photo by Lydia Stern

Explosions

I can’t keep writing about the increasing people numbers and the impacts of more people coming here. But I will once more before reminding everyone about how lucky we all are to live here in this high mountain valley.

Still, it’s all going off—and stuff is exploding.

There are all sorts of numbers issues, ramifications and general frustrations. A new sign is going up soon asking bikers to not stop at the overlook just before the Lupine One mountain bike trail downhill. There’s actually just a 36-inch wide easement at that spot and people are trampling around on private property taking photos. The Cypress Foothills developers have gotten so frustrated with the process the town implemented to file an application to annex 44 acres into Crested Butte that they are pulling out of the project. That means they will probably take their chances with the county. The Lake Irwin Coalition and Eleven are squabbling over easements at the old Lodge and the Forest Service is responding to a Freedom of Information Act filed by the LIC. The county elections office is feeling frustrated with the town of Crested Butte about how the upcoming election will be partnered and how the two entities can best see that legal voters are the only ones voting in town. Throw in looming weirdness like a Donald Trump presidency and Bernie Sanders gaining on Hillary and—Boom.

Not to hammer on one point, but the nearby backcountry is getting hammered this summer with an explosion of people. Who knows how much longer the scientists at RMBL will be able to continue their research up Gothic Road. This week the lab posted photos of human feces and TP dotting the nearby landscape on social media. I not only smell that, I can smell road restrictions coming—a gate to paradise. Great.

If recreationalists keep wandering onto ranchland on purpose or by accident, there will come a tipping point that turns those pastures into parking lots and condos. Property owners of Smith Hill are frustrated as the Lupine trail going through the property sees hundreds of people get off their bikes every week, walk on their property and take the classic photo looking up the Slate River Valley. They are trampling around on private property. A new sign is ready to be posted. “Sign, sign, everywhere a sign. Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind…” Boom.

The sewer plant in Crested Butte didn’t explode with two major events centered in Crested Butte last weekend, but the tow truck drivers were super busy as people parked anywhere and everywhere, including apparently, in people’s driveways. Speeding was the norm and I am personally familiar with someone who flipped off a big black truck with Minnesota plates as it careened around the gravel behind the school, turning around, obviously lost and not caring about the bikers and pedestrians in the area.

A tragic accident cancelled the last couple of days of the Big Mountain Enduro event and cast a rainy pall over the valley. It was very sad for the rider’s friends and family, along with the event itself.

People are still consistently posting pleas online asking for places to live in both Crested Butte and Gunnison. It’s not easy out there.

The Arts Festival survived the rains and a new layout with directional signs seemed to appease some local businesses with the closing of Elk Avenue. But once those tents zipped up at 5 o’clock on Saturday, Elk Avenue apparently became a ghost town and business was slim. Unintended consequences?

You know, last year at this time we were just starting to glean the first signs of Whatever USA. I really do think that event is having an impact on us today—and I’m not talking about the still-grooved street. I think that weekend exposed Crested Butte and the valley to a new client that hadn’t put us on the radar yet. Well, we are on the radar. And it seems to be a different kind of client—perhaps with a little less respect or understanding of the place and the vibe we embrace.

The genie is out of the bottle and we all seem to know it. What we do with it remains to be seen. Boom.

In that vein, the Gunnison County commissioners are planning to take a field trip up to Gothic. They hope to meet with RMBL at the end of the month to talk about the issues that have exploded this summer. And then start considering ways to deal with the changes. That is a needed start and I appreciate the first steps toward action dealing with what is probably the biggest explosion we have seen. The CB town council is beginning to discuss responsibility to the backcountry since they are somewhat responsible for attracting people here and also getting the sales tax benefit. They agreed to help the Coal Creek Watershed Coalition pay for a pit toilet up the Slate River Valley. That’s another good step. The Forest service is obviously a cog that has to be engaged in the discussion.

In the meantime, the explosions seem to keep coming. But next week, while I can’t promise anything, how about a piece on how magical this place is…

—Mark Reaman

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