skiing but all outdoor recreation. 

He worries criminal charges “or even the threat of prosecution” will deter people from reporting avalanches, which will challenge forecasters and researchers who study accidents so backcountry travelers can learn from past incidents and mistakes.

Atkins remembers the Summit County Sheriff in 1987 telling newspaper reporters that he might pursue criminal charges against two skiers who triggered the avalanche above Peak 7 outside the boundary of Breckenridge that killed four skiers. 

Atkins was in charge of the avalanche investigation back then and was searching for buried victims in the massive debris below the basin. The two skiers who were on top of the Peak 7 snowfield when the avalanche released went into hiding following the sheriff’s threat of criminal charges.  

“It wasn’t until we got the sheriff to back off his threat that the two came forward and provided information that helped us find the last two skiers,” Atkins said. “This is a situation and time for education, and not the heavy hand of the law.”

Like Moss, Atkins calls avalanches unpredictable.

“In the face of uncertainty we have to focus on the process, not the result,” he said. 

DeWitt had been riding the zone for two weeks before the March 25 slide. He said the snowpack was settling as spring and warmer temperatures arrived. The 38-year-old who has been riding backcountry in Colorado for more than 20 years said he suspected the two cannons in the chute had reduced the risk of catastrophic avalanches over the interstate. 

What began as a small slide of a few inches of fresh snow stepped down to a weak layer and ultimately scoured the ground. (Provided by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center)

“We did not trigger a 4-foot crown. That crown started at the cannons. So if there is a 4-foot crown sitting above a major interstate where they were mitigating avalanche danger, that tells me those cannons were not doing their job,” DeWitt said. “Those cannons are in place to control snow through the year and decrease the large build-up of deep, persistent slab avalanches. And that’s exactly what we exposed. I think Bruce Brown is bypassing the fact that the CAIC and CDOT cannons were not doing what they claimed to be doing. I don’t want this to look like I’m pointing fingers. I just want the community to learn from this.”

So does Greene. Education is a pillar of CAIC’s purpose, as well as protecting backcountry travelers and drivers on mountain roadways. It’s a delicate job, especially as travel in Colorado’s high country grows. Mitigating avalanches amidst spiking traffic mirrors the challenges of public lands managers who are balancing resource protection with maintaining access and encouraging people to recreate on public lands. 

“But they are starting to see more trash and more damage and more accidents. This year, we have seen these issues accelerate pretty dramatically,” Greene said. “This is something we all need to work on together. We need people to think about where they are recreating. This is something that we as a society need to wrap our heads around and understand what we value and what we expect of each other.”

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  • Colorado’s first-ever criminal charges following an avalanche could be slippery slope for backcountry travelers
  • Littwin: If Gardner loses, where does that leave Colorado’s already troubled Republican Party?
  • Carman: Some devout Catholic girls grow up to be handmaids, others proud ex-cons
  • Nicolais: An extraordinary group of supporters have proclaimed Amendment B the right thing for Colorado
  • Opinion: I’m worried about what we’ll do after the election. Can we get along?

via Straight News https://coloradosun.com/2020/10/18/criminal-charges-avalanche-colorado/

Sundays climate helps Cal-Wood firefighters yet emptyings are anticipated to remain in position

Colorado News

Cold, damp weather on Sunday is helping crews battle the Cal-Wood fire north of Boulder, but authorities say mandatory evacuations prompted by the dramatic blaze aren’t expected to be lifted soon.

“The high humidity and the mist and everything is helping,” said Jennifer Bray, a spokeswoman for the Boulder County Office of Emergency Management. “The firefighters are working hard, digging line.”

The downside of the weather is that aerial firefighting operations are on pause until it lifts, Bray said.

The fire has so far torched 8,788 acres. It began about 12:30 p.m. Saturday near the Cal-Wood Education Center in Jamestown and quickly raced east.

MORE: “It’s not looking good”: 900 homes north of Boulder evacuated because of raging Cal-Wood fire

County officials said they won’t know until later Sunday if homes or other structures were destroyed. A Colorado Sun freelance photographer witnessed several burn.

“We are assuming, just based on the fire behavior and the way that it moved, that there are homes or structures that are damaged or lost,” Cmdr. Mike Wagner, with the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office, said Saturday night. “We don’t know where yet.”

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but Wagner said natural causes have preliminarily been ruled out because there was no lightning in the area on Saturday.

A time lapse of the Cal-Wood fire burning in Boulder County on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. (Steve Peterson, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle, who earlier in the week sent 22 deputies to help evacuate people from the Cameron Peak fire in Larimer County, said in a Facebook post late Saturday night that he fears many homes were lost in the Cal-Wood fire. “Wind and drought made for a no-win day.”

The fire is 0% contained. The town of Lyons is on evacuation warning status just in case the fire is driven north by high winds.

Bray, the spokeswoman for the emergency management agency, said it’s unlikely people evacuated because of the fire will be able to return to their homes on Sunday because of firefighting operations and changing fire conditions.

Jamestown and areas west of U.S. 36 north of Boulder remain under mandatory evacuation orders on Sunday.

A map of the burn area shows that the fire passed through some subdivisions and areas where there are homes and businesses.

“Priorities today are fire containment, suppression and damage assessment,” Bray said

A Type 2 incident management team has been ordered to take over control of the firefighting command.

A firefighting plane drops retardant on the Cal-Wood fire near Boulder on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. (Joseph Gruber, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Colorado has been enduring several months of wildfires. The Cameron Peak fire, west of Fort Collins, continues to rage. This week, it became the largest recorded wildfire in state history. By Saturday evening, the blaze had grown to nearly 200,000 acres.

Over the summer, wildfires on the Western Slope scorched hundreds of thousands of acres.

On Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor announced that all of Colorado is under drought status for the first time since 2013.

This is a developing story that will be updated.

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  • Sunday’s weather helps Cal-Wood firefighters, but evacuations are expected to remain in place
  • Colorado’s first-ever criminal charges following an avalanche could be slippery slope for backcountry travelers
  • Littwin: If Gardner loses, where does that leave Colorado’s already troubled Republican Party?
  • Carman: Some devout Catholic girls grow up to be handmaids, others proud ex-cons
  • Nicolais: An extraordinary group of supporters have proclaimed Amendment B the right thing for Colorado

via Straight News https://coloradosun.com/2020/10/18/cal-wood-fire-structures-lost-acreage-updates-sunday/

A consider the major distinctions in between Cory Gardner as well as John Hickenlooper in the UNITED STATE Senate race

Colorado News

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and former Gov. John Hickenlooper like to remind Coloradans of how great the state is. 

During their tenure in office, the state’s population grew and the economy boomed. But their visions for its future vary. 

The Colorado Sun researched the candidates’ platforms and asked the presidential campaigns to respond to more than a dozen questions on key Colorado issues. In their responses, neither campaign addressed every issue covered below.

VOTER GUIDE: Explore where Senate candidates Cory Gardner and John Hickenlooper stand on even more Colorado issues

The environment and fracking

Neither candidate has excited environmentalists, although Hickenlooper supports more aggressive climate action than Gardner. 

In the campaign, Gardner has sought to portray himself as an environmentally-friendly Republican, but he still supports an all-of-the-above strategy that includes coal and natural gas. 

Gardner fortified his environmental credentials with the Great American Outdoors Act, a multi-billion dollar investment in public lands that could also help address biodiversity and climate change. He also pushed for money for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. But Gardner is a big supporter of the oil and gas industry and opposed a regulation that put tighter regulations on methane emissions. 

Gardner opposed a measure that would advance many of the proposals of the Green New Deal, saying that its stipulations would cost jobs.

Hickenlooper initially said he would support much of the Green New Deal, but later changed direction and said he supports the concept of the proposal but not the policy direction.

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He says he supports an energy strategy that boosts wind and solar production but doesn’t slash fossil fuel production. Scientists say the world needs to immediately cut fossil fuel emissions to stave off the worst effects of climate change. 

Hickenlooper has said he supports transitioning to 100% renewable energy by 2050. He has long frustrated environmentalists with his support of fracking, and oil and gas production in the state expanded under his leadership. Now, he says he wants to make the practice “obsolete.”  

The economy and coronavirus relief

Hickenlooper and Gardner were in office for much of Colorado’s economic boom, and they don’t mind reminding voters of that fact. Colorado’s economic growth, however, was caused primarily by factors independent of either of them. 

Gardner voted for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2017, signed into law by President Donald Trump, which slashed taxes for millions of Americans, including Coloradans. While it’s difficult to determine the individual impacts of Trump tax cuts, the bill hasn’t had the broader effects on the economy that Republicans promised. 

Hickenlooper’s campaign said the former governor supports ending the tax cuts, but would do it while “protecting the middle class from any tax increases.”

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Both candidates support further action to pull the economy out of the coronavirus recession. Gardner backed Republican-led legislation for a “skinny” stimulus package. He also supports an extension of the Paycheck Protection Program, more money to help school districts reopen, and $300 extra in unemployment insurance. 

Hickenlooper has called on congressional leaders to compromise to a larger aid package. He is backing a $3 trillion bill authored by Democrats in the U.S. House — known as the HEROES Act — that includes $600 in additional unemployment payments. He also supports giving most people an additional $2,000 check with future payments on a sliding scale. But at the same time, he said he’s open to a pared back compromise measure.

Health care and insurance coverage

Gardner opposes the Affordable Care Act and voted to repeal it while in the Senate. He also opposes a public option and universal Medicaid because, he said, they would lead to too much government intervention.

He has not outlined his own health care plan as a replacement for the ACA, but wants a plan that expands telemedicine and lowers prescription drug costs. A bill he introduced on preexisting conditions would not offer the same level of current protections and would still allow insurance companies to deny coverage to people.

Hickenlooper was less progressive on health care than many of his Democratic presidential primary opponents in his unsuccessful bid. 

He supports creating a public option, but one that is run by private insurance companies. He has said such a plan could be a step toward “Medicare for All.” As governor, he signed legislation to expand government-run Medicaid coverage to low-income Coloradans. He supports the Affordable Care Act. 

On a vaccine, Hickenlooper has suggested the military or National Guard should help with distribution. Gardner, in voting for the CARES Act, approved funds for vaccine development and said he would get one.

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  • A look at the major differences between Cory Gardner and John Hickenlooper in the U.S. Senate race
  • She thought the evacuation was a precaution. Then the Cal-Wood fire erased her family’s Boulder County home.
  • Sunday’s weather aids Cal-Wood firefighters, but a new blaze is threatening in Boulder County
  • Colorado’s first-ever criminal charges following an avalanche could be slippery slope for backcountry travelers
  • Littwin: If Gardner loses, where does that leave Colorado’s already troubled Republican Party?

via Straight News https://coloradosun.com/2020/10/18/cory-gardner-john-hickenlooper-differences-election-2020/

She thought the emptying was a safety measure. Then the Cal-Wood fire erased her households Boulder Area home.

more news https://northdenvernews.com

BOULDER — When Courtney Walsh received a text Saturday afternoon that her home north of Boulder was in the mandatory evacuation area for the Cal-Wood fire, she thought she was being ordered to leave just as a precaution.

Still, she rushed back to her house on Foothills Ranch Drive to get her family together. She told her kids, ages 10 and 7, that the evacuation was just a drill and that everything was going to be fine, but to grab backpacks full of clothes just in case. 

Walsh said she started packing a few items herself, but wasn’t really thinking straight as she wrangled her kids, two dogs and two bunnies into a car.

A photo of what’s left of Courtney Walsh’s home north of Boulder after the Cal-Wood fire tore through her neighborhood. (Provided by Kirsten Barry of the Hygiene Fire Protection District)

“It wasn’t real at that moment that we wouldn’t be returning,” Walsh told The Colorado Sun. “I was just frozen.”

On Sunday, Walsh found out that her house had burned to its foundation, leaving scraps of warped metal and smoldering bricks.

“It’s all gone,” she tweeted Sunday. “I’m gutted.”

The Walsh’s home burns in the Cal-Wood fire. (Provided by Kirsten Barry of the Hygiene Volunteer Fire Department)

Walsh’s home is one of likely many believed to have been consumed by the Cal-Wood fire, which erupted Saturday afternoon and roared east from Jamestown to the U.S. 36 corridor. A tally of the structures lost is still pending, but at a briefing Saturday, officials said more than 1,600 homes — and at least 3,000 people — were evacuated.

The fire is already the largest in Boulder County’s history at 8,788 acres as of Sunday morning. Cooler temperatures, low wind speeds and high relative humidity have helped crews get 5% containment on the blaze, but officials have cautioned that the firefight is not over.

MORE: Sunday’s weather aids Cal-Wood firefighters, but a new blaze is threatening the town of Ward

As the fire approached, Walsh fled with her children and pets in one car. Her husband, Todd, waited behind for Walsh’s parents, who were staying with the family and wanted to return to gather items before abandoning the house. Todd tore pictures and art off of the walls while, down the road, Walsh’s parents were begging officers to let them up to the house. 

By the time Todd and Walsh’s parents were leaving, they could see flames approaching.

Walsh got the news about her home on Sunday morning from a friend who works for the Hygiene Volunteer Fire Department. Her family had lived in the house, tucked back into the foothills, for four years. 

Her kids lamented lost stuffed animals and toys, but she says “it’s all replaceable.”

“We’re all safe and that’s what matters,” Walsh said.

The Cal-Wood fire appears to burn a structure north of Boulder on Saturday night, Oct. 17, 2020. (Joseph Gruber, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Walsh, who was born in Boulder, has worked in the area as a publicist for philanthropist and restaurateur Kimbal Musk for almost 15 years. She and her family were living in south Boulder when the 2013 floods devastated the county, and evacuating on Saturday brought back memories of trying to decide what to take when the water was rising. They were able to salvage some things from the flood, including her parents’ piano. But, she said, “we weren’t so fortunate this time.”

Walsh and her family have been able to take refuge at a friend’s house in Boulder. As for what’s next, she said, “I don’t know, I really don’t know.”

“We’re all safe. We have a place to stay,” Walsh said. “And I feel lucky being in the Boulder community. There’s been an outpouring of support.”

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  • A look at the major differences between Cory Gardner and John Hickenlooper in the U.S. Senate race
  • She thought the evacuation was a precaution. Then the Cal-Wood fire erased her family’s Boulder County home.
  • Sunday’s weather aids Cal-Wood firefighters, but a new blaze is threatening in Boulder County
  • Colorado’s first-ever criminal charges following an avalanche could be slippery slope for backcountry travelers
  • Littwin: If Gardner loses, where does that leave Colorado’s already troubled Republican Party?

via Straight News https://coloradosun.com/2020/10/18/cal-wood-fire-courtney-walsh-homes-burned/

Numerous Jeffco colleges utilize discredited educational program to educate students exactly how to read

Colorado News

This story was originally published by Chalkbeat Colorado. More at chalkbeat.org.

One-third of schools in Colorado’s second-largest district use a reading program the state has rejected and researchers have panned for promoting strategies that run counter to science.

Another 20% of schools in the 84,000-student Jeffco district rely exclusively on a district-created core reading curriculum that some educators and school board members say is hard to navigate and has numerous holes.

These problems came to light after Jeffco officials released a school-by-school list of K-3 reading curriculum on Oct. 9, meeting a long-standing request by parents, advocacy groups, and media outlets to make the information public. Previously, district leaders didn’t know what each of Jeffco’s 90 district-run elementary and K-8 schools used to teach children how to read.

Read more education stories from The Colorado Sun.

The list of reading curriculums illustrates not only the stark differences between Jeffco schools, but also the large number of district schools that are out of compliance with a 2019 state law requiring them to use K-3 reading curriculum backed by science.

That law — an update of Colorado’s landmark 2012 reading law — was borne out of frustration from lawmakers, parents, and advocacy groups that the original law, the READ Act, barely boosted reading scores despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent.

Only about 41% of Colorado third-graders can read well, according to the most recent state test results. In Jeffco, the rate is 46%, but the district ranks lower than the state on another measure that reflects how much students improve from year to year.

Read more at chalkbeat.org.

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  • Many Jeffco schools use discredited curriculum to teach students how to read
  • Colorado River cutthroat trout restored to Hermosa Creek near Durango
  • A look at the major differences between Cory Gardner and John Hickenlooper in the U.S. Senate race
  • She thought the evacuation was a precaution. Then the Cal-Wood fire erased her family’s Boulder County home.
  • Sunday’s weather aids Cal-Wood firefighters, but the new Lefthand Canyon blaze threatens

via Straight News https://coloradosun.com/2020/10/18/jeffco-schools-reading-curriculum-discredited/

Colorado River ruthless trout brought back to Hermosa Creek near Durango

more news https://northdenvernews.com

By Jonathan Romeo, The Durango Herald

 DURANGO — A decades-long effort to restore the Colorado River cutthroat trout to the upper reaches of Hermosa Creek has been completed, resulting in the largest continuous stretch of waterway for the native fish species in the state.

“This is a 35-plus-year vision come true,” said Jim White, an aquatic biologist with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

After Western settlement in the late 1880s, the Colorado River cutthroat trout were fished to the point of extinction. Then to make matters worse, settlers dumped other, more competitive species of trout into the cutthroat’s habitat.

All of the factors – habitat loss, over-fishing and competition with non-native species – led to a dramatic decline in the cutthroat’s historic range, which once spanned Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

Some estimates show cutthroats are now found in just 14% of their historic natural habitat.

A Colorado River cutthroat trout. (Colorado Parks and Wildfire photo)

As a result, over the years, there’s been the possibility of listing the cutthroat on the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s endangered species list.

Wanting more local control and less restrictive federal regulation, however, three states – Colorado, Utah and Wyoming – entered an agreement to lead an aggressive reintroduction program to avoid the endangered species list.

The upper reaches of Hermosa Creek were instantly recognized as an ideal place for a restoration project, both for its outstanding water quality as well as easy access through a Forest Service road that runs behind Purgatory Resort.

Over the years, barriers have been installed to isolate certain stretches of water and an organic poison known as rotenone has been used to clear out invasive species, like brown, brookie and rainbow trout.

All this to clear the path for cutthroat reintroduction.

CPW recently stocked an estimated 4,000 cutthroat fingerlings and an additional 475 mature cutthroats in the final stretch of the Hermosa Creek project, giving the waterway back to the native fish for the first time in 100 years.

And now, the project to restore 23 miles (37 kilometers) of cutthroat habitat is finally complete.

“We’ve worked piecemeal to get to this point,” White said. “And this is the final project area that’s been completed.”

There is one caveat, White said: Hybridized rainbow trout were found after the application of rotenone, and though wildlife officials believe they have since removed the fish from that stretch of the creek, it will be necessary to keep monitoring it.

“We’re not confident where the (hybridized rainbow) came from,” he said. “We’re going to monitor … for the foreseeable future.”

If the hybridized rainbows start showing in increased numbers, it may be necessary to treat the stretch of water again, White said.

For the stretches of upper Hermosa Creek that have been restocked with cutthroats, populations are showing encouraging signs. White said there are about 400 to 600 fish per mile, which he called a “nice, healthy population.”

Because the area is a popular draw for anglers, there is a strict catch-and-release policy. Local fish-guiding companies have said in the past that anglers come from all over the country to fish native cutthroats.

The Hermosa Creek project was a collaboration between CPW, the U.S. Forest Service and Trout Unlimited.

Buck Skillen, with the local chapter of Trout Unlimited, said the organization has contributed countless volunteer hours over the last 15 or so years in this reintroduction effort, as well as provided funding.

“We stand ready to assist our partners, CPW and USFS, in on-going habitat improvement and stabilization efforts that will contribute to the safeguard of our cold water fishery in this very special place,” he said.

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  • Many Jeffco schools use discredited curriculum to teach students how to read
  • Colorado River cutthroat trout restored to Hermosa Creek near Durango
  • A look at the major differences between Cory Gardner and John Hickenlooper in the U.S. Senate race
  • She thought the evacuation was a precaution. Then the Cal-Wood fire erased her family’s Boulder County home.
  • Sunday’s weather aids Cal-Wood firefighters, but the new Lefthand Canyon blaze threatens

via Straight News https://coloradosun.com/2020/10/18/colorado-river-cutthroat-trout-restoration/

They silenced us: Colorado parents-turned-teachers want colleges legislators to provide a voice

Colorado News

Last month, lawmakers on the Colorado House and Senate education committees listened virtually to learn how the fall semester was going for schools, with a few teachers, superintendents and leaders from education groups dissecting the start of the year.

Outside of some words shared by the Colorado Parent Teacher Association during the eight-hour session, lawmakers didn’t hear from any parents, even as many have become much more directly engaged in their child’s education since the coronavirus shut schools down in the spring.

Earlier this month, Colorado State Board of Education members met virtually, with a stack of letters in hand submitted by Colorado parents through the nonprofit Transform Education Now. Rather than read them all into public record, Angela Maramba, director of state board relations, attempted to summarize the many different family experiences and needs the letters described.

Maramba later apologized to parents and noted that the letters will be read at the board’s November meeting, but the moment of disregard stuck with parents like Joanna Rosa-Saenz and Silvia Estala-Monreal, each of whom had penned a letter.

“They silenced us, and it was very disrespectful and hurtful because it takes a lot for someone to speak up,” Rosa-Saenz said.

Joanna Rosa-Saenz and Silvia Estala-Monreal became fast friends at their children’s school and work together to advocate for their kids’ education as they do at Rosa-Saenz’s home on Oct. 12, 2020, in Denver. Rosa-Saenz gets her two sons, Gabriel, 8, left, and Alejandro, 4, an after-school snack. (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Parents are as hands-on as they’ve ever been in education, particularly for students taking classes remotely. Yet some don’t believe that school leaders and elected officials, including lawmakers and State Board of Education members, are giving them a loud enough voice as they meet to try to understand how school is playing out for students across districts. Their conversations don’t amplify the experiences of people from diverse communities, a longtime problem that has sharpened into focus during the pandemic. The stakes are high for all kids, but perhaps more so for those who have continually been underserved, including minority students and students living in poverty. The prospect of learning loss is especially high for them.  

“Families are struggling and we’re hearing it loud and clear, and it breaks our heart every single week,” said Ariel Smith, co-founder and executive director of TEN. “I have no answers for them.”

Her organization, which partners with parents to ensure access to high-quality education in Denver communities, makes between 700 and 1,000 phone calls to families each week.

“Those phone calls are becoming increasingly difficult,” Smith said, noting that the nonprofit evaluates food security, technology access and how families are faring with remote learning during those conversations, which it has conducted since March.

Smith said TEN is hearing from families who are trying their hardest but who lack support from districts and elected officials.

“No one’s listening to that,” she said. “No one’s taking that into consideration.”

Parents, left out, “should be the center” of the conversation

Shaping public education policy to respond to the wide-ranging challenges and needs of families living in different communities and with varying access to resources is no simple feat. Following the question of whether parents have been involved in education conversations is the question of which parents have been involved and how, said Michelle Valladares, associate director of the National Education Policy Center and faculty affiliate in the School of Education at the University of Colorado.

Valladares hesitates to critique anyone during the pandemic. She notes a silver lining: Parent engagement wasn’t working well before the crisis, and so perhaps communities could seize the opportunity to bring it back in a way that’s more connected and more supported. But that requires funding, which is part of the root of the problem.

“Are schools funded well enough that they have the capacity to be hubs of democratic community participation in meaningful ways?” Valladares asked. “And the answer is no. They all lacked capacity before COVID, and COVID has pushed them over their limit.”

The Colorado Department of Education and districts like Denver Public Schools have tried to incorporate parent voices into their decisions throughout the pandemic. For instance, an advisory committee that included parents provided input to the department as it devised a toolkit to guide schools on reopening, said Rhonda Haniford, associate commissioner of school quality and support. The toolkit also includes a survey button where people can share feedback. Half of about 1,200 responses have been submitted by parents, Haniford said.

DPS has reached out to families since the start of the pandemic through surveys in the spring and summer, telephone town halls for parents and the district’s annual family update, spokeswoman Winna MacLaren said. Individual schools have also created their own communications and outreach for families, with school leaders sharing what they’re hearing from parents with the district. 

But education advocates like Tyler Sandberg, vice president of conservative education group Ready Colorado, see a lack of parent voices as a chronic problem that’s only worsened with the pandemic.

Sandberg, who tuned into the legislative hearing in September, said parents have “been left out of the conversation at which they should be the center.”

“How do you create an education system that is predicated on parents leading the way without talking to parents?” he asked.

Sandberg particularly worries about the state’s most vulnerable families, including immigrants and those in low-income households who must choose between devoting time to their child’s education and putting food on the table.

Estala-Monreal is one of them. She wanted to help her youngest daughter, Yuliana, a first grader at Rocky Mountain Prep Berkeley Elementary Charter School, thrive in school, but she also needed to work. Estala-Monreal, who works in food service for DPS, stayed home with her daughter for four months but was told in September that if she didn’t return to her job she would lose it. Yuliana, who has an Individualized Education Plan, joined the pod that Rosa-Saenz runs.

“I feel like I am being put in an impossible dilemma — send my daughter back to school and risk her getting sick or someone in my family getting sick or keeping her home and risking her falling behind and not being able to work,” Estala-Monreal wrote to the State Board of Education.

Silvia Estala-Monreal’s daughter, Yuliana, 7, asks her mother for a snack as the pair meets with Joanna Rosa-Saenz and her sons after school. (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)

The suffering among families facing the same kind of tough decisions will be one of the biggest repercussions of COVID-19, Sandberg said, with the damage caused by the virus far outweighed by the damage inflicted by closed schools on low-income families and underprivileged communities.

He said the ramifications “will reverberate for generations,” with increased poverty rates, higher incarceration rates and lower literacy rates “all stemming from the inability to serve underserved communities.”

Sen. Paul Lundeen, a Monument Republican and member of the House and Senate education committees, acknowledged that parents’ voices need to be amplified in conversations about schooling during the pandemic. He raised that concern during the legislative hearing and said he is committed to incorporating more parent input in a meeting scheduled for December.

“The only person who has any personal interaction with the student in many cases is the parent,” Lundeen said. “We absolutely must hear from them.”

Lundeen said he has had conversations with parents and constituents, asking them about their family’s and child’s experience, which differs from family to family. That’s why lawmakers should be listening, he said.

“You get the universe of experiences if you talk to enough people,” Lundeen said, adding, “we need to do a better job.”

COVID-19 IN COLORADO

The latest from the coronavirus outbreak in Colorado:

  • MAP: Known cases in Colorado.
  • TESTING: Here’s where to find a community testing site. The state is now encouraging anyone with symptoms to get tested.
  • STORY: Denver requires mask-wearing outdoors, limits gathering to five people as coronavirus cases rise

>> FULL COVERAGE

Sen. Nancy Todd, an Aurora Democrat and chair of the Senate Education Committee, said lawmakers made a conscious decision to hear from the Colorado PTA rather than listen to disparate stories of parents from different communities. Parent perspective was also communicated through superintendents and teachers during September’s legislative meeting.

She insists that it’s more effective for a parent to work with their child’s district and school than it is for them to work with lawmakers.

“I think the parent voice was very loud and clear through the work that had been done with our principals and our superintendents and our teachers along the way,” Todd said.

Aurora families are creating their own tables

Smith, of TEN, submitted five parent letters to the State Board of Education in hopes of conveying the message that families simply need more support.

“Families need more resources to support their students’ at-home learning, and they need more choices for how they can navigate school in this unprecedented moment,” she said.

The board’s last meeting was the first one in which written public comment was added back onto its agenda, Maramba wrote in an email, and the board did not decide on a time frame in which it would accept public comment. All the letters were distributed to the board. Chairwoman Angelika Schroeder noted that the board had not carved out a half hour for public comments as it typically does. Moving forward, all written public comments will be read during board meetings but must be submitted to the office by 5 p.m. the day before. 

“Parent voice is critical,” Schroeder said. “It’s valued by the State Board of Education. It’s hard for parents to take the time to provide input, and I think the State Board appreciates that extra time that parents put in. I hope that they also do that at the local level where there’s some chance of getting the help they need.”

But parent Rosa-Saenz, an author of a letter to the board and single mother of three sons, feels her input is critical at the state level, too. Parents are the ones beside their children, and so they’re the ones aware of what they need, Rosa-Saenz said.

Joanna Rosa-Saenz, right, and Silvia Estala-Monreal, second from left, became fast friends at their children’s school and work together to advocate for their kids’ education as they do at Rosa-Saenz’s home on Oct. 12, 2020, in Denver. Estala-Monreal’s daughter Joanna, 7, left, and Rosa-Saenz’s two sons Alejandro, 4, right, and Gabriel, 8, sit with their mothers on the front porch. (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Rosa-Saenz, who created a learning pod at her Denver home, worries about one of her sons who, before the pandemic, was in the process of being evaluated for an IEP. He was already behind in school and, concerned he would only fall further behind in remote learning, she advocated for him to return to school at Academia Ana Marie Sandoval earlier this month.

Her school listened to her then, but she doesn’t always feel heard by DPS.

Manuel Aragon, a parent of four students enrolled in DPS, said parents’ involvement in district conversations about education has been “a mixed bag.” Teachers have been among the strongest advocates for parental voices across the district, he said, and they’ve worked with parents to ensure that students’ needs are met.

DPS has also participated in parent forums, but as a longtime member of school committees and subcommittees, Aragon knows that even as parents are heard in those settings, “very rarely does it fuel or change the district trajectory.”

For their voices to be included at the district and state level, parents must join together and actively push and build coalitions, he said. 

Joanna Rosa-Saenz’s son, Alejandro, 4, eats an apple at his computer on Oct. 12, 2020, in the small classroom his mother created for the kids to do their schoolwork at their Denver home. (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)

That’s how some Aurora families have found success in turning the volume up on their own perspectives.

Through RISE Colorado, families have taken the lead on expressing their needs and concerns during the pandemic. The Aurora-based organization empowers low-income families and families of color to pursue educational equity in public schools. Its approach is a grassroots one largely inspired by leaders of other social justice movements, like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., ensuring those impacted most by educational inequity are leading the movement for change, co-founder and CEO Veronica Crespin-Palmer said.

Through the organization, which works with Black, Latinx, immigrant and refugee families primarily in the Aurora and Cherry Creek school districts, families and students have developed surveys they’re distributing this month to gauge how families and kids are doing. The survey, building off one conducted last fall, will collect data that will be shared with the school board and district leadership so they can rapidly respond to families, Crespin-Palmer said.  

Families also took initiative in August to host a virtual community forum. Family and student leaders met with three Aurora Public Schools administrators to ask questions and relay concerns along with ideas and solutions before the start of the school year. More than 140 family and student leaders, district leaders and community members attended.

Families won’t wait for systems to invite them, Crespin-Palmer said, noting families plan to keep hosting forums as district plans continue to evolve.

“Families are going to organize and activate and create their own tables and invite district officials to co-create and collaborate alongside them,” she said.

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  • “They silenced us”: Colorado parents-turned-teachers want schools, lawmakers to give them a voice
  • Durango’s ridiculed Bridge to Nowhere suddenly has clear road ahead
  • Why are so many people riled up by Jena Griswold?
  • Many Jeffco schools use discredited curriculum to teach students how to read
  • Colorado River cutthroat trout restored to Hermosa Creek near Durango

via Straight News https://coloradosun.com/2020/10/19/colorado-education-schools-parents-students-coronavirus-covid-19/

Durangos ridiculed Bridge to No place suddenly has clear road ahead

more news https://northdenvernews.com

A decade ago, it was snickered at as “the Bridge to Nowhere.” It was a concrete overpass curling over a highway in a then mostly undeveloped section of Durango. The span had a cow pasture on one side and dead-ended in a scrubby hillside on the other. It truly did not go anywhere.

Now, that ridiculed overpass is finally getting somewhere. It is going to link to a nearly $100 million highway project that is underway to revamp the traffic-clogged and accident-prone intersection of U.S. 550 and 160 in southern Durango. It is the largest highway project ever built in that region of southwest Colorado.

In a smack-down to the “Bridge to Nowhere” moniker, highway officials are now referring to the entire connection project as “Bridging to the Future.” That lofty title moves the needle beyond long-frustrated efforts by highway officials to shepherd this project through decades of controversy and bureaucratic speed bumps and obstacles.

“We’ve turned this from a rags to a riches project,” said Mike McVaugh, the Colorado Department of Transportation regional director who is overseeing Bridging to the Future.

The history of the project dates to 1998, when Durango was a wisp of its current self. The housing developments, businesses and regional health care hub that now crowd around Highway 160 in southeast Durango were still mostly pipe dreams. But highway planners knew what was coming. They started sketching in potential transportation changes for that part of Durango. They completed Environmental Impact Studies on the two problematic intersecting highways with an eye toward future traffic demands.  

Highway 550 is s hair-raising roadway infamous for its sheer drop-offs on Red Mountain Pass between Durango and Ouray. Less well known is one of its more accident-prone sections after it passes through Durango. There, it makes a steep, crooked climb up Farmington Hill, a section of road with a propensity for icing up and turning treacherous in winter.

Highway 160 crosses 550 at a traffic light at the bottom of Farmington Hill. Highway 160 cuts across southern Colorado in service to the heavy volume of commerce that flows through the Four Corners — the only transportation region in Colorado with no interstate highway.

The intersection of Highways 550 and 160 handles 34,000 vehicles per day. More than 1,700 freight trucks travel through daily on a section of roadway that has an above-average number of crashes. More than half of them are animal/vehicle collisions.

Those pressures have convinced residents of a rapidly growing town that a once-maligned highway project is now a bright idea.

“It’s all a good thing at this point. I am glad that it is finally happening,” said John Gilliland, who owns a gravel pit near the Bridge to Nowhere.

A decade ago, Gilliland was one of many skeptics. The idea of spending big on highway makeovers in what was essentially undeveloped lands was not popular with the public. It sparked legal battles with landowners. And it was not high among funding priorities for the state. The work that included the Bridge to Nowhere kept getting beaten out on a Colorado Transportation Commission funding wish list by the four other highway districts in Colorado.

“I remember the days when, if you were a CDOT employee and you were on that project, you were shunned,” McVaugh said.

Steve Parker, a former Transportation Commission member, says it has “taken some tenacity,” but the $100 million Bridging to the Future highway project will help smooth the flow of commerce in southwest Colorado, the only transportation region in the state with no interstate highway access. (Jeremy Wade Shockley, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Steve Parker, a retired Durango banker who spent 12 years as a member of the state Transportation Commission working on moving the frustrating project along, framed it in another way: “This has taken some tenacity.” 

The payoff for Parker’s tenacity and McVaugh’s former unpopularity is an area crawling with activity today. Giant earth movers are chomping into a ridge north of Farmington Hill. The first of two large bridges is beginning to take shape along Highway 160. Fencing is going up. Utilities and irrigation pipes and ditches are being relocated. The new route of a four-lane roadway is already beginning to show in an outline along a mesa’s rim.

Before it is over in the spring of 2023, the project will include two more bridges, a roundabout, 4 miles of new four-lane highway, an 800-foot retaining wall, 8 miles of wildlife fencing, 32 animal crossings — and that long-awaited connection to the Bridge to Nowhere.

It will come together to bring quicker access to Mercy Regional Medical Center and to a Southern Ute Tribe housing project. It will mean an easier commute for workers headed to and from Bayfield, 19 miles east of Durango, and Farmington, N.M., 50 miles to the south. Truckers will have an easier time hauling groceries and other supplies from Denver and Albuquerque. The traffic signal at the bottom of Farmington Hill that has acted like a logjam will be eliminated, and that section of highway will become a free-flowing route rather than an intersection.

A black eye for transportation planning

The Bridge to Nowhere became a black eye of a highway project and earned its nickname in 2009. The 53-foot-long, three-lane span over Highway 160 near the then-new hospital caught the attention of drivers because it butted into an undeveloped hillside.

Highway officials admitted they could see why people would think it was a waste because of how out of place the huge steel girders and concrete span looked in a mostly rural area.

The bridge was compared to its namesake — a planned $320 million span in Ketchikan, Alaska, that was designed to link to an island with a population of 50. The idea for that far north Bridge to Nowhere was eventually scrapped. The Durango Bridge to Nowhere moved forward – very slowly.

The public angst over the bridge was heightened when it was revealed that CDOT did not have the right to connect the bridge to anything. Chris Webb, the absentee landowner on the top of the hill, did not want a highway project cutting into his historic 600-acre ranch. He filed a lawsuit alleging that CDOT had acted fraudulently in condemning a portion of his property. Webb also pointed out overlooked problems in the initial environmental studies; the planned route would have a gas well in the center lane. It was also going to disrupt numerous archeological sites.

Legal wrangling dragged on and effectively stopped the project for years.

By this time, millions had been spent on assessments, and studies had piled up many thousands of pages. About $47 million had been spent on the dead-end bridge as well as the two other bridges, several on and off ramps and a roundabout that were part of a project called the Grandview Exchange. That exchange was designed to eventually link to the current project.

That final portion of the project sat in limbo while most of the major regional transportation players changed. That turned out to be a boon for the project because the new regional managers, with help from the Southern Ute Tribe, forged a better relationship with Webb.

Working with a new set of project officials, Webb agreed to sell enough land to CDOT to allow a roadway to go forward on the edge of his ranch.

The Bridge to Nowhere finally had a path forward.

CDOT is saving money using design/build techniques

The connecting project now is underway with a cost- and time-saving method of construction called design/build. It basically means that some details of a project are designed as construction happens. CDOT creates a general design of a project before work begins, but allows the contractor to change details like exactly where a pilon will be placed or how earth can be moved from one part of a project to another.

Design/build first came into use with CDOT in 2006 when the gigantic “T-Rex” construction project on Interstate 25 in Denver got underway. It was also used with the Grand Avenue bridge replacement in Glenwood Springs. McVaugh said design/build is now part of most large highway projects.

A time-lapse video by Colorado Mountain College shows construction of the Grand Avenue Bridge in Glenwood Springs. Project managers say the design/build technique saved time and money on the massive, disruptive infrastructure project that was completed in 2017. (Colorado Mountain College)

On the Durango project, design/build cost-saving projections have allowed for four-laning an additional 3.3 miles of Highway 550 south of Farmington Hill. They are also lessening traffic impacts during construction because a temporary bridge is being built so trucks can haul dirt over the highway rather than having to cross it.

Transportation officials are high on this method of building a large project. Gilliland, who has an ear to the ground with construction companies through his gravel business, said he fears there will be problems and delays because regional project managers do not have enough experience with this style of construction.

Even though he is pro highway project now, Gilliland also takes issue with the cost to taxpayers.

The lion’s share of funding for the project — $54.4 million – is coming from the State of Colorado Transportation Commission. Nearly $30 million was awarded by CDOT.  The U.S. Department of Transportation pitched in another $12.3 million in a Fastlane grant that went to LaPlata County in partnership with CDOT. The Southern Ute Tribe’s Growth Fund, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, LaPlata County and the City of Durango anted up the rest.

McVaugh said the nearly $100 million to be spent on the Bridging to the Future project is estimated to take care of traffic pressures in that growing part of Durango until around 2035.

Parker gets emotional when he remembers all his “unfounded optimism” for this difficult project over the years – and when he now looks at the churning of dirt and the driving of pilons after so many delays, missteps and ridicule centered on a bridge going nowhere.

“If you believe in something, you are just happy to see it happen,” he said. “This gives me a great deal of satisfaction.”

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  • “They silenced us”: Colorado parents-turned-teachers want schools, lawmakers to give them a voice
  • Durango’s ridiculed Bridge to Nowhere suddenly has clear road ahead
  • Why are so many people riled up by Jena Griswold?
  • Many Jeffco schools use discredited curriculum to teach students how to read
  • Colorado River cutthroat trout restored to Hermosa Creek near Durango

via Straight News https://coloradosun.com/2020/10/19/durango-bridge-to-nowhere-highway-project/

Weve drew up the 22 residences that were destroyed or harmed by the Cal-Wood fire

more news https://northdenvernews.com

The Cal-Wood fire in Boulder County destroyed at least 20 homes on Saturday and damaged two more.

County officials on Sunday released the addresses of the homes that were destroyed and damaged. We’ve mapped them out below so you can see the blaze’s toll.

MORE: She thought the evacuation was a precaution. Then the Cal-Wood fire erased her family’s Boulder County home.

The fire torched nearly 9,000 acres and forced thousands to flee their homes. Two undeveloped properties and two historic structures in Heil Valley Ranch were also destroyed by the blaze.

The Cal-Wood fire is the largest in Boulder County’s recorded history.



Here’s a look at the fire’s burn area:

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  • We’ve mapped out the 22 homes that were destroyed or damaged by the Cal-Wood fire
  • “They silenced us”: Colorado parents-turned-teachers want schools, lawmakers to give them a voice
  • Durango’s ridiculed Bridge to Nowhere suddenly has clear road ahead
  • Why are so many people riled up by Jena Griswold?
  • Many Jeffco schools use discredited curriculum to teach students how to read

via Straight News https://coloradosun.com/2020/10/19/addresses-homes-destroyed-cal-wood-fire/

Did you miss our previous article…
https://danpabon.com/a-look-back-at-one-of-the-most-well-known-criminal-activities-in-american-history/

A Look Back At One Of The Most Well-known Criminal Activities in American History

Colorado News

If you take a look back at American history, you will find many strange criminal cases that will send a chill down your spine. In fact, you could take a good look at the news stories of any recent year, and you will easily stumble on a couple of cases like that. While some of these cases might seem disturbing, a lot of them will spike your interest as well. You would be amazed how many crimes are happening in the US every year and what makes this even stranger is that some of those crimes are downright gruesome or beyond our comprehension. In this article, I have mentioned a few of the most notorious crimes in American history that you might or might not have heard before. While some cases made it into this list because of the strange details of the crime, others got the hype just because of the popular names associated with the case. I would leave out the gruesome details of the case and will give you the story as it happened. Let’s have a look at it:

Charles Manson and his “Family”

If you are an American and still have never heard about this case, then you might as well be living under a rock. The case of Charles Manson and his so-called family took the entire country by storm when they murdered the innocent Hollywood actress Sharon Tate in her house, along with four of her friends. This gruesome event took place in August of 1969 and what makes it more heartbreaking is that Sharon Tate was pregnant at that time. She was married to the famous director Roman Polanski and was actually living at his house. What makes this case so fascinating is that Charles Mason himself did not participate in any of those murders. In fact, he was recruiting young people and was brainwashing them by making them a part of his family. Charles Manson knew how to manipulate these kids, and he turned them into cold-hearted killers. He was later charged with nine counts of murder and was put behind by the bar in 1970. Charles Manson spent the rest of his life behind bars and died in prison in 2017. If you find the story of Charles Manson and Family intriguing, you can learn more about the case online as there are a lot of documentaries that were made on this.

OJ Simpson – NFL Star Turned Murderer 

The case of People vs. OJ Simpson is probably the most talked-about case in American history. OJ Simpson was a big name in the NFL and had a huge fan following. Things took a great turn for OJ Simpson and Buffalo Bills fans on 12 June 1994 when the NFL star murdered his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her boyfriend Ronald Goldman in rage. When the authorities found out about this, they went to OJ Simpson’s house and arrested him immediately. That is where one of the biggest and most talked-about criminal cases in American history began. OJ Simpson has no shortage of money, so he ended up hiring the big shot lawyers like Johnny Corcoran, Robert Shapiro, Robert Kardashian, Lee Bailey, and Alan Dershowitz. The media called it the dream team, and why they shouldn’t, after all, they end up winning the case despite the fact he was guilty. His lead criminal defense lawyers Robert Kardashian and Johnny Corcoran played the jury so well that they were able to get him off without any consequences. For the longest time, even the public believed that the star NFL player was innocent but you can never hide the truth for too long. In September of 2007, OJ Simpson stormed a hotel room in Las Vegas and tried to rob the place with four accomplices. He was later caught by the police and charged with twelve different crimes including kidnapping. He was then sentenced to thirty years in prison for which he got bail on parole in 2017. To this date, People vs. OJ Simpson is still the most talked-about case in American history. If you want to know how all these events transpired you can watch the TV series that was made about this case.

Lonnie David Franklin -The Grim Sleeper

The case of the grim sleeper is certainly a strange one as it involves a serial killer who did not kill people over the course of months or years but decades. In 1985 Police found a dead body of an African-American woman in south-central Los Angeles. This seemed like another case of murder, but things started to seem strange when police were not able to identify the victim, and similar kinds of murders started to happen over the course of years. In the end, a total of eleven women were killed over the course of 22 years, and it only stopped when the killer was identified. Lonnie David Franklin Jr, a mechanic by profession, was behind all these murders, and he was finally caught when the detective connected the dots of all the murders back to him. He was given the name Grim Sleeper because of his strange method of killing. He would kill a woman and wait for years to commit another murder so that he did not attract police attention. In May 2016, he was found guilty of these murders and was sentenced to death for his heinous crimes.

Ted Bundy – The Lady Killer

When it comes to serial killers, Ted Bundy is a name that cannot be ignored. The criminal case of Ted Bundy was the first trial in American history that was televised. Ted Bundy killed multiple people over the course of decades, and he did not just do it in one state. He was a well-educated and handsome man who knew how to convince people with his charm. According to the people involved in his case, if you met the guy, you wouldn’t believe that he was the one who did all the killings. He was born to a single teenage mother and never knew the identity of his father. He was told that his grandmother was his mother and his mother was his sister. He committed his first murder in Seattle in 1966, and after that, he got a taste for blood. He went on to kill several more women over the course of years, and one of his victims was a 12-year-old girl. Bundy was caught driving a stolen car after his last murder, and he instantly became a media sensation. The press became obsessed with him, and he was all over newspapers and TV channels. He was charged with the murders and was sent to the electric chair in 1989.

Ed Gein – The Inspiration behind Psycho

Psycho, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and The Silence of Lambs are among the most popular movies in the serial killer genre. If you have seen either of these movies, then you have already seen a few glimpses of Ed Gein. It was the strange criminal case of Ed Gein that inspired all these movies. He was born in Wisconsin to a couple who never got along well. His father was an alcoholic who will abuse him from time to time, and her mother was domineering and puritanical, who made her fear women and sex from a young age.  When his parents and brother died, he was left alone on the family farm for years. One day the police arrived at his farm searching for stolen hardware and what they found shook them to their core. Ed had things in the house that were made of actual human body parts, and faces were hanging all over the wall. Most of these bodies came from the graveyard, but he had murdered several women as well throughout the years. Gein was immediately taken into custody to avoid any more killings. He then told the police that he was trying to create a new version of her mother with those body parts. He was later diagnosed with schizophrenia and was declared unfit for the trial. He was convicted of one murder and was sent to a mental hospital where he spent the rest of his life.

Charles Lindbergh – The Baby Kidnapping

In March of 1932, a 20-month old baby named Charles Lindbergh was kidnapped from New Jersey, and everyone was talking about it within days. At that time, it was the most talked-about case of the century because of some strange turns it took. Charles’ father Lindbergh was the first man to fly solo across the Atlantis, and he was quite popular in America. The kidnapper initially asked him for a ransom of $50,000, which was increased a few days later to $70,000. The kidnapper assured the family that the child was healthy and will be returned safely when the ransom was paid. The ransom amount was sent to the kidnapper via a teacher who volunteered to help with the case. The kidnappers did not return the boy after taking the money, and only a few months later, his dead body was found by the police. Later a German-born man who was hiding some ransom amount was convicted for the murder, but many people still believe that he was not the real culprit.

via Straight News https://northdenvernews.com/a-look-back-at-the-most-notorious-crimes-in-american-history/