Chemistry class

The winds of change are stirring up the mix. I rode my bike up here Monday and got out the uphill ski boots Tuesday. Voters said it was time for real change on the Crested Butte town council and now there will be two women at the table. Like doing chemistry experiments in high school, it will be interesting to see what happens when new elements are put in the same beaker.

New chemistry

Congratulations to Glenn Michel, the new mayor of Crested Butte, and Paul Merck, Erika Vohman and Laura Mitchell, the new members of the Crested Butte Town Council. This line-up is sure to bring a new chemistry to the board that by its own definition had become dysfunctional and filled with angst.

Now honestly, given the personalities, I don’t see a sudden “We Are The World” recording session breaking out any time soon at a council meeting, but change will be good for this board. This CB seven will start fresh and hopefully set a standard of respect and collaboration to deal with some of the important issues coming up, including a potential development next to the town, a possibility to address the ever-looming molybdenum mine proposal on Red Lady, and how to deal with a growing resort community and all its ramifications, including where to house the working people.

Thanks go out to Aaron Huckstep, Skip Berkshire and Shaun Matusewicz, who put in their time representing the people. It’s a real commitment (a lot more than every other Monday) and not always filled with rainbows and unicorns.

Chemistry matters between people and that was an issue the last couple of years on the council. While everyone was pretty much on the same page as far as the issues, the poor chemistry prohibited the members from having much fun and making good movement. Glenn worked hard to get his votes and is ready to handle the gavel. This is a statement of change by the people of Crested Butte and this new council has real opportunity.

Combustible chemistry

It was just a matter of time…

When a group calling themselves “Silent Tracks” began making noise about a potential facilitated plan to divide up some backcountry drainages, the silence didn’t last long. Potassium nitrate plus sulfur plus charcoal equals Silent Tracks trying to facilitate a “solution” to the Slate River backcountry area. Silence and snowmobiles don’t really mesh when both groups want dibs on the same place, so it immediately resulted in a new group called “Share the Slate.” Boom.

There were as many snowmobilers as quiet users at the Silent Tracks gathering in Gunnison last month. It was a mellow but strongly silent gathering.

As someone pointed out to me this week, the confluence of these two new groups in the beaker could bring back the good old days of a Whatever or Snodgrass expansion debate. In other words: Things could get loud and strident. Like a chemistry experiment that results in a lot of smoke, this issue seems like it might end up smoky and smelly, at least in the short run.

The ultimate decision maker, the U.S. Forest Service, has indicated that while it has been directed to enter into a planning process for motorized over-the-snow travel, the regional forest supervisor here has decided the effort for the Gunnison National Forest will begin after the revision to the Forest Plan is completed. That isn’t expected until 2020. While the supervisor has said a winter travel management plan could happen sooner if a collaborative group representing all the local user groups came up with a compromise proposal, I see no indication that it is really possible with the current groups.

So the Gang of Nine compromise from the 1990s will remain. And frankly, while not perfect, it works. It was a long chemistry experiment that has been successful.

Family chemistry

With the hiring of Jackson Petito as the new KBUT program director, he, along with KBUT membership director Julia Brazell, moves into the management of a community institution. That institution has been around only since the mid-1980s when these two were little Crested Butte groms. But radio is in their blood. Jackson’s mom, Lynda, and aunt Bonnie and Julia’s dad, Bob, are three of the longest-tenured disc jockeys at the station. Bob and LJ were part of the Earth Station radio in Crested Butte even before KBUT. Jackson and Julia grew up here. It is kind of cool to see this generational KBUT evolution.

Speaking of family, the top of the family-owned Crested Butte Mountain Resort management team, Ethan Mueller and his family, will be relocating back east after the ski season. Ethan has been very involved with Triple Peaks management and the move will put him closer to company headquarters. Erica Mueller will remain here and longtime Triple Peaks top gun Michael Kratz will deal with the day-to-day of the ski resort. So while his family is moving, the overall family is still steering the local ship.

—Mark Reaman

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