photo by Lydia Stern

Game changers

Like the muffed punt in the fourth quarter of last Sunday night’s premier football game between the Broncos and Patriots, there sometimes occurs an event (or events) that change the course of a game and even the end result. Crested Butte currently is flirting with some game changers.

—Significant broadband improvements could be headed to the valley, with some government help. The county and the local municipalities have joined forces to partner with Region 10, a group of six Western Slope counties that collaborate on economic development projects to get faster, cheaper, more reliable broadband to our area. The state would ultimately foot a big part of the bill to get this “backbone” infrastructure to the area that in a few years could lower Internet costs dramatically while speeding up service and making it more reliable. It appears it would be the type of broadband that would give confidence to those who need it for their work to live here. It could change the social makeup of the valley. Game changer.

—Building a 38,000-square-foot building in the Town Park could be a game changer. The Crested Butte Center for the Arts gave a presentation to BOZAR a couple of weeks ago and its team made a strong case for a big building with a cool preliminary plan. The demand for more “art” space is growing as the community expands and the Center seems to have become the catch-all for the arts in the valley. Bringing together uses currently spread out all over town and putting them under one roof (or two) means that roof has to be big. If approved, it would change the scale to the entrance of Crested Butte and change the message people get when coming in. Let’s not even talk pavement for parking. Less green and more art is not necessarily a bad message but it is a different message in that spot.

Adding to that less green part of the equation is a part of the recently completed Parks and Rec master plan. Do not forget that the plan calls for another 14,000 square feet of concrete to be laid down next to the proposed Center for the Arts for a new skate park.

Personally, I am not a big fan of big buildings and more concrete in Crested Butte—especially in the most visible park space in town. It messes with the scale that is different from other resort communities and keeps us different. (I was always a fan of the “campus” approach including that vacant lot across from the Center on Sixth Street). But if the town is headed that way, and BOZAR members seemed surprisingly compliant to the idea, this Center design team has some good ideas on ways to make it more palatable.

—Talks appear in the works to secure a modern and long-term water treatment plant on Mt. Emmons. It doesn’t come through the company with the rights to the molybdenum deposit (U.S. Energy) that is on shaky financial ground at the moment, but rather Freeport McMoRan, a giant mining company that inherited some  responsibility through a purchase of another company several years ago. But Freeport has money, stability and apparently an understanding of the need to help address a legacy mining situation just west of Crested Butte. As part of the talks about the treatment plant, the overall mining situation could come into play and there is a chance at a final resolution to the mining threat that has loomed over the upper valley for decades. Game changer.

—Owners of the property just north of town across from the Gas Café are tweaking a new proposal for 19 homes on the 44 acres. Cypress Equities felt pretty pissed by the result of annexation negotiations with the town last year and are now focused on a county development. According to their position last month, they were not rushing to hook up the home sites to the Crested Butte wastewater treatment facility and so were likely to ask for 19 wells and septic systems. This week, it appears there has been some thaw in the relationship and the developers and the town are seeking a new partnership to work out some sort of arrangement to avoid septic systems and get something other than another standard 19-home suburbia in the mountains.

—The Crested Butte-Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce and the primary public marketing entity in Gunnison Valley, the Tourism Association, is not only hopping on board the fat bike train, but hoping for a place in the engine. Chamber director Dave Ochs is a biker and he looooooves himself some fat bike. TA executive director John Norton is a biker and he is tooling around on a carbon fatty this winter. They both like trails and they see an opportunity. They are the main push behind the Fat Bike World Championships in January and Ochs likes to emphasize Crested Butte is a “bike town.” They want to catch this wave in the first set and provide a new standard for Colorado mountain resort towns in what appears to be a growing fat market.

Incidentally, that fumbled punt on Sunday was recovered by the Denver Broncos and led to the New England Patriots’ first loss of the season. The guy who fumbled the punt, Chris Harper, was cut and out of a job the next day.

Game changers have consequences.

—Mark Reaman

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