Monday, August 28, 2006

August 28, 2006 Back To

August 28, 2006—Back to School

It was back to school here in Summit County and in Denver this past week. Back to school? Wait a minute. It is still summer. Yup. The calendar on my wall says it is still August. I guess the school year start date is one of those decisions that they don’t ask me about.

What I remember growing up was that school always got out sometime after the first of May in time for everyone to help with planting the fields. We always started school the day after Labor Day, the first Tuesday after the first Monday of September.

The only field work that was left at that time was harvesting the crops and that did not happen until after a couple of hard freezes. I know that things are different today but my memory is of the 1940s and 50s.

There was no winter break or spring break or a break break. We did get out Christmas Eve and then went back the first weekday after January first. Depending on weekends the number of days of our Christmas holiday would vary each year.

Another cultural thing from those days is that no one ever went on vacation except in the summer when school was out. It was especially hard on the farmers with livestock to get away. I don’t remember any who ever did leave in those days.

It is much like the old saying, “Make hay while the sun shines.” Not much hay or sun in January.

Rural schools in those days also functioned as a community center. The school was normally K through 12 in the same building and all of the children in the entire family went to the same place each day.

I remember band concerts and basketball games that I had no interest in but I still went. Everyone had an activity card that would be used for admission for everything from a music program to a football game. I can’t remember how much it cost but I am sure that it was cheap at half the price.

My town was small enough that I could walk to the school from any place in the city limits. With all of the predators and child protection issues we have today it is hard to imagine that I would walk several blocks to school when I was five years old. Everyone in town was watching out for all of the kids all the time. A very large police force if you think about it.

I think that when I realize that school actually started last week that it seemed illogical. When I remember what it was like years ago when school started there were certain things that logically followed that event. Football. Cold nights. First snow. Bonfires. Heavy coats. Snow boots.

Some of you might even remember before snowmaking when the ski areas opened. They virtually never opened before Thanksgiving and always closed around the middle of April. Now all we need is enough cold nights and we are good to go. If it got cold enough soon enough we could probably open right after Labor Day. Around the time that schools used to start.

Now try to put all of that in perspective of the next to the last week of August?

I know that some Aspen trees have turned already. I was watching the news from Denver this week and the anchors were talking about how many of the trees had already changed in the high country. They rightly said that the Aspen normally peak around the middle of September.

The good news about schools opening early is that the traffic problems let up for a couple of weeks. That is until the Aspen season when they all come back for a few days.

Many years ago the greatest wish from businesses was to have a true four season resort. I think that wish has come true regardless of when school starts.

I guess they are not pushing it at all. I guess I am just resisting letting go of summer once again. It is the best part of living in the high country after all.

Monday, August 21, 2006

August 21, 2006 Take the Bus

Consider This for August 21, 2006—Take the Bus

“Take the bus and leave the driving to us.” Or so they say. I often wonder how many of the professional whiners like myself actually ever take the bus. How often do we leave our major pieces of iron to get on a $300,000 vehicle and go anywhere?

It is so easy to sit in a meeting and demand mass transit but it is a totally different experience to make the commitment to ride our wonderful Summit Stage.

When I was a county commissioner I took the Summit Stage whenever my schedule would allow. Sometimes it was difficult to make all the connections that started with a half-mile walk to the nearest bus stop from my house.

The schedules change all the time. It can take a while to get from one part of the county to another.

In reality, if I had enough time and a little money, it is possible to take that half-mile walk down to Swan Mountain Road and end up in just about anywhere in the world.

Last year when I was in Mexico for part of two months I took the bus a lot. Everyone thinks of third- world countries as being backward but that is another lie we have all bought into. The buses in Mexico are wonderful.

You get a free sack lunch and a drink when you board. The buses have air cushioned suspension and it is like riding on a cloud. Each row has a closed circuit television set showing the latest Hollywood releases in Spanish. You could rationalize that by thinking it is an extension of the hundreds of class hours you have paid for to learn Spanish.

In Summit County in addition to the Summit Stage we have access to the Greyhound bus and the Colorado Mountain Express from the Frisco Transit Center. Greyhound goes to downtown Denver three times a day and costs $14 one way. According to the schedule it takes 90 minutes to get to Denver. Colorado Mountain Express goes to Denver International Airport nine times a day and you will pay $39 for that two-hour trip. You could read a book, work on your computer or take a nap during the trip. I have tried all three while driving my car and let me assure you those are dangerous and life threatening. It is much better to let a bus driver keep his or her eyes on the road while you do other things during the ride.

My Honda Accord averages 30 miles per gallon. My office at the capitol is 81 miles from my house one way. At $3.09 per gallon today it costs me $8.34 to make the trip.

One kicker in all of this is when you ride to downtown Denver you are probably not going to want to stay there. Once you get off the bus you must transfer to RTD to get to your destination.

The light rail is close by and you can take RTD to just about anywhere in the metro area. I have been told an RTD bus ticket is $1.50. Cheap by any standards.

The RTD Sky Ride is $8 from downtown so your trip one way with Greyhound and RTD is $22 one way. If you are gone for four days you will pay $20 for parking alone at the airport.

When I was a New York City police officer in the 1960s I never drove my car in the city. It was foolish. At that time the subway and all city buses cost ten cents to ride. I was told that it was an old promise by the city fathers to never charge more than that. It has gone up considerably since then. Forty-six years later it is $2 for that ride.

I lived in England for almost four years and owned a car that I never drove. Gas on the base was seventeen cents a gallon but the same gallon at the local petrol station was almost $7. It was the taxes. I was there not too long after WW II and there was still rationing going on in some places.

There was plenty of gas but the price was prohibitive so everyone took the bus everywhere. The twenty mile trip from my house to the Air Force Base cost me one penny. Yes, one penny. Can’t beat that.

Words that ring in my ears were spoken by a woman in Breckenridge several years ago telling me we will never get anyone in the west to ever leave his car to take public transportation.

We are quickly getting to the point where we will not have a choice. It might be good practice for all of us, including me, to start taking the bus.

Monday, August 14, 2006

August 14, 2006 The View from my Window

Consider This for August 14, 2006—The view from my window

There is a small town near where I grew up in Iowa named Lake City. As you drive into Lake City there is a sign welcoming you with the greeting, “Welcome to Lake City. We have everything but a lake.”

Such is evolution . That part of Iowa was one huge lake and wetland in the 1800s. Lots of lakes in Lake City then.

I now live in a subdivision six miles north of Breckenridge called Lakeview Meadows. We should erect a sign: “Welcome to Lakeview Meadows. We have everything except a lake view.”

We had a nice view of the lake when I moved into my current house in the early 1990s. The Dillon Reservoir (not really a lake according to the Denver Water Board) is about one half mile north of my house. There are virtually no trees along Highway 9 so I had an unobstructed view of the water in the summer and the ice in the winter.

Then came progress. Then came a new housing project. There went my view.

Actually I can still see the town of Dillon across the reservoir if I look carefully between the houses. I can still catch glimpses of blue water on the far end.

Reminds me of Hawaii. I can squint my eyes and imagine the palm trees along the Dillon Marina. After all they do have a “Tiki Bar”, or at least that is what they used to call it.

That is the bad news. The good news is that since they realigned the bike path (aka the recreational path) to the west side of the highway several years ago I can watch the bikers, walkers, runners, and roller bladers on the recreational path (informally known as the bike path).

Some of us can remember when planners called the recreational paths Hiker Biker Trails. When I was with the City of Lakewood in 1970 there was a big push for Hiker Biker Trails. We would not have known what a recreational path was then.

It is all nomenclature of some sort or other. Regardless of what you call it the rec path is an amazing success and is used by hundreds of people every day. How do I know this? I can count them out my window.

Another neat thing is that I am visited daily by coyotes and foxes. I think they live above me in the forest to the west and come down across my yard on their way to the Blue River across the street to get water. They probably forage for food along the way.

I can always tell when they are successful foraging because the photos of the missing cats and small dogs go up on the telephone pole near the mailboxes. Sad but true.

If you want to keep your cat or small dog then keep it in the house all the time except for short potty breaks. If you want to let them roam then say farewell each time they leave because you might not see them again.

Life in Lakeview Meadows out my window is hazardous for cats and small dogs.

I can also see a large number of swallows out my window. The reason I can see them is that they live under the eaves of my house. I love having them around. Yes, they poop on my deck but that is a small price to pay to have nature that close to my bedroom.

I see people using water hoses to blast down their nests from their homes. They may not know that it is a crime to do that during nesting season. I am sure they do not like bird poop near their houses or maybe they don’t like the noise early in the morning, but it is the law and we need to obey the law.

I have two dogs living in my house at the present time. Why I have two dogs living here is a different story but both dogs have a thing for UPS trucks and Fed Ex trucks. Any other truck can come into the subdivision and the dogs will not even open their napping eyes. Let either of those two companies’ trucks even think about turning into our circle and the dogs are up at the window barking at the top of their lungs.

Is it the kind of exhaust system the trucks have or the odor of their loads or the uniforms the drivers wear? Whatever it is, it sure makes the dogs go crazy.

Regardless of the distractions I know I have the very best view in Summit County or perhaps the world this summer. Ask me again in February and my opinion might be different.

Monday, August 7, 2006

August 7, 2006 All This Rain Does Not Help

Consider This for August 7, 2006—All This Rain Doesn’t Help.

I just got off the phone with a highly placed and respected water person in Colorado and we talked about the fact that it had rained every day for the past few weeks. We commented that the grass was green and that the forests were wet.

I hung up the phone and turned around and saw the following on my computer screen with credit and thanks to Steve Glazer from the Sierra Club who puts these together.

RAINFALL DOESN'T DO MUCH TO END COLORADO DROUGHT - State weather officials said the wet weekend in Colorado, where some areas received up to eight inches of rainfall, won't do much to clear the long-term drought, and said the effects of the stormy weekend will be forgotten within days. Denver Rocky Mountain News; July 10

After I read that one there was more.

BOULDER ASKS FOR VOLUNTARY WATER RESTRICTIONS - Citing the extreme heat and a continued drought, Boulder, Colo., officials said that water consumption has been highest since 2000, and county officials are asking residents to help with strict, but still voluntary, conservation practices. Boulder Daily Camera; July 14

But hey, that is Boulder, what about the rest of Colorado?

DISASTER DECLARED IN MOST OF COLORADO MEANS HELP FOR FARMERS - Colorado Gov. Bill Owens announced yesterday that farmers in 59 of the state's 64 counties qualify for federal disaster relief for losses due to the drought. Denver Post; July 18

And for those of you who have been asleep most of the summer that included Summit County. Yes, Summit County. I have lived in Colorado for 36 years and that has never happened before.

Of course we could sue for the right to claim the water that is evaporating off of the Dillon Reservoir. How innovative is this? How silly is this?

BROKER SUES FOR RIGHT TO WATER EVAPORATING OFF N.M. RESERVOIRS - Albuquerque hydrologist William Turner has appealed the New Mexico State Engineer's denial of his request that he be allowed to divert the 372,982 acre-feet of water from the Rio Grande that normally evaporates off the Elephant Butte, Cochiti and Caballo reservoirs each year, pipe it into arroyos or well fields, and then sell the water. Santa Fe New Mexican; July 30

My sister Janet and I owned a farm in Iowa until a few years ago. One of our assessments was to pay a ditch company to allow the tile on our land to dump excess water into their ditch that subsequently took the water to the creek (or crick to those who really understand) and then to the river. Yes, we paid to get the water off of our land every year.

I had a meeting recently with some county commissioners west of here and they asked what I felt was the most important thing they could do about water. I told them that they needed to do everything possible to keep their water in their county for as long as they could. That meant to conserve water for habitat, domestic, agricultural use and for recreation. Not to let one drop move downstream unless they were under some court order or other decree to do so.

I would give the same advice to any county. Water is a finite resource. There is only so much available and even when it seems like it is dropping out of the sky every five minutes or so there is still not enough.

The elected officials in each county should look at their water as a valuable resource that needs to be protected. The best way to protect it is to stay united and not to fight between jurisdictions. What is good for the Upper Blue near Breckenridge is good for the Lower Blue near Silverthorne.

We are all in the same community, the same county and have the same interests in the long term. By infighting and disagreeing the only people who will benefit will be the water attorneys. And guess who pays for the water attorneys? You and I do of course. We get to pay for the bravado and ego of some elected official who is not willing to sit down at the table and talk. That is crazy. That is not good government.

We need to look at this from a very reasonable people oriented approach. Drive by the stream or the reservoir or lake. If there is water in it that is a good thing. No water means it is a bad thing. We need to have more of a good thing and less of a bad thing. If we all work together we can have that.