Thoughts and observations

First, congratulations to the Crested Butte Titans soccer team. Battling adversity and fighting an uphill battle in the playoffs, this team came out as the 2-A state champions in what was expected to be a “rebuilding year!” Okay then. In its post-season run, there was a double overtime victory, a shootout win on penalty kicks and a 1-0 win last Saturday. This is a young team and while we can look to the future with some confidence, take the time now to enjoy what was a magical run.

Speaking of magic…Driving home from Denver on Sunday after a quick trip to Minneapolis (it was warm there too), the highlight might have been a grazing herd of more than 100 elk in a field near the Dvorak rafting complex. Three dozen cars were pulled over on the side of 285 to watch them. It was a reminder that here in the valley we are exposed to that type of magic on a regular basis. The majestic bugling elk in the wetlands by the school or on the hillside by CB South is something to truly appreciate.

Then there’s the annual autumn cattle drive through town. That remains one of the best things that separates Crested Butte from its peers in the ski industry and took place last week. Watching the Allen cattle come through town dropping pies on the kids’ soccer field and ignoring the 25 mph signs is perhaps one of the highlights of every fall. It’s one of those things that parents and friends visiting Crested Butte remember forever if they are lucky enough to witness it. 

For me it is a tangible reminder of the depth and importance of ranching in this valley. It is an incredibly valuable asset that separates us from most of our peer resort communities. I truly believe that our active working ranches top the list of things that separate us as a resort community and we need to do what we can to help them maintain that business, the lifestyle and culture. Embrace the cow pies on the hiking trails, accept the perceived favoritism of the Forest Service toward the ranchers over recreationists on public lands, appreciate the control longtime ranching families have over big swaths of land along the highways. Without that stewardship, and more importantly, their control over the water rights in the area, we could easily look like a poor man’s valley near Keystone with condos on brown hillsides instead of cattle on verdant fields. Don’t take that for granted.

Another thing not to take for granted is how we are surrounded by millions of acres of wilderness and forests at the end of the road while having the amenities of a resort community. So, the current draft of the regional GMUG Forest Plan is a bit baffling as the powers that be seem to see the forest more as an extractive opportunity for logging than a golden asset unto itself. I understand the need and the logic for some logging and mining, but the draw of nature is powerful in both a spiritual and economic sense and it is one of the primary amenities in our amenity-based community.

Being fortunate enough to talk to U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and county commissioner Jonathan Houck on a joint call about a month ago, they obviously get it. Both have been longtime passionate participants in the Gunnison Public Land Initiative (GPLI). Bennet literally spent years working on the project and crafted it into draft legislation called the Gunnison Outdoor Resources Protection Act. They had expected that recommendations from the GPLI would be a core part of the proposed forest plan. Alas, that wasn’t the case, which is a travesty. When you have a grassroots initiative that brings together diverse interests of a community that reach practical compromises, there is little reason not to embrace that opportunity in an increasingly polarized world. The fact that the Forest Service has ignored it is one more thing that makes people believe the bureaucrats have no sense of what the people want and instead impose their views because they know what’s best. Wrong.

The proposed draft plan actually goes against the grain of what it is that makes this place special. So, I appreciate the elected officials at both the local and the federal level, in this case Houck and Bennet, in advocating and understanding what is part of our uniqueness. We are fortunate to have elected representatives like Senator Bennet and commissioner Houck that put in the time and hard work to understand what it is we are about and try to turn that understanding into practical, on the ground direction. Bennet and Houck are continuing to do the good work and for that we should be grateful. The Forest Service, on the other hand, should reevaluate its draft plan to more clearly reflect the priorities of the community.

The recent CB town council discussion over the direction of its climate mitigation measures was interesting. I appreciated the viewpoint that if you are dealing with an emergency and going to focus on a goal, then focus on a goal. I am afraid too many people living up here at 9,000 feet in a resort valley that depends on jets, and cars, and trucking in everything, and using energy to suck water from the rivers to make snow, believe they can save the world by making everyone ride a bus. There is moral and practical value in doing what you can to chip away at the climate problem but be careful on how far you go to make people do what you think is right unless you are walking the straight walk. The council discussion touched on those issues and while no definitive conclusion was reached, I appreciated the back-and-forth about being real.

Mitch Hoffman’s wife Carolyn sent a note reminding us that November 19 is World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. Cheers to her and to the memory of a good man lost in a still horrible situation for all involved. And while it may not be directly related, we should all remember to pay attention to the road while in a vehicle and not look at a text that came in while driving.  

Congratulations to Jeff Hermanson and Kyleena Falzone for getting the old Last Steep open this coming weekend. It is great to see tangible progress in our lacking Elk Ave restaurant scene and I know people are looking forward to experiencing The Hideout that they have worked so hard on the last year. 

Meanwhile, someone mentioned to me recently that I was being too hard on Mark Walter, the billionaire owner of several other Elk Avenue business locations. I don’t think I’ve mentioned him in months, which made me think perhaps he lost my phone number. 

While I believe mutual acquaintances that say he’s a good guy, and I do appreciate that he is saving iconic CB buildings like the Forest Queen, I also think it would be beneficial to everyone in this small-town community to understand what he’s trying to do over the long term. So, as a reminder, if he feels the desire as a major player in Crested Butte to share his goals with the community, we at the News are all ears and offer a conduit to the community in general. My phone number is 970–349–0500, extension 109. And I know many of “his people” have my cell phone and email if that is more convenient. 

When the CB planning department makes plans to push for reroutes of the Mountain Express bus system based on a statistic that says most people in the country won’t ride a bus unless it’s within 500 feet of their door, they seem to be missing a foundational point that people in Crested Butte think differently. People here don’t feel old. They understand walking is part of the transportation system. I ride the bus in the winter regularly with people both young and old who grab the bus and live blocks from a bus stop. Applying those kinds of textbook standards to shape decisions on Crested Butte, seems a form of gentrification — something we all say we don’t want. 

We are closer than we think to the start of the next on-season. In fact it begins this coming Wednesday. It may feel like spring, but winter is looming. Enjoy the remaining few days of a quiet, community-centric off-season. The slower pace, the empty streets, the opportunity to reconnect with friends and neighbors while not hurrying off to another job is fleeting. But it is here now and so we should all embrace it. Believe it or not, the lifts start spinning in less than a week and there will indeed be natural and manmade snow on which to slide… and that too is a good thing in a different way. 

—Mark Reaman

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