Tuesday, September 18, 2018
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Being wrong. Size, backcountry clusters and punching it in from the five-yard line

I’d rather be right than wrong but there’s nothing wrong with not always being right. I have to admit I was wrong on a couple things lately.

At the official grand opening of the Anthracite Place affordable housing project on Friday, I admitted to developer Bill Coburn that the structure looked good, as I always said it would. But I also admitted to him that the structure wasn’t as big and imposing as I expected. It sits back more than I thought it would as you enter town and, as we all pretty much agree, it should provide a great service to the community—housing for local low-income workers. I do have some concerns about it slowly filling up, and perhaps federal income limits play a big role, but that’s another story.

Anyway, the Anthracite Place design breaks up the building so it is not a monolith, and frankly that was a big concern of mine that I wrote about more than once in 2014-15. I still believe that scale matters in the feel of a small mountain village but this turned out better than I expected. I was wrong and give a lot of credit to the Board of Zoning and Architectural Review (BOZAR) and town staff for putting in the time, knowledge and passion to make proposed buildings in Crested Butte better. While nearly every developer shakes in fear of what can certainly be a sometimes painful and rarely quick BOZAR process for them, the end result is always better for the overall community. Many people may not understand it, but BOZAR is one reason people like it here.

Which brings me to the next, but not last, large building proposal for the town. The Crested Butte Center for the Arts is proposing a 37,000-square-foot building that stretches from the current building north almost to Pitsker Field. Anthracite Place is about 22,000 square feet. So the Center Complex would be well more than one-and-a-half times larger. Then there is Sixth Street Station. The new proposal is asking for the same 62,000 square feet as before but will likely be spread out much more nicely than the last proposal. If it can make it through the BOZAR rigor, we can all feel okay about the end product.

So, I will take off my Don Quixote costume and stop charging at the windmills of big buildings along the Sixth Street corridor. As the town grows, it might make sense that the buildings grow. Anthracite Place went through BOZAR and is a nice-looking building. The Center for the Arts design is almost finished with the BOZAR process and is a beautiful building. Keeping the current building part of the new design is a nice touch. Sixth Street Station is big but still has to go through the BOZAR process.

First and goal

One more thing about the Center for the Arts plan and the BOZAR: It seems to me the project has pushed its way down the football field and is on the five-yard line. Those five yards can feel like the hardest but watching the public hearing last week, it appeared to me the town and Center are almost ready to signal touchdown. There are still several details to figure out, like whether ribbed copper or flat panel copper is better for some places on the new building. And there are still some bigger details to set in stone, like how it will officially handle parking at big events. The town expressing a desire for an official buttoned up plan is not “holding the Center hostage to parking” as was suggested at the meeting. It is smart and necessary and will solve a lot of angst five years from now. But the ball is on the five and I have no doubt if the Center advocates stay focused and work to answer all the questions, they will push the ball into the end zone very soon.

Backcountry cluster?

An Alpine Express driver said I must have jinxed the start of summer when I described the crowds a month ago as being in the “sweet spot.” It seemed the numbers were not enough to overwhelm everything like last year but were enough to keep everyone busy. There seemed fewer people in town and most were happy and respectful. About a week later the crowds apparently blew up and cars were crushing backcountry wildflower fields and people felt going 25 miles per hour down Elk Avenue was too slow. These last three weeks have been peaking—but I swear it is still better than a year ago.

We received a photo this week of some monolithic bus/RV hybrid that backed up traffic around Emerald Lake on Saturday. See page 3 to see what caused a “cluster” up there. Now, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. So just because that Frankenbus thing could crawl up to Schofield Pass doesn’t mean it should have. It impacted a bunch of people and pushed the anxiety button for probably not only its driver but also a lot of other people last Saturday. That thing looks like it is better built for Highway 50 instead of the narrow, crappy road below Emerald Lake.

Similar stories have been sent to us from Irwin residents. Scores of vehicles a day, some not meant for backcountry roads, are ruining the already sketchy dirt and rock roads, trespassing on private property and pretty much trashing the area to get a snapshot of our Colorado mountains.

The local ranchers are again asking people to be respectful of their gates, their fences, their property and the land we all share. We received photos last week showing evidence of what I assume to be (young) locals leaving trash on one of the jewels of the upper valley. Not cool. Understand that trashing Long Lake jeopardizes being able to use that treasure at all and we should be self-policing ourselves to make sure locals and visitors don’t do something that stupid.

Seeing tents all over the Slate River valley this weekend and hearing a few people screaming at those that don’t know how to act in a strange place like this, I might have been early and wrong about the overcrowding issue this summer. More than a few people have told me they have almost been hit crossing the street as visitors ignore or just don’t see the stop signs in town. That’s not cool and it’s dangerous.

We all have to be vigilant in protecting this place. Not only is it beautiful for us, it is what draws people to the local businesses. We should be aware of our carrying capacity, our marketing efforts and potentially pounding to death the things that make this place attractive.

So I admit to sometimes being wrong. Big isn’t automatically bad. I trust BOZAR to make it work and not let the scale of this small mountain town get out of whack. A slower start to summer doesn’t mean we can take our backcountry for granted. We all can set good examples of how to properly respect the place and certainly not trash it. Continuing to have conversations about carrying capacity and how to maintain a fruitful balance is imperative.

July is almost over. I can see a light on the horizon. We will get through this one more time. Now, about the fee on that bag ban…

—Mark Reaman

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