Chamber Chat: A big week for Rifle |

Chamber Chat: A big week for Rifle

Greetings from your new interim president/CEO of the Rifle Area Chamber of Commerce.

As we dry our tears from saying goodbye to Andrea Maddalone, we also are looking forward to an amazing Garfield County Fair and Rodeo week starting Aug. 1 through Aug. 7. This is a great opportunity to celebrate our community with events and activities for the entire family.

As your chamber, we will be hosting the Garfield County Fair parade on Aug. 6 at 10 a.m. The theme of the parade is “Back to Our Roots” and we are accepting parade entry registrations through Aug. 3. This a great, inexpensive way to get exposure to hundreds of people for you, your business or organization. Parade entries are $25.

Starting at 9 a.m. the morning of the parade at the chamber office on 11th Street and Railroad Avenue, we will have multiple vendor booths set up ready to serve you. If you are interested in being a vendor, please contact us — space is limited.

This year we will also be featuring an additional parade announcer booth at the chamber office for parade goers, in addition to the announcer at Heinze Park. Please come and watch the parade with us.

On a housekeeping note, we have been getting a lot of inquiries on road closures for the parade so I wanted to address those here. Road closures from 9:50 a.m. to approximately 11:30 a.m. are as follows:

Railroad Avenue from Third Street to 16th Street.

All Railroad Avenue through streets.

Whiteriver Avenue will not be closed, however, it is the back route for all parade floats returning from Railroad Avenue.

We apologize in advance for any inconvenience these closures cause.

We are working closely with the city of Rifle and the Rifle Police Department to get the word out and make this closure as brief and safe as possible.

We hope you enjoy an amazing Garfield County Fair and Rodeo week in Rifle and you are able to take advantage of the great opportunities being provided to engage in and celebrate your community.

We encourage you to continue to shop local and support your local businesses by purchasing all of your needed items within Garfield County.

See you there!

Kasey Nispel is the interim president and CEO of the Rifle Area Chamber of Commerce. To contact the chamber, call 970-625-2085 or visit

Going ‘Beyond the Screen’

In the digital age, when most people can connect to others around the world using the phone in their pocket, it is all too easy to become distracted and disengaged. The tendency can lead to cyberbullying, digital dependency and other negative consequences.

Those are not the statements of a high school guidance counselor or college researcher; rather, they are the idea behind a new mural painted along the Rifle Creek Trail underpass near 16th Street.

A team of 12 young artists from area high schools have been working, under the guidance of instructors Mandy Klauck and Dylan Bentz, on Rifle’s newest piece of public art since early June. The mural, titled “Beyond the Screen,” will be publicly unveiled at a presentation Wednesday at 5 p.m.

The project is a joint effort between Youth Zone and the Bookcliffs Arts Center in Rifle.

It was made possible by a $75,000 grant from the Embrey Family Foundation, which cites “arts for social change” as one of its passions.

The money went toward paying the students and instructors, along with the supplies and the work of Susan Drinker, a Carbondale-based photographer who will produce a short video feature on the project.

The mural, which measures 68 by 9 feet and depicts open skies adjacent to bubbles filled with city-like skylines, is more a societal statement on how technology impacts our lives than a beautification project.

“There’s a balance,” Breanna Ballesteros, a recent graduate of Yampah Mountain High School in Glenwood Springs, said recently while pausing her work on the mural. She, like the other students involved, recognizes the role social media plays in people’s lives.

The point was made clear early on when the 12 selected artists were asked to come to a meeting with ideas of issues that effect teenagers. At least five of them brought up the idea of technology, said Klauck, who teaches art at Rifle High School.

From there, other issues, including dependency and depression, were woven into the piece and the team began sketching out the mural.

While it might seem surprising that a group of teenagers, who are part of a generation regularly criticized for their alleged smart-phone dependency, are aware of how big a role technology plays in their lives, Klauck said she is not surprised at all.

“Every person I’ve talked to in the community is surprised at how self aware the kids are,” she said. “I know about the self awareness … it comes out in art projects in school.”

Part of the goal of the mural is to spread that awareness in the community.

“There’s a lot of distractions,” said Savanna Fender, who will be a senior at Coal Ridge High School.

She noted the recent popularity of “Pokemon Go” as another example of how people can be consumed with technology.

Public art might seem like an unusual project for Youth Zone, a nonprofit that has provided services to area youth and families for more than 40 years, said Lori Mueller, executive director.

“It’s a specific project and we haven’t necessarily done a specific project like this,” but at the most basic level Youth Zone strives to engage children and teenagers, who might otherwise not be engaged, with their community, Mueller said.

As evident through watching the students work, the mural project accomplishes Youth Zone’s core mission, she added.

“They spoke to a social issue, and that first and foremost is what Youth Zone’s mission is.”

Silt to celebrate HeyDays

Silt HeyDays is almost here and organizers see this year’s event as an opportunity to showcase current happenings and what awaits the town in the future, all while paying homage to its history.

The annual event, which features live music, games and fun for both young and old, gets underway Friday night at the Stoney Ridge Pavilion with a performance by Blackout, a tribute-band performing hits by the rock group Scorpions. Rick Aluise and the Corporation Band will open starting at 6 p.m. Fireworks will follow the show.

Tickets for the Friday night concert are $10 for adults and $5 for seniors and children when purchased in advance at or Silt Town Hall, located at 231 N. Seventh St. Ticket prices are and additional $2 at the gate.

With a theme of “forging our future,” this year’s event — aside form offering a fun-filled weekend — will focus on efforts made by the town in recent years.

“As Silt continues to grow, the town has been striving to be proactive and provide amenities that not only encourage further growth, but that also provide its citizens a place to live that they can be proud of and that brings others to our town to enjoy,” organizers said in a release.

Some of that current work includes the ongoing beautification of Main Street, stadium lighting that will soon be installed at the Stoney Ridge baseball field, a revamped river park and the recently opened Interstate 70 pedestrian underpass trail, as well as other new developments and projects.

Saturday’s festivities gear up early with a pancake breakfast starting at 7 a.m. in Stoney Ridge Park. The Leonard Curry Trio will perform a blend of bluegrass, folk and more leading up to annual parade at 10 a.m.

The parade at last year’s HeyDays, which also served as Silt’s centennial celebration, drew hundreds of people, and led others to remark at the sizable crowds lining the streets, said Peggy Swank, a member of the Silt HeyDays committee.

This parade starts at Cactus Valley Elementary School and heads east on Grand Avenue to Ninth Street, where the route turns north and makes its way to Stoney Ridge Park, located at 648 N. Seventh Street.

Games, music and activities continue throughout the day both in Stoney Ridge and the Silt Historical Park, located at 707 Orchard Ave. Along with the horseshoe tournament earlier in the day, a corn hole tournament was added to the day’s activities. There is a $5 entry fee and the winner will take home a brand new corn hole set. Second and third place will bring home cash prizes, and a portion of the entry proceeds will benefit the Silt Historical Society.

Diamond Empire Band will close out the day with some country rock starting at 6 p.m. at the Stoney Ridge Pavilion. The concert is free.

Sunday starts at a faster pace — at least for some — with the seventh-annual HeyDay Hobble 5K race at 8 a.m. The race starts and ends at the Silt Historical Park.

The eighth-annual Silt Heyday Car Show runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Grand Valley Days shortens to 1 day

One of the region’s longest running annual celebrations returns to Parachute Saturday with an abbreviated schedule.

The 108th Grand Valley Days celebration gets underway at 7 a.m. starting with a pancake breakfast at Grand Valley United Methodist Church on Parachute Avenue. A day filled with family fun, including a parade and rodeo, will follow the breakfast.

Unlike in previous years, this year’s celebration will be limited to one day. The change was made due to the loss of some experienced board members and difficult financial times, said Dave Devanney, with the Grand Valley Parks Association.

Organizers hope to return the event to its two-day format in the future and have no plans of dropping the “s” from days. However, this year the decision was made to cut the second day in order to try and focus on generating sponsorships.

Even with the programming change, there is still plenty to do, Devanney said.

Prior to the start of the annual parade at 10 a.m., Beasley Park will host a smoked turkey auction, sponsored by the Grand Valley Historical Society.

Speaking before Parachute trustees earlier this month, Devanney attested to the greatness of the turkeys, which are being donated by Rib City.

They “days of olde” parade will start at the intersection of Third Street and Parachute Avenue. Each year the parade honors a resident or group of residents for their commitment to the community by selecting them as grand marshal.

This year, Parachute Mayor Roy McClung, a lifelong resident whose great grandparents homesteaded on Parachute creek in the 1880s, will serve as grand marshal — a recognition that he said is an honor.

McClung, who works as a packaging supervisor at Natural Soda on Piceance Creek, said he loves living in a small town where his family has deep roots. Aside from aunts, uncles and cousins who live in or near Parachute, McClung has two daughters in high school and his eldest daughter lives in Rifle with her husband. His sister and her husband also live in Parachute and operate Old Mountain Gift and Jewelry.

“I love being in a small town in western Colorado,” McClung said. “The area is beautiful and it just feels like home to be here. … Knowing that my family has lived here for four generations and that my kids want to live here has a real sense of home to me.”

McClung, who handily won a recall effort earlier this year, also shared some optimism for the future.

“We live in an area with so much untapped opportunities for recreation and various businesses, it is exciting looking at what the area can become,” he said.

A bike rodeo and ice cream social will follow the parade. The rodeo, sponsored by the Parachute Police Department, will take place at the Grand Valley Center for Family Learning, and the social will be at the Beasley Park tent.

The rodeo gets underway at 7 p.m. in Cottonwood Park. General admission tickets are $10, while tickets for seniors are $5 and veterans and children 5 years old and younger get in for free. The evening ends with a street dance in Cottonwood Park from 9 p.m. to midnight.

Adding a twist to the fun, Shire of Draca-Mor, which Parachute Town Manager Stuart McArthur has described as a renaissance fair, will be in town Friday through Sunday.

After some initial confusion over scheduling space in Cottonwood Park, which also is hosting the renaissance fair, Devanney said he’s hoping the two events compliment one another and give the area a boost for the weekend.

“It’s going to be bigger and better with the medieval people and the cowboys and cowgirls,” he said.

More jurisdictions allowing OHVs on public roads

An ordinance paving the way for off-highway vehicle (OHV) use on designated county roads will likely come before Garfield County commissioners in the next two months.

If adopted, Garfield would join a growing list of counties in Colorado seizing what some see as a valuable economic opportunity.

“I’m hopeful that we can get this across the finish line in the near future,” said Fred Jarman, deputy county manager for Garfield County.

Jarman serves as the county administration’s point man on a committee evaluating the possibility of opening certain county roads for OHV use.

A draft ordinance is awaiting review of the committee, which also includes local enthusiasts and other county departments, including the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office.

The hope is to bring something before commissioners in late August or early September, Jarman said.

Colorado counties and municipalities have increasingly started considering the OHV issue in order to catch up with other states in the West, said Scott Jones, an authorized representative with the Colorado Off Highway Vehicle Coalition, an advocacy group that promotes pro-OHV legislation and regulation.

“Colorado was really lagging behind in this area,” according to Jones.

That fueled frustration among out-of-state OHV enthusiasts who came to Colorado without knowing OHV limitations.

As certain local jurisdictions moved ahead with their own regulations, the situation started to evolve into a quagmire where riders could unknowingly drop into a different county and be in violation of local rules, Jones said.

Several years of effort culminated in state legislation, signed into law earlier this year, that grants local jurisdictions the ability to require OHV operators to have a driver’s license or liability insurance.

Although far from perfect, the legislation helped bring more uniformity to Colorado OHV regulations than had previously existed, Jones said.

“It’s happening so quick at this point that we’re having trouble tracking it,” he said of the number of counties and municipalities addressing the OHV issue.

‘Nice little deal’

Tourism typically is the primary driver of efforts to expand OHV access to local roads.

Rio Blanco County, which is seen as a pioneer on the issue in western Colorado, continues to experience positive impacts from expanded OHV access, said Shawn Bolton, chairman of the Rio Blanco County commissioners.

Over the past four or five years, the county has designated certain roads for OHV use and worked with the towns of Meeker and Rangely to open up access in those municipalities.

The result, said Bolton, is that Rio Blanco County has become a “mecca of outdoor recreation for OHVs.”

Meeker now hosts the annual Wagon Wheel OHV Rendezvous, which saw approximately 187 registered participants this year, along with an OHV rodeo. Both events have grown every year, according to Bolton.

“It’s turned into a nice little deal for us,” he said.

Trying to capture some of that tourism and the accompanying economic benefits led Parachute trustees last Thursday to unanimously approve an ordinance allowing OHV use in town for the purpose of accessing recreation opportunities in the surrounding area.

At this point, the ordinance is more preparation than anything else.

The goal is to allow OHV riders to park in the town and ride out to recreation points, so a trip to the store would not meet the intent of the ordinance.

However, since the primary roadways leading out to trails and public land are county roads, Garfield County would have to change its policy before OHVs would be allowed on public roads in Parachute.

“We’re just kind of a step ahead,” said Stuart McArthur, town manager.

Parachute’s ordinance includes strict requirements pertaining to insurance, vehicle specifications and other regulations. OHV operators must be at least 16 years old and have both a valid driver’s license and liability insurance at least equal to the minimum required under state law. OHVs also must be registered with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Vehicles almost must have certain specifications to operate on local roads, including: a muffler in constant operation; a spark arrestor approved by the U.S. Forest Service; a braking system that meets specific capabilities; and others.

Safety a concern for some

Those requirements are intended to address safety concerns, one of the more consistent issues with expanding OHV access on public roads.

During a meeting in August of 2015, state lawmakers heard from several officials with Children’s Hospital of Colorado who voiced reservations about expanding OHV access on public roads. They presented a paper from the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America, a nonprofit trade association, opposing on-road use of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs).

“Permitting on-road use of ATVs, including modified ATVs, would be in conflict with manufacturers’ intention for their proper use, and would be contrary to federal safety requirements,” the letter reads.

From 1995 through 2014, the number of ATV rider deaths on public roads per year in the U.S. has fluctuated from a low of 102 in 1995 to a high of 377 in 2008, according to data compiled by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In 2014 there were 323 deaths.

However, local officials said OHV incidents on public roads are a rarity.

Bolton could only recall two incidents, one in Meeker several years ago and another during the OHV rodeo.

The vast majority of OHV riders who come to the county are very respectful, he said, but just like with most things in life there are always going to be a few people who do not abide by the rules.

Jones, of the Colorado Off Highway Vehicle Coalition, pointed to the support from county sheriffs across the state regarding the legislation approved earlier this year. While safety has been a continued concern during these discussions, once people dig into the data they don’t see large spikes in deaths in places that have increased OHV access, Jones added.

As for what regulations could be included in a future Garfield County ordinance, Jarman said he is waiting before releasing specific details, such as age and insurance requirements.

“No, we have not reached consensus yet,” he said, “but we’re getting pretty close.”

Library executive director search moves forward

The Garfield County Libraries began searching for an executive director last fall after longtime director Amelia Shelley stepped down to pursue an opportunity close to family in Vancouver, Washington. The search began with a focus on candidates from neighboring states. In May, two candidates were brought in for in-person interviews. After considerable deliberation, the Library board of trustees did not offer the position to either candidate.

The search then continued on a nationwide scale. Interim Executive Director Sandi Kister and board member Marilee Rippy traveled to Orlando, Florida, in June to recruit during the American Library Association (ALA) annual conference. Their efforts generated significant interest in the position, resulting in applications from librarians across the country. Seven of the candidates were interviewed via Skype by the library’s search committee, which was made up of members of the staff, board of trustees and the public. The committee has decided to bring in three outstanding candidates for in-person interviews.

“This is an exceptional library district with a highly productive, creative and successful staff, magnificent facilities and a supportive community,” said Kister. “We want to ensure that we provide an executive director who will capitalize on these advantages and lead us toward an even better future. We look forward to finding the right candidate for our district during this process.”

The first candidate, Amy Hanaway, comes from St. Louis, Missouri. She received her Master of Library Science from the University of Maryland, and is currently enrolled in ALA’s Certified Public Library Administrator program.

The second candidate is Esther Day from Waco, Texas. She has over 19 years of experience in libraries, and has been a library director in Kentucky and Tennessee, as well as Texas.

The final candidate, Dustin Fife, currently works for Utah Valley University. He was named a “Library Journal Mover and Shaker” in 2016, and is a past president of the Utah Library Association.

All three candidates will be touring the libraries on Aug. 3, and will have interviews with the board of trustees that evening. The interviews will begin at 6 p.m. at the New Castle Branch Library, and will each take approximately one hour. The interviews are open, and all members of the public are welcome to attend.

On Thursday, Aug. 4, the candidates will begin the day with additional meetings with staff members. They will then participate in a meet and greet from 5-6 p.m. at the New Castle Branch Library. All members of the public are encouraged to attend and get to know the candidates.

Following the meet and greet, the board of trustees will conduct a secondary interview with the candidates. This interview session is also open to the public.

We should eat more bison to preserve them

Massive bison herds used to be a staple of the Great Plains, until they were nearly hunted out of existence.

Now, with a new designation as the United States’ national mammal, bison ranchers argue that to conserve the species we have to eat them.

It’s an idea called “market-based conservation,” and it contends that humans are no good at saving species out of the goodness of our hearts, or motivated by some driving force of environmental justice. Instead, we create demand for an animal and then work hard to keep its population robust so we can gawk at it through binoculars, take pictures of it or, in the case of the American bison, eat it.

Greg Nott is an accidental bison rancher. He didn’t grow up on a farm. But in 2012, his wife, Tami, saw a herd of grazing bison on her way to Wyoming from their home in Longmont. She knew then she wanted to raise them.

“I was pretty opposed to it at first because my background is in (information technology),” Greg said.

Over four years they took steps to pivot from computers to bison. Greg kept his job in database management in Fort Collins and Tami still commutes a couple of times a week to Longmont doing finance for the couple’s church. In the off hours they raise bison, selling meat at nearby farmers markets. The Notts raise their small herd on a wide, grassy piece of prairie a few miles south of the Colorado-Wyoming border near Carr.

Their bison heifers are corralled behind a six-foot-tall barbed wire fence. In summer they lose their thick winter coats, looking slim and trim in their warm weather pelts. They take turns rolling around in the dirt, sending a small dust cloud into the sky.

“We have people asking, ‘Can we pet them?’ And we’re like, ‘No, please don’t,’” Greg said.

Tami agrees: “You get your hand in the wrong place, you get a horn.”

What the animals lack in calmness and domesticity, they make up for in the price of their meat. No longer relegated to novelty status, bison is in demand at restaurants and grocery stores. The National Bison Association reports sales in retail and restaurants have grown by more than 22 percent over the past two years, topping $340 million.

Yet the Notts say they didn’t just get into the business to make a buck. Part of their desire is to get the animals back on the land they historically roamed.

“In order to save this animal, we’re going to have to eat them,” Greg says.

That’s a sentiment Dave Carter shares. He’s the director of the National Bison Association, based in Westminster.

“I call it market-based conservation,” Carter said.

The idea got a boost recently when Congress named the animal America’s national mammal.

“I think the goal of this is to put bison on a stage to allow all of us that are connected with this animal to tell the story of bison,” Carter said.


The coalition that pushed for the designation included everyone from Native American groups to wildlife advocates to university foundations. Even the Boy Scouts jumped on board. Another flank of the coalition is made up of business people, from small-time ranch associations to Ted Turner, America’s most prolific bison rancher. They say by persuading consumers to buy and eat bison, it creates demand. More ranchers raising them means more animals out on the plains.

Conservation through commerce is not an idea without its critics, though. Taken to its logical conclusions, it’s the same concept that drives most big game trophy hunting. Hunters pay big bucks to take out a rhino, hippo, tiger and in theory that money then goes to save even more of them. Picked up by a media outlet or internet influencer, those stories invariably go viral leading to weeks of online outrage.

Even the National Bison Association recognizes the oddity of asking consumers to grill our national mammal.

“Some people will say, ‘Well gosh, if this is our national mammal and such an icon, why are we eating it?’” Carter said, noting that as long as the industry is profitable more ranchers will join the fray, keeping the mammal on its historical range.

Plus, it’s a prey animal, not like the lions of Africa or the bald eagle Americans so revere.

Bison ranching as a practice isn’t new in the U.S., but those in the industry want to latch onto this moment in the spotlight thanks to the national designation. The early 2000s brought a lull to the bison market. Some call it a “bison bubble,” where ranchers were more focused on breeding and selling the live animals to other aspiring ranchers, rather than investing in infrastructure to process and market their hides and meat.

Since that bubble burst, Bob Dineen has built his bison slaughter facility in Brush. Inside, bison carcasses move along a chain, hung upside down by their legs. Workers use sharp knives to trim up the carcasses, carefully peeling off their hides. Another employee pushes a wheelbarrow past full of freshly skinned bison heads, eyes intact.

“The young bulls that are our prime product weigh somewhere around 1,100 pounds live,” Dineen says, while weaving through hanging carcasses.


Rocky Mountain Natural Meats kills and butchers upward of 200 animals a day. Meatpackers who process beef cattle do in one day what the entire bison industry does in a year, all to satiate consumers’ hunger for mass-produced beef.

The bison meat from this facility supplies restaurants owned by Ted Turner, and large retailers like Whole Foods and Costco. Their hides are shipped off to be tanned, and organs are boxed up to be processed for pet food, a burgeoning market for bison producers. In a chilled prep room, a table is packed with boxes half-filled with livers the size of a head pillow.

“These would be individually wrapped tongues,” Dineen says. “And those are testicles or Rocky Mountain oysters. And there’s a good market for those.”

No matter how high demand climbs, bison will always remain a niche product, Dineen said. He’s not interested in competing with beef, even though the practices used in raising bison, like keeping the animals on grass longer, could be used in contrast with much of modern beef production. Rather than convert beef eaters to bison, Dineen’s motto is: “Eat beef six days a week and bison on the seventh.”

What will keep the bison industry stronger, he said, is more focus from processors to boost the ranchers who sell to them.

“It’s very important that producers are able to be profitable raising bison. That’s our focus is to try to push that profitability back to the rancher,” Dineen said.

Because that kind of market-based conservation, Dineen argued, is an effective way to put more of the national mammal back on the land.

Harvest Public Media is a reporting collaboration of KUNC, Rocky Mountain PBS and other public media stations in the Midwest.

On the Fly column: Finding solitude may lead to finding fish

It’s mind boggling to witness firsthand the amount of fishing traffic that comes in and out of our valley. Most anglers fish the easy access points along the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork rivers. While these easy-to-find access areas provide good fishing opportunities for most people, I generally try to escape the crowds and fish during less busy times of the day, or I fish the less prime spots and make do with what is thrown at me.

Midday hatches of pale morning dun and green drake mayflies attract plenty of attention from anglers fishing on the Fryingpan River. The hatches typically fade by 3 p.m., and shortly thereafter most fishermen retreat back to their families to eat dinner and call it a day, while the guides head over to the bar to drink and tell stories. This scenario is just fine by me. The evening hours offer not only more solitude but also cooler weather and plenty of rising fish. Of course, this can be hit and miss with our monsoon weather patterns during the evening hours. Rusty spinner falls are common every evening and keep the fish well fed as they scour the water’s surface picking off these easy meals. Some of my favorite fly patterns to fish with include the following: CDC Rusty Spinners, Polywing Spinners, Royal Wulffs, Stimulators, Humpies, Sparkledun Drakes and Green Drake Cripples.

This past week I fished with several out-of-town friends and ventured up the Fryingpan River near Folkstad Springs on a busy Saturday. This area of the river consists of mostly pocket water and plunge pools and is generally quite shallow. For the casual angler, water like this doesn’t appear to hold many fish, but upon closer inspection it is, in fact, chockfull of rainbow and brown trout. These lesser-fished areas of the popular river are prime for dry fly or dry/dropper fishing. Oftentimes, the biggest key to having a successful day on this river is to simply find fish that haven’t been fished over all day. Find those “less prime” or “B” areas of river and cover water continually looking for new and fresh fish.

Needless to say, we are fortunate to have such a quality fishery where one spot isn’t necessarily better than another. There’s lots of river out there, so don’t fret if someone is fishing in your secret spot. You very well might find a new spot that fishes just as well as or even better than your old favorite.

This report is provided every week by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at (970) 927-4374 or

Colorado Escapist: The ins and outs of J24 sailboat racing on Lake Dillon

Editor’s note: For more of host Shawna Henderson’s adventures across Colorado, including wine biking in Palisade and stand-up paddleboarding in Glenwood Springs, see the sports section at

“Starboard tack!”

Our captain yells the order as sailboats in front of us quickly scurry to get out of our way moments before a head-on collision.

There is nothing easy about sailboat racing on Lake Dillon. Rumor has it that our hometown reservoir is one of the more difficult places to race sailboats in the world, but I have little background to justify that statement. If you want to experience the thrill of a high-alpine lake regatta, join a racing crew. It’s the real deal: Due to the constant wind shifts and random directional changes, a crew out here must be prepared for anything. Learning to sail on Lake Dillon gives you the skills to sail anywhere in the world.

The start line

It’s essential for every boat captain to master proper starting techniques before a sailing regatta. If a boat arrives too early, it gets pushed over the line before the starting horn is blown. If a boat passes over too late, the craft is in position to get “gassed,” the term used for bad air. Race marshals are on the watery course to call out premature starts, which forces the boat to turn around and begin again.

The sweet spot is any location where no other boat is stealing your wind. As the count down begins (10…9…8…) the crew realizes we might be missing the mark. We luff our sails to slow the boat boat that we don’ miss the mark. Nearby boats count down just feet away (7…6…5…) until the last few seconds (4…3…2…) when the boats trim in the sails and off we go, on our way to the first upwind mark.

The game plan

Usually, race organizers place the first mark, or buoy, upwind of the start line. As we pick up speed, the captain calls out “high side” or “windward side,” which means the entire crew on our J24 rushes to even weight on the side of the boat that’s out of the water.

At the start of the race, boats begin with two sails up: the headsail, known as the Jib or Genoa, and the main sail. Located at the helm is our captain, who orchestrates the entire production. Fast decisions make or break our position in the race, and the question remains: Do we tack (a zigzagging steering motion) or not before hitting the lay line?

As we utilize the wind to pick up a nice pace, the crew realizes that we are getting lifted into a perfect position to make a clean tack around the mark. Then, the wind shifts and we get “headed,” meaning the boat is heading too far away from the mark, leaving us no choice but to tack — and then tack again.

As the trimmer

Sailboat racing is a production with all hands on deck. Everyone has a role to play, and together, their efforts make all the parts flow like a finely oiled machine.

The captain drives the vessel and commands the rest of the crew for the next move. I’m the trimmer, so when our captain says, “Ready to tack,” I jump into position, patiently watching as the front sail begins to luff before releasing the lines on one side of a winch. I duck under the main sail as it swings to the other side of the boat and pull with all my might to wrap the line around the other winch.

“Trim in!” the captain yells as I grab the crank to tighten the lines. Now we are really cruising. The wind picks up and the crew moves to the high side to balance the boat. I dangle my feet over the edge, holding onto the lifeline.

By now, the boat is out of the water and on course to hit the lay line. I’m in charge of the lines connected to the Genoa, as well as flying the spinnaker. We round the mark and this is where things get a little crazy. Things happen quickly: Pole up. Spinnaker up. Genoa down.

Unpredictable winds

Oh, the joys of racing on a high-alpine lake. Unlike other bodies of water with a consistent wind forecast, unexpected wind shifts are common on high-alpine lakes.

Our man on the foredeck looks out on the water to see changes in the ripples. Foredeck is positioned at the front of the boat and in charge of the spinnaker, the large front sail. His job is to remove the pole and place it on one side or the other depending on the wind.

“Wind puff in four, three, two and one,” he says, as a burst of wind that seemingly comes from nowhere places the boat on edge. We quickly move to the high side to balance out the boat.

During our last race, the boat in front of us began heeling over to the point that one of the crewmembers got dumped in Lake Dillon. Even though the design of modern sailboats makes it almost impossible to capsize, you feel that adrenaline rush when the wind kicks up.

Things get crazy determining what boats are on port tack. When the wind is blowing on the left side of the boat you are on a port tack, and when the wind is blowing on the starboard side you are on a starboard tack. Since boats on a starboard tack always have the right of way, races can be won or lost based on crew tactics: ending on a starboard tack could make all the other boats hustle to get out of your way, with some boats coming within inches of each other before the finish line.

At the end of the day, we are out on intimidating Lake Dillon to have fun and learn new skills. And, when the wind picks up, it certainly gets the heart pumping.

Column: Liberal arrogance and what must be done

In a recent column in the Post Independent, another columnist asserted that she became liberal by listening. Undoubtedly this came from listening to liberal professors, liberal media and other liberal students. The inference was that conservatives were not as tolerant as liberals.

Were liberals listening when Rutgers rescinded an invitation to arguably the most accomplished woman of our century who happens to be African-American, Condoleezza Rice? Or when Virginia Tech refused to allow the African-American author Jason Riley to speak because of his conservative views? When Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry was not allowed by members of the Northwestern faculty to take an offered position there because of his views? There are many more examples of liberals rejecting those who do not reflect their own views, especially African-Americans.

Was she listening when Black Lives Matter chanted “Pigs in a blanket, fry them like bacon”? I view the Black Lives Matter movement as racist in its hatred of whites as the neo-Nazis and skinheads are in their hatred of blacks. Neither has any tolerance for those who do not support their views or have a different color of skin.

I believe that intellectual racism is worse than blatant discrimination. The idea that one must fit a particular thought pattern due to the color of one’s skin is appalling. Thought police at their worst. At one time universities were centers for learning with vigorous debates of both sides of an issue. Unfortunately they have in many cases become propaganda mills of liberal thought.

Both sides of the political spectrum have small-minded bigots. I don’t believe that most Americans are racists. However if we are to solve the problems caused by racism, we must admit our prejudices. Anyone reading my column will know that I am very prejudiced against Islamists. I detest the manner in which they treat women, homosexuals and anyone who is not of their particular brand of Islam. Most of us have prejudices. We need to recognize them and be aware of how it affects our treatment of others.

The mass media and the Obama administration push the agenda of victimization of blacks by the police, disregarding the facts. A recent Harvard study conducted by professor Roland G. Fryer concluded, “On the most extreme use of force — officer-involved shootings — we find no racial differences in either the raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account.” Professor Fryer is African-American.

While recent studies show that race relations have deteriorated under the Obama administration, in general conditions have vastly improved over the past 50 years. Discrimination due to color would be rare in housing, restaurants or schools. More African-Americans have college education and have found opportunities in business.

Unfortunately conditions in the ghettos of our major cities have not improved. Chicago, Watts, Baltimore, D.C. and Detroit are examples of this urban decay. According to the Chicago Tribune, there have been 2,110 shooting victims in Chicago since January 1. Most of those victims were black.

According to one government study, 72 percent of black babies are born out of wedlock. In many cases the father will not be involved in raising the children. In any situation raising a child as a single parent is a challenge. In the ghetto it is extremely difficult.

In South Florida, my wife worked as a volunteer guardian ad litem in the worst neighborhoods. While social workers and lawyers argued, she tried to do what was best for the children. Unfortunately, all too often the children were placed with relatives who had little capacity for caring for them.

In order to improve conditions in these neighborhoods, we must admit what the problems are. We need to have a goal of making the neighborhoods safe to live in above all else.

The police brutality mantra of the mass media and this administration must be changed. Effective policing is absolutely necessary. Otherwise the apparent anarchy that exists in these cities will grow and fester throughout the country. The president, black leaders, Democrats and Republicans need to speak with one voice by supporting the police and pushing for law and order. We cannot accept the black-on-black murder rates in these areas. Gun control is not the answer. Enforcing the law is.

Second, we need to commit resources to the schools in these areas. Putting resources in before law and order is established would be a waste. First law and order. Once effective policing is in place then we do need to invest in schools including trade schools. There should be policing of and penalties for truancy and misbehavior in the schools.

Third, once physical security is established, tax incentives and financing could be made available to encourage businesses to establish in these areas. Again, this will not work if law and order is not first established. Singing “All we need is love” won’t work.

Roland McLean, an Aspen Glen resident, is a University of Colorado graduate, Navy veteran and retiree after more than 30 years in international construction. His column appears on the fourth Thursday of each month. Reach him at