Progress

Progress is rarely instantaneous. It takes time. Good progress can be a series of trials and errors and there is nothing wrong with either the trial or the error — that is where knowledge is gained. Bill Gates once observed that humans over-expect quick change (and are usually wrong) and they can’t grasp how much things will be different in a decade. Given that, he suggests that people should not “be lulled into inaction.” Progress is a steady march. Little steps matter. Continuing action matters. 

There appears to be progress in the workforce housing situation in the valley. Both Crested Butte with its Sixth and Butte project and the county with its Whetstone housing endeavor are taking steps to get a significant number of roofs over the heads of local workers. Both major projects are experiencing the expected issues, from rising costs to public discomfort with the citified location of placing big buildings next to the highway in the most visible part of the project, but the march is continuing forward on both developments and that is a good thing. 

Even the town of Mt. Crested Butte finally appears to be getting serious with its Homestead workforce housing project that blew up over a number of issues and has sat idle for more than a year. That was waaaaay too long. There is finally real communication about finding a settlement with the developer to have someone hopefully move forward with some sort of housing. No resolution has been announced but actual talks in the form of mediation meetings have started. As sad as that sounds, that is actually progress! It also appears the Village at Mt. Crested Butte (the North Village) is seeing potential progress for a start and that too could include more workforce housing in Mt. CB. 

Meanwhile the county is working on new units in Gunnison by the fairgrounds and entities like the RTA are jumping in on their own to make sure there are places for their drivers to sleep at night. Throw in the Crested Butte push for more ADUs and the Valley Housing Fund’s Paul Redden workforce housing project about to go live in the CB mobile home district and there is some light in the tunnel. 

The key to me and the light to focus on with every such project is community. Adding hundreds more people to the North Valley will bring both positive and negative impacts so making these places livable and comfortable for neighbors and friends and not just constructing worker camps for pass-through employees is critical. Creating good places for expanded, deeper community is progress.

Word is (not directly between Mark Walter and me) that at least a couple of Mark Walter’s vacant Elk Avenue restaurant properties will be seeing progress in the coming months. A patron of one of his current establishments got the skinny from one of the workers that the ideas being batted around included that “the Brick will be refurbished and reopen in July, the Princess also will be refurbished, and the Forest Queen building will be demolished and rebuilt with a high-end restaurant as part of it.”

The Crested Butte building department confirmed that “high level meetings” with members of the local Walter’s team have been held recently. The goal is to submit plans to BOZAR for a Brick Oven building upgrade in the March/April review cycle. While the Forest Queen is a historical building and cannot be “demolished” the goal for that building at Second and Elk is to submit plans to BOZAR for a lift/rehab to the building in April/May. Submitting plans make the chit chat real. The town hasn’t heard anything new on the Princess building. 

So, there will still be lots of dark buildings on Elk Avenue this winter and there has still been no communication outreach from the billionaire to the community, but hey – behind the scenes progress!

Our U.S. Postal Service contact in Denver has been busy answering a bunch of questions about post offices all over the state of late. CB is not the only place with PO problems. Following up on last week’s story in the Crested Butte News about the postmaster quitting along with two delivery drivers that service the cluster boxes for Skyland and CB South, James Boxrud this week said that “Mail service (to the cluster boxes) was restored last Thursday. The carrier made two trips that day to get caught up and is current now also.” Progress! 

Tuesday morning’s steady snowfall has the 2022-23 winter progressing nicely and the phone forecast says to keep expecting more bliss from the heavens. Crested Butte is looking like the postcard we all imagine and actually experience. We are progressing toward a pretty fine winter scene.

In that regard, CBMR took advantage of a cold fall to make snow and then took advantage of a couple natural snowfalls to get late December skiing going by early December. The skiing on the hill has been soft and fun — words not normally used to describe the first week of December. I will say the wind appears to have played havoc with Rachael’s by the North Face Lift, but that snow had to have been blown somewhere and that could help with progress in getting the Extremes open (hopefully). I hear the packers are prepping to get on the steeps and that is always a sign of progress for those who like to ski off the T-bars.

I finished reading How the World Really Works by Vaclav Smil last month and he makes the point that making progress to go from fossil fuel energy to renewables, while good for the planet, cannot be instantaneous. There is no magic wand to decarbonize the world and he says magic is not likely. What he calls the four pillars of modern civilization — cement, steel, plastics and ammonia — take intensive fossil fuel use to manufacture. Growing, developing countries like China and India with populations that want to live like us Americans are adding to their use every day, so carbon will be pumped into the atmosphere for a while no matter how electrified Crested Butte and Gunnison become. 

Smil suggests the best, quickest, most impactful way to keep making carbon mitigation progress is to move toward things like using triple-paned windows and retrofitting existing buildings with better insulation. I’d add planting trees that absorb carbon can’t hurt. Little things can eventually have big consequences. Again, take the steps that can be done.

And let’s stay clear-eyed and honest with ourselves…while we can do what we can and electrifying is one action while putting in a solar farm at the entrance to town is another, let’s not pretend to be holy environmentalists. We all choose to spend winters living and working at 9,000 feet in the mountains while promoting and subsidizing an economy that depends on people driving and flying here from all over the world to ride motorized chairlifts before eating gourmet asparagus flown in from South America. That’s not the greenest template in the world. Still, being honest with ourselves and taking actions that matter even a smidge is progress.

The actual Bill Gates quote is that “we tend to overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change happening in the next 10.” While progress may not be instantaneous, it will happen if we — the Crested Butte and Gunnison Valley community and the whole wide world — keep marching forward and learning from our trials and errors. Let’s keep taking the little steps while focusing on the directions that can makes the most difference.

—Mark Reaman

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