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South Canyon planning discussion slated for Glenwood Springs’ council meeting

The Glenwood Springs City Council will begin piecing together the vision for South Canyon during Thursday night’s city council meeting.

In addition to a natural hot springs area, the site includes the city landfill, a shooting range and vast unmanaged lands.There are no authorized camping sites in South Canyon, which is city owned, though that doesn’t stop folks from setting up illegal campsites throughout the area.

The city is working on developing 3,000 acres of designated parkland in South Canyon, which includes the hot springs pool known as Hippie Hot Springs.

Glenwood Springs Parks and Recreation Director Brian Smith, said the city is looking to develop a bike trail system with the Alpine Loop, a proposed bike trail that would run through South Canyon along a historical alpine slide alignment.

“There used to be a little adventure park up here, which is where the Alpine Loop gets its name from,” Smith said.

As for development of the hot springs, which have tested unsafe due to high fecal bacteria levels, there’s a list of concerns that center around increased activity in the area.

“The main point of concern for residents in South Glenwood, or of anyone out here, is the fire danger,” Smith said as he eyed down a pickup truck dragging a metal chain behind it.

“That’s a fire hazard right there, and right now there is not a viable fire evacuation route. We have just one route and unfortunately we have a lot of people that come up and utilize the hot springs and we have a number of illegal fire pits.”

Smith said the city removed a fire pit near the gun range last week.

“This is a difficult area as far as enforcement goes for parks rules and regulations,” Smith said.

“This is designated parklands—about 3,000 acres—but it’s not within the Glenwood Springs Police Department’s jurisdiction. So, we have to partner with the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office whenever there are code enforcement issues.”

City of Glenwood Springs Parks and Recreation Director Brian Smith talks about the contaminated water in the South Canyon hot pots.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Smith said health and safety issues are two major concerns with how the hot springs are currently used.

“This hot spring existed before. The city went in and tried to demolish it but the public went in and rebuilt it,” Smith said. “It’s the perfect temperature for growing bacteria. It literally is a cesspool.”

Smith added that there’s no risk of the bacteria being concentrated enough to impact the Colorado River’s water quality.

“But it’s still dangerous for the users of the hot springs,” he said.

Bryana Starbuck, public information officer for the city, said city staff is working to create the vision of what a developed South Canyon would operate and look like.

“There’s a lot of things happening out here. We’ve got various recreational activities, we’ve got residents and fire concerns,” Starbuck said. “What we’re talking about on Thursday is sort of how to look at it as a whole and how to break it down into digestible pieces. So specifically one of the staff report recommendations is to look at the hot springs first, with respect to all the other concerns. You certainly can’t look at one thing without looking at it all.”

Smith said the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission has talked for years about doing a holistic South Canyon Plan.

“I think that’s very difficult to do, and very expensive to do. Having manageable sections and doing it as a phased approach makes sense to me,” Smith said.

“We’re looking at how we can make sure that the public is involved in this, because there are so many other issues going on. All these things are integrated into each other, one area has an impact on everything else.”

Reporter Shannon Marvel can be reached at 605-350-8355 or smarvel@postindependent.com.

Hauser named CPW Commission chair

Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission recently voted to appoint Carrie Besnette Hauser of Glenwood Springs to chair the commission until 2023. It also elected Charles Garcia as vice chair and Luke Schafer as secretary for the same term.

Hauser, who is president and CEO of Colorado Mountain College, was appointed to the commission in 2017. She previously served as the vice chair as a representative for outdoor recreation and utilization of parks. She replaces Marvin McDaniel, whose chair term expires in July.

CMC, with its central operations based in Glenwood Springs, includes 11 campus locations in the state’s north-central mountain region.

“CMC has been a leader in outdoor education for decades, offering dozens of degrees and programs in outdoor recreation leadership, sustainability studies, ecosystem science & management, avalanche science and ski area operations,” according to a parks and wildlife news release issued after the commission’s meeting on June 10.

Hauser is also an accomplished outdoorswoman and athlete committed to issues of access and equity, the release states.

Garcia has served on the commission since 2018. He is a Life Sponsor of Ducks Unlimited, a Life Member and current Headwaters Chapter Board Member of Trout Unlimited and a Centurion Member of the Ruffed Grouse Society.​​ He is the Past President of the Colorado Bar Association and Chair of a Standing Committee of the American Bar Association. Garcia lives and works in both Denver and Grand County.

Schafer was appointed to the commission as a Member at Large in 2018. He is currently the West Slope Director of Conservation Colorado, residing in Moffat County.

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission is comprised of 11 members appointed by the governor and sets regulations and policies for state parks and wildlife programs.

Rifle in the crosshairs as heatwave blasts Garfield County

Twelve-year-old Lochlan Martens swims back to shore after floating a couple hundred feet down the Roaring Fork River in Glenwood on Monday morning.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

A heat wave is expected for Garfield County through the weekend, with temperatures reaching upwards of 100 degrees in the western region of the county.

“We have a large area of high pressure that’s dominating over all of the West,” said Michael Charnick, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

“The result of that is there is very hot weather that has developed over the western United States.

Charnick said the drought conditions have aided in the heat being warmer than normal.

“Since the soil is so dry there’s not a lot of moisture to temper the heat,” Charnick said.

“If you’re outside doing any work or recreating, make sure you drink plenty of water and take plenty of breaks in the shade.”

That’s exactly what Lorie Meals is doing with her family while on vacation from Wisconsin.

Meals was at Two Rivers Park where she and friends were beating the heat by the Colorado River.

“We’re just at the river hanging out with our feet in the water here in the sun,” Meals said.

“There’s just something about keeping your feet in the water that seems to cool off the rest of the system. Sometimes there’s intermittent splashing. It’s fairly unpredictable.”

Eight-year-old Regan Smith cools off in the Roaring Fork River in Glenwood on Monday morning.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Julie Martens and Jamie Smith, both of Glenwood Springs, were relaxing by the Roaring Fork River as their sons, Regan Smith and Lochlan Martens, played in the water.

Jamie Smith said the high temperatures seem to be becoming the norm these days.

Visitors from Wisconsin play in the Colorado River to keep cool at Two Rivers Park.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

“When we grew up in this valley, I don’t remember it getting up to the 100s or being this extreme,” Smith said. “We just try to keep them in the water or in the shade,” Smith said of the youngsters.

Here’s the forecast for three towns in Garfield County, all of which will be experiencing high temperatures in the upper 90s to 100s for the first half of the week.


“Rifle is going to be hotter for sure,” Charnick said.

Tuesday’s high is expected to be 105, with highs in the 100s through Thursday.

Friday is expected to reach the upper 90s.

Glenwood Springs

Charnick said temperatures in Glenwood Springs will be in the upper 90s throughout the week.


Carbondale is expected to be a little cooler, Charnick said.

“But not by much,” he added.

Temperatures will reach the upper 90s Tuesday and Wednesday.

By the numbers…

Forecast highs:


Monday: 95

Tuesday: 97

Wednesday: 96


Monday: 95

Tuesday: 97

Wednesday: 96


Monday: 100

Tuesday: 105

Wednesday: 102

How to stay safe during a heat wave:

Outdoor Activities

• Those particularly vulnerable to heat such as children, infants, older adults (especially those who have preexisting diseases, take certain medications, living alone or with limited mobility), those with chronic medical conditions, and pregnant women should stay in the coolest available place, not necessarily indoors.

• Dress for summer. Wear lightweight, loose fitting, light-colored clothing to reflect heat and sunlight.

• Minimize direct exposure to the sun. Sunburn reduces your body’s ability to dissipate heat.

Eating and Drinking

• Eat light, cool, easy-to-digest foods such as fruit or salads. Drink plenty of water, non-alcoholic and decaffeinated fluids, even if you don’t feel thirsty.

• Do not take salt tablets unless specified by a physician.

Cooling Down

• Do not direct the flow of portable electric fans toward yourself when room temperature is hotter than 90°F. The dry blowing air will dehydrate you faster, endangering your health.

• Take a cool bath or shower.

Check on Others

• Check on older, sick, or frail people who may need help responding to the heat.

• Don’t leave valuable electronic equipment, such as cell phones and gps units, sitting in hot cars.

• Make sure rooms are well vented if you are using volatile chemicals.

Source: https://www.weather.gov/safety/heat-during

Reporter Shannon Marvel can be reached at 605-350-8355 or smarvel@postindependent.com.

WB I-70 reopened after wildland fire near Avon forces brief closure

A wildland fire in Avon caused an I-70 closure Monday afternoon.
Photo courtesy Ivan Ricardez

A wildland fire in Avon closed Interstate 70 in both directions at mile marker 167 on the afternoon of Monday, June 14.

According to witnesses, there were multiple spot fires along the roadway. The fires were quickly extinguished, and the interstate reopened.

Last week, an 8-acre wildfire closed the eastbound lanes of I-70 near Dillon. That fire is now 100% contained. While the cause of the fire is still being investigated, roadside fires are often the result the dragging chains or discarded cigarettes.

The fire danger in Summit County increased to very high as temperatures around western Colorado are smashing records this week, and there isn’t much relief in either the short-term forecast or long-term outlook for summer, said Michael Charnick, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

“We’re near record level for pretty much all of our major towns across western Colorado,” Charnick said. “That’s going be continuing (Monday, Tuesday) and Wednesday.”

Some isolated clouds may make an appearance in the mountains, Charnick said, but those clouds aren’t forecast to bring any rain.

Looking longer out, the trends continue to indicate that this summer will be very similar to last summer with a drier-than-normal forecast and slightly above-normal temperatures.

Looking at the current drought conditions for Eagle County, only a small sliver representing the southeast corner of the county is in severe drought, which is marked by low snowpack, low surface water levels and decreased streamflows.

The largest swath of the county — which includes Vail all the way down to Eagle — is in extreme drought, with conditions ripe for large fires and water restrictions.

Gypsum and the rest of the western end of the county are in exceptional drought conditions, the highest classification on the U.S. Drought Monitor.

“Exceptional drought is still very much alive and well in the West,” Charnick said. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t really look like any sort of major system is on the horizon.”

Drought conditions look better in Summit County, where the far eastern portion is no longer under any level of drought. The reminder of the county remains abnormally dry or in moderate to severe drought.

The towns of Dillon, Frisco and Silverthorne have implemented Stage 1 fire restrictions, which prohibit fires outside of fire rings in designated campsites. Fires on private property require a permit from a local fire district. The Summit Board of County Commissioners is expected to discuss fire restrictions at its meeting Tuesday, June 15. The county government and U.S. Forest Service would work in concert to implement fire restrictions on unincorporated areas of the county and in the White River National Forest.

This story will be updated.

Garfield County bans fireworks use ahead of Independence Day holiday

Fireworks use is now prohibited for the three weeks leading up to the July Fourth holiday in unincorporated parts of Garfield County, and local fire districts may soon follow suit.

Garfield County commissioners on Monday expanded the county’s existing year-round ban on fireworks use to include the otherwise exempt period from June through July 5 ahead of and one day beyond Independence Day.

The ban applies both to fireworks that can be purchased legally in Colorado — those that don’t shoot off the ground or explode, such as sparklers, fountains and spinners — as well as illegal aerial fireworks, firecrackers and other explosives often brought in from neighboring states that allow such sales.

The ban does not apply to the sale of legal fireworks in the county.

Chris Bornholdt, emergency manager for the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, said during the Monday morning commissioners meeting that broader fire restrictions are very likely following a weekly Tuesday meeting between area fire and public lands agencies.

“It is drying out quickly, and the conditions are there,” Bornholdt said. “We don’t need to take any chances with fireworks getting in the brush and starting a big fire for us.”

The fireworks use ban, approved 3-0 by the commissioners, is effective immediately.

Ray Cordova, who operates the seasonal fireworks stand at the intersection of Cattle Creek and Colorado Highway 82 near Carbondale, objected to the use ban.

“I know we look like the bad guys, and we are aware of the conditions. We are not ignorant of it,” Cordova said.

However, he said the legal fireworks he sells are not the likely source of brush fire ignition. Rather, that’s more likely to come from the illegal fireworks that are purchased and imported from Wyoming and other states where such sales are legal, he said.

“Fireworks is something families have been doing to celebrate our independence for ages. People enjoy them,” Cordova said, adding most revelers know to take precautions such as lighting them on a cleared dirt or paved surface and watering down any nearby vegetation.

“The word ‘fire’ in front of ‘works’ gives a bad connotation,” Cordova said. “Maybe if we called them ‘independence works’ it would be different.”

He added that he and his wife, Aurora, use the fireworks sales stand as a fundraiser for their evangelical Christian ministry.

County Commissioner Mike Samson said he agreed with Cordova’s sentiments around personal freedoms. But the worsening drought situation and resulting fire danger can’t be ignored, he said.

“Much of the West is in … exceptional drought,” Samson said. “We have to pay attention to some things here.”

Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said he generally doesn’t believe in “big-government regulations,” but, “I do believe government needs to make decisions on things that affect the health, safety and welfare of their constituents.

“People are frightened of wildfire, and for good reason,” he said.

Meanwhile, area firefighting agencies and emergency management officials are set to consider possible fire restrictions at the Tuesday meeting where the current fire conditions and available resources are to be discussed, Bornholdt said.

Agencies, including local fire districts, the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service could in the coming days or weeks enact Stage 1 fire restrictions, prohibiting campfires, charcoal grills and other open burning, or even Stage 2 restrictions, which prohibits the use of fireworks and other incendiary devices.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

UPDATE: Midland Avenue south of 27th Street reopens one lane to alternating traffic

Update 12:24 p.m.: Midland Avenue has reopened to alternating, one-lane traffic after a gas line leak was successfully clamped, according to the Glenwood Springs Fire Department Facebook page.

Original story:

Midland Avenue is closed south of the 27th Street roundabout due to a gas leak in the area, according to the Glenwood Springs Police Department Facebook page.

There is no estimated time of reopening.

This is a developing story. Check back later for more details.

Personal Finance column: Perennial applications for vintage financial wisdom

“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people that they don’t like.”

— Will Rogers

“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery.”

— Charles Dickens

“Budget: a mathematical confirmation of your suspicions.”

— A.A. Latimer

Replace your budget with an intentional spending plan. Tell your money where to go instead of asking where it went. Connect with your core values on what is important in your life and direct the financial flow. You won’t be swayed by media or the perceived “fear of missing out.” Spending with joyful intention within safe boundaries is a powerful combination.

“Everyday is a bank account, and time is our currency. No one is rich, no one is poor; we’ve got 24 hours each.”

— Christopher Rice

Consider that return on life is just as if not more important than return on investment. Money is very necessary up to a point. There is a diminishing rate of return on happiness as it pertains to income. Each person has their unique narrative to live a life on purpose and in their potential. Put forth effort and energy toward people, activities and causes that make you come alive. Using your financial means to pave this path is where you create true wealth.

“A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.”

— Yogi Berra

Inflation is an integral part of life. Flash back to 1970 prices: a home, $26,600; a first-class stamp, 6 cents; a gallon of gas, 36 cents; a gallon of milk, $1.15. You can either seek to outpace the cost of living — save and invest in broad-based, diversified, tax efficient portfolios (such as real estate and the stock market) for long-term goals. Or you can reduce your lifestyle and choices down the road.

“The Stock Market is designed to transfer money from the active to the patient.”

— Warren Buffett

Investing is different from speculating. Investing requires vision and a long-term focus, goal setting, good habits and mindsets. It is necessary to keep emotions in check and where wisdom undergirds and directs knowledge alongside application.

“Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.”

— Franklin D. Roosevelt

“If money is your hope for independence you will never have it. The only real security that a man will have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience, and ability.”

— Henry Ford

These two both speak to the importance of character assets. Too often financial assets are the singular measure of “wealth.” Your net worth does not define your self-worth. When you focus on building and enhancing positive, productive character traits, the financial pieces will stay in their proper place to serve you and society.

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

— Winston Churchill

Generosity is the secret sauce in creating true wealth. It is foundational for financial health as giving breaks the bind of consumerism. It is a profoundly personal journey and worth taking steps on the path.

With over 2,000 references in the Bible about money, this one is the most misquoted and misinterpreted: 1 Timothy 6:10 – For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Money is not in itself evil, but when it becomes the focal point of life either because of unsatiable desires or life-sustaining scarcity, immorality can bloom. The garden of your financial life needs to be well tended to keep this weed from taking hold.

“Money is a terrible master but an excellent servant.”

— P.T. Barnum

“Master Card” – the irony is palpable. If used wisely, it is a tool of convenience and safety. For many, consumer debt has been normalized and expected, yet holds them hostage from attaining financial freedom.

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

— Theodore Roosevelt

To me, this speaks to financial efficacy. We are not victims of financial circumstances. We get to choose — whether it is regarding the financial means you have or the mindsets you embrace. We can plan. We can save and invest. We can work hard. We can choose an attitude of gratitude and a mindset of sufficiency. We can recalibrate and pivot when things don’t go the way we had hoped. Where do you have wins and how do you want to build on them?

Danielle Howard is a CFP® and CKA® with Wealth By Design LLC in Basalt. Check out her retirement podcasts and blogs at daniellehoward4u.com.

Creciente peligro de incendios hace que funcionarios del condado de Garfield consideren aún más restricciones

Un hombre observa y toma fotos del Grizzly Creek Fire cuando estalla en No Name Canyon un día después de que el incendio comenzara inicialmente en la Interestatal 70 el 10 de agosto de 2020.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

El creciente peligro de incendios en el condado de Garfield hace que los funcionarios a cargo de los incendios en el área consideren más restricciones para reducir el potencial de incendios causados por humanos.

La situación estuvo pautada por días sucesivos de advertencia de bandera roja el lunes y martes, con clima seco, caluroso, y ventoso—y por amenazas de tormentas eléctricas pasajeras durante el fin de semana que produjeron numerosos rayos en el área.

Fue un tema de discusión durante la parte de comentarios públicos de la reunión de la Junta de Comisionados del condado el lunes, cuando varias personas hablaron sobre la necesidad de ofrecer más información para ayudar a las personas a prevenir incendios de matorrales antes de que ocurran y estar preparados por si ocurre un incendio forestal.

“Necesitamos trabajar en esto ahora mismo para estar mejor preparados por si hay un incendio forestal,” dijo Debbie Bruell, residente de Carbondale y presidenta de los Demócratas del Condado de Garfield.

Un par de residentes de la subdivisión de Elk Springs, cerca de Cattle Creek, instaron a los comisionados a promulgar una prohibición de los fuegos artificiales antes del feriado del 4 de julio, y también a considerar una prohibición de las ventas.

El condado ha prohibido el uso de fuegos artificiales personales, incluso los que se pueden comprar legalmente en Colorado, durante la mayor parte del año, con la excepción del período del 31 de mayo al 5 de julio.

Pero es probable que eso cambie pronto.

El alguacil del condado de Garfield, Lou Vallario, quien recomendó las prohibiciones, dijo el lunes en una entrevista por aparte que él y su equipo de manejo de emergencias están reuniendo información sobre la posibilidad del peligro de incendio.

“Estamos esperando hasta la próxima semana para ser más precisos y hacer menos conjeturas,” dijo.

La segunda semana de junio es generalmente cuando los oficiales de bomberos locales, estatales y federales—trabajado como la Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management Unit—comienzan a evaluar la temporada de incendios de verano y a hacer pronósticos.

En cuanto a expandir la prohibición de los fuegos artificiales para incluir las tres semanas previas al Día de la Independencia, esa pregunta se llevará ante los comisionados del condado el 14 de junio, dijo Vallario.

“Estamos trabajando para analizar la información y los pronósticos meteorológicos para ver dónde estamos en lo que respecta a una posible prohibición si todo coincide,” dijo. “Parece que esa es la dirección que probablemente deberíamos seguir.”

En cuanto a prohibir las ventas de fuegos artificiales, que de otro modo serían legales, incluidos los vendedores de temporada, los comisionados del condado se han mostrado reacios a hacerlo.

Mientras tanto, los distritos de bomberos locales están en alerta máxima a medida que las condiciones empeoran.

El domingo por la noche el Distrito de Protección contra Incendios Rurales y Carbondale iniciaron una respuesta rápida al reporte de un árbol que ardía a fuego lento después de un aparente rayo cerca de Cedar Ridge Ranch en Missouri Heights.

“Realmente no llegó a nada y pudimos contenerlo rápidamente,” dijo el jefe de operaciones de CRFPD, Mike Wagner.

Pero las cuadrillas estaban preparadas con múltiples aparatos para extinguir incendios y respaldo del cercano distrito de bomberos de Roaring Fork, en caso de que el fuego se extendiera.

Carbondale Fire sigue la filosofía de “mantener pequeños los incendios pequeños,” dijo Wagner.

Una de las tácticas que utiliza es mantener patrullas itinerantes a lo largo del distrito de bomberos en expansión en busca de señales de humo o peligros potenciales, e incluso verificando los lugares conocidos en que han caído rayos los días anteriores, afirmó.

“Es algo en lo que realmente creemos y que se ha demostrado una y otra vez que es eficaz para mantener pequeños los incendios pequeños,” dijo Wagner. “Es nuestro primer objetivo, después de la seguridad del público y la nuestra.”

Una respuesta de varios vehículos para un solo árbol en llamas puede parecer excesiva para algunos, “pero preferimos hacer eso y no tener que utilizarlos a no tener suficientes y desear que los tuviéramos,” afirmó.

El jefe de bomberos de Glenwood Springs, Gary Tillotson, dijo que su departamento no utiliza patrullas itinerantes rutinariamente. Sin embargo, después de que el peligro de incendio del año pasado persistió hasta el otoño, mientras que el incendio en Grizzly Creek continuaba, el departamento de bomberos de Glenwood se asoció con otras agencias cercanas, incluido Colorado River Fire Rescue (CRFR) para montar patrullas en días de banderas rojas particularmente.

“Cuando el peligro de incendio se haga realmente serio, planeamos revisarlo para ver si podemos hacerlo nuevamente,” dijo Tillotson.

El equipo de manejo de incendios interinstitucional del Upper Colorado tuvo la primera de sus reuniones semanales de temporada el martes por la mañana para evaluar el peligro actual de incendios y evaluar posibles restricciones sobre fuegos al aire libre.

No se promulgaron restricciones adicionales durante esa reunión, dijo el jefe de CRFR, Leif Sackett.

Antes de emitir cualquier prohibición de fuegos, “observamos la parte científica, como la humedad del combustible,” dijo. “Estamos conversando pero aún no se ha decidido aplicar restricciones.”

El distrito de bomberos de Rifle respondió a un pequeño incendio de matorrales la semana pasada cerca de la escuela secundaria de Rifle, pero fue apagado rápidamente, dijo Sackett. La agencia también recibió llamadas para realizar controles de humo después de que se registraron rayos en el área, dijo.

Puedes contactar a John Stroud, Reportero Sénior/Editor en Jefe, al 970-384-9160 o en jstroud@postindependent.com

Obituary: Carl George Lines

Carl George Lines

February 21, 1949 – April 10, 2021

Carl George Lines passed away on April 10 2021 at the VA hospital in Miami. George had been a building contractor in the valley for many years before moving to Marathon Florida.

He is survived by his son, Shane George, his daughter in law, Amy, his sister, Mary Russo and several nieces and nephews. He often went back to Carbondale for visits with family and friends which he enjoyed immensely. God bless you, George! Hope you have as much fun up there as you did down here!! You’re “Dancing in the Dark” with our little Hayden!

Community profile: New Rifle police officer Haley Walker feeds her love of adrenaline

Rifle Police Officer Haley Walker stands beside a patrol vehicle on Thursday.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Officer Haley Walker sat beside her stepmother in a windowless interrogation room just before starting the overnight shift on Thursday evening.

Relaxing her arms, both covered in spiraling tattoos, wearing 45 pounds of gear and a 9-mm Glock pistol, the 22-year-old rookie Rifle Police officer and self-confessed adrenaline junkie recounts a recent call she responded to.

“We had to search a building,” she said, pausing. “It’s a very large, crazy-laid-out building. We got a burglar alarm from it.”

Standard protocol is to treat every alarm as though somebody might be inside, Walker said.

“Because, when you get complacent, that’s when something bad could happen,” she said.

Walker had to accompany her partner and methodically canvas the several doors and aisles interspersed throughout the large, warehouse-like interior, commanding anyone potentially inside to appear and identify themselves.

“It was scary, but it was also fun, if that makes sense,” Walker said.

She’s not even a month on the job yet.

Walker officially raised her right hand before Rifle City Council and took the oath to serve and protect her community on May 19. And, as nearby Chief Tommy Klein and fellow officers cheered Walker’s rite of passage into the Thin Blue Line, Walker’s father, Bob, pinned the shiny badge onto his daughter’s black uniform.

For those who know her, Walker’s transition into law enforcement could be seen coming a mile away. Despite having an innate thirst for thrills, Walker was already putting her skills to use as a dispatcher for the Garfield County Sheriff’s Department.

“Definitely, things that I learned from dispatch have helped so much; like, bringing people from their worst down to a level where I can talk to them and get them to be open to what I’m trying to explain to them and get them to understand enough that they’re a little bit more calm,” Walker explained. “That has helped a lot having that dispatch experience.”

After two years of being the communications lifeline during critical situations, Walker desired something a little more tangible.

“I miss it, but I wanted to be on the street doing the things,” Walker said of her days of dispatch. “And every time something happened, I wanted to be there. And every time someone called out, like in a fight or in a pursuit, like, I wanted to be doing those things, and it felt really hard being just stuck behind a desk and not being able to help them.”

That’s when Walker, born and raised in Garfield County, sent applications to Basalt, Glenwood Springs and Rifle police departments.

Basic training

After filling out an essay and answering questions asked by three oral boards, Walker was off to the academy. Once she graduated, she’d suit up to represent Rifle’s finest.

There are different segments in the academy required of all cadets, Walker said. It’s like a heavy mix of physical training and hitting the books: learning laws, learning how to apply them in the field.

“You’re doing scenarios all at the same time that you’re learning: driving skills, firearms, defensive tactics and a whole bunch of other stuff,” Walker said. “At the same time you’re learning de-escalation, stress management. …

“We learned some Spanish, which I thought was super important, especially in our community where we have a lot of Spanish speakers. That was invaluable to me.”

Another fun part of police academy: workout-induced exhaustion. One workout includes the use of the 1990 AC/DC hit “Thunderstruck.”

“Every time they say ‘Thunder,’ you have to do a burpee,” Walker reminisced. A burpee is an exercise that involves dropping to your hands, pushing your legs out and standing back up all in one motion. “You would not think that they say (‘Thunder’) that much until you have to do a burpee. … I never want to listen to that song again.”

But the hard work paid off for Walker. She passed academy and is now in the midst of completing four phases of field training, which typically take about 16 weeks.

Once that’s complete, Walker will officially join what she calls her “family” on a full-time basis. Walker, however, has already experienced signs of familial love.

One of Walker’s tattoos is an octopus reaching its tentacles all over her right forearm, which she got from a fellow Rifle police officer who is also a tattoo artist. When she puts her uniform in a department washer and asks one of the female officers to switch it to the dryer for her, they do and — going above and beyond — they fold it.

“I don’t plan on leaving. I love this department,” Walker said. “I feel like this is definitely my family. Like, anytime I feel like if something happened and I needed something, I could reach out to anyone here. … And just small things like that. We can all joke together, and we have meals together. … We have each other’s backs.”

Background check

Haley Walker was born in Glenwood Springs and graduated from Grand Valley High School in 2017.

Back then she was always keen on doing everything to the fullest.

“Oh, my god, she was a perfectionist,” Walker’s stepmother Vickie Havens said. “She would give herself ulcers because she got a B-plus on an assignment. So she just always had to be the best and always had to help everything.”

Mom, do you need help doing the dishes, Walker would always ask Havens. Do you need help folding the laundry? The boys are driving me crazy (Walker has three brothers), can we lock them outside?

She was willing to help at every turn. Well, almost every turn.

“I did get a tattoo when I was 17,” Walker said.

Without permission, to boot.

“She went behind our back and, you know, kind of manipulated the situation,” Havens said. “We weren’t exactly happy about it.”

But what could you expect? Not only did Walker persevere with flying colors through the presence of three brothers, she grew up hunting and learning how to shoot with her father, Bob.

A mechanic who spends his time tinkering with and restoring a 1972 GMC pickup truck, Bob is Walker’s rock. When Walker, a self-described insomniac, isn’t playing video games or enjoying the outdoors, she’s helping her father bring his classic truck up to snuff.

“If he ever picks a shade of blue,” Havens quipped.

The truck project has existed for the past six years, but Bob’s sharp ears have been there forever. It doesn’t matter if Walker’s having a bad day.

“My dad’s not great at talking about things like that, but he listens,” Walker said. “And, sometimes, that’s all you need, is someone to listen.”

When Chief Klein asked Bob to pin the badge on her daughter’s uniform last month, Havens was simply amazed.

“That was great, you know? To see all of that. And the department came out and everyone came in to support Haley in that,” she said. “Even her mother and her side of the family, you know, came out to support her.”

Bob Walker pins a badge on his daughter Haley Walker after she was sworn in as a Rifle police officer in late May.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Everyone will always be there for Walker no matter where her life takes her, Havens added of the family.

“(Walker) was going to be a nurse at some point, and she changed her mind,” she said. “She was going to try and be a Marine — she changed her mind. I mean, she’s a strong-willed individual. When she wants something, she goes.”

This holds true for her current line of work.

If Walker’s doing her job and everything she could on any given day, then she’s done exactly what she’s supposed to do.

“I wake up every day before I come to work and put on my game face,” Walker said. “And I did the same thing at dispatch. And I do everything that I can every single time, even if it’s just giving someone directions — super small things. For some people, that makes their entire day.”

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or rerku@postindependent.com.