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CRIME BRIEFS: man passes out on bus stop bathroom floor; bogus plates lead to meth bust

‘WHOA, WHEN DID YOU GET HERE?’

On Sept. 13 at approximately 11:02 p.m. the Glenwood Springs Police Department was advised of a complaint at the 27th Street bus stop.

According to the arrest affidavit the facility’s custodian believed “a homeless person was in the bathroom and would not answer the door.”

Upon unlocking the door the officer observed a 22-year-old man passed out on the bathroom floor.

Surrounding the man was a small bag with paraphernalia and scraping tools as well as another bag containing “several yellow and red pills.”

According to the arrest affidavit, upon waking up and realizing a police officer was standing over him the male subject said, “Whoa, when did you get here?”

The officer asked what the man had taken that night to which he replied “Xanax and … meth.”

The pills in the male’s possession were identified as Xanax, pseudoephedrine and gabapentin.

Additionally, a search of the subject’s backpack turned up two syringes containing a fluid that tested presumptive positive for methamphetamine.

The man was placed under arrest and transported to the Garfield County Jail where he was charged with possession of a controlled substance, unlawful use of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

FICTITIOUS LICENSE PLATE LEADS TO METH BUST

On Sept. 12 at approximately 1:59 a.m. an officer with the Parachute Police Department conducted a vehicle registration check at a rest area.

According to the arrest affidavit, the officer located a vehicle with bogus license plates. Although registered to a white 2001 Honda Accord, the license plate was on a black Ford Sedan.

A 62-year-old man and 31-year-old woman were also asleep inside the vehicle.

Upon waking up the man told the officer he had borrowed the vehicle from a friend in California and put the fictitious license plate on because the old plate was expired.

After running their names through dispatch, it was revealed both had histories involving drug possession with intent to distribute.

According to the arrest affidavit the driver gave the officer consent to search the vehicle, which later turned up a meth pipe and 9.16 grams of methamphetamine.

Because the paraphernalia and drugs were found in the woman’s belongings she was placed under arrest and transported to the Garfield County Jail where she was charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

WALKING HOME AFTER CRASHING CAR

On Sept. 11 at approximately 7:20 p.m. a trooper with Colorado State Patrol was dispatched to a single vehicle crash on U.S. Highway 6 east of New Castle.

Upon arriving on scene the trooper noticed a black Volkswagen Jetta, which had struck a utility pole on the left side of the roadway.

According to the arrest affidavit, the driver’s side curtain airbags deployed during the crash.

No one was inside the vehicle, however a New Castle Police officer noticed a woman climbing up an embankment near the crash.

The 49-year-old woman stated she was just walking home and had not been involved in a crash.

When the police officer said he needed to detain her, the female subject purportedly said, “Yeah, it was me.”

After running the female’s temporary identification card through dispatch, it was revealed that she had three previous alcohol-related convictions.

According to the arrest affidavit the woman smelled of alcohol but declined to perform any voluntary roadside sobriety tests.

The 49-year-old woman was transported to the Garfield County Jail where she was charged with driving a defective/unsafe vehicle, driving while under the influence of alcohol, drugs or both and driving with a license under restraint.

mabennett@postindependent.com

Five hot spots in and around Glenwood to view cool autumn colors

Fall colors in the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys attract tourists from across the globe to the Glenwood Springs area during the shoulder season.

“Fall is such a lovely time to visit Glenwood Springs and see all of the beautiful fall colors,” said Lisa Langer, director of tourism promotion with the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.

Although no shortage of scenery exists when it comes to viewing the changing of the seasons, a few places remain favorites among residents and visitors alike.

HANGING LAKE

The Natural National Landmark located in the heart of Glenwood Canyon remains a premiere destination year round. However, during the fall the 1,000-foot climb up 1.2 miles of trail — accessed via shuttle under a new permit system until Nov. 1 — has less crowds, the same picturesque waterfalls and plenty of autumn leaves.

“The colors change through the canyon a little earlier than they do here in town, and a hike to Hanging Lake this time of year is absolutely gorgeous,” said Langer.

Parking: Use Hanging Lake Welcome Center, located 110 Wulfsohn Road, during peak season. During off season (Nov. 1 through April 30), visitors may self-park at the trailhead.

GRIZZLY CREEK

This 6.8-mile, out-and-back trail features numerous picnic spots, river views and an abundance of fall colors. A tributary that flows into the Colorado river, Grizzly Creek’s clear and cold water forms from snowmelt off the Flat Tops. 

Rated as a “moderate” ability hike, the Grizzly Creek Trail during the fall offers peaceful sounds and pictorial sights along the creek.

Parking: Take Exit 121 off of Interstate 70 for Grizzly Creek Rest Area. Visitors may park in the upper lot where the trail begins.

BOY SCOUT TRAIL

Known to mountain bikers as one of the city’s best spots for a ride, the combined Boy Scout and Forest Hollow trail’s 17-mile loop includes beautiful views high up along the south rim of Glenwood Canyon.

Because portions of the trail venture along Forest Hollow trail, riders and hikers alike can take in the lush forest’s illustrious fall colors.

Parking: Lookout Mountain Road from the south, or Ninth and Cooper parking garage for the Eighth Street trailhead.

LINWOOD CEMETERY

“The Linwood Cemetery — the Doc Holliday Trail — that’s a great one because you get a different perspective,” Langer said. “You can see a different part of town. You can see south toward Carbondale and the whole valley.”

It’s less than a mile hike up to Linwood Cemetery, which includes a spectacle of fall colors across the city where Holliday died of tuberculosis in 1887.

To this day, no one knows exactly where the famous gambler and gunslinger rests in Linwood Cemetery. However, during the fall, locals know Holliday’s resting place as a great spot to take in autumn.

Parking: Park on the street near 12th Street and Bennett Avenue.

RED MOUNTAIN

With views of Storm King Mountain, Mt. Sopris, the Elk Range and the Roaring Fork and Colorado Rivers, the Red Mountain and Wulfsohn trail system treats hikers, mountain bikers and runners to panoramic views of beautiful fall scenery across Glenwood Springs.

Parking: Park at West Ninth Street at the base of Red Mountain, or at the Glenwood Springs Community Center, 100 Wulfsohn Road.

mabennett@postindependent.com

Sextiped Valley: Going gentle into that good night

High Tails turned 15 in February this year, so it has been a time of many losses. The first irrepressible puppies who romped through day care and tested every limit in training class still smile sweetly when they step, a bit stiffly now, up to the counter for their treat. Or they ride proudly in the arms of their human. Or wait regally on the front seat of their car while their loving chauffeur summons us to pay tribute. Too many of them don’t come in any more, having passed out of their happy, too-short lives, still missed and always remembered. We imagine them waiting on the other side of that Rainbow Bridge, restored to the vitality of their prime years yet retaining the time-honed wisdom of their maturity. Waiting for us. I confess that I find that thought, sentimental and unlikely though it is, more moving, more comforting, than any imagery of a heavenly human afterlife.

The kittens and cats fostered over the years are now claiming privileged elder status. While some of the then-older ones have since taken their light out of the world, those remaining have become venerable feline sages today, ignoring physical frailty to bestow their keen judgment on the deficiencies of humanity — excepting, of course, their own beloved families, who receive their tolerant exculpation with gratitude.

There’s a growing trend of people adopting older animals. It used to be that shelters could hardly induce anyone to look at a dog or cat over 7, as though remaining years of an expected lifespan determined their value. Is it that as our own population is aging, as we, ourselves, face our own mortality, a kind of poignant solidarity moves us to respond to pets facing a bleak future alone with their increasing needs and decreasing appeal? Decreasing appeal? Not according to their adopters, who consider themselves exceedingly blessed to have such inspiring companions, experienced at living so fully in the moment.

In learning to see beauty in the no-longer-youthful bodies of our animal companions, members of species we humans have harmed as much as blessed through domestication, are we teaching ourselves to see and respond tenderly to our still-beautiful ravaged Earth? The mother who can still move us with her loveliness, can still inspire loving admiration, though a long and undimmed future can no longer be reasonably expected?

They have given us so much over the centuries of our unique interspecies partnership. There’s evidence that our bond never was completely exploitative and utilitarian, undeniable as those aspects of it are. Unlike the tools of other “technologies” we cast aside after inventing improvements, we never entirely abandoned them. Today we’ve acknowledged the deeper kinship that has been there all along, calling them family and best friends. Perhaps the greatest gift they give us is allowing us to love them, graciously receiving our imperfect care. Do they see through and forgive our flaws, or do they completely overlook them, as we do those of other humans only after we have laid aside competition and comparison in favor of acceptance and recognition?

As I write this, my dog Cholmondley (pronounced “chumley”) lies beside my chair, digesting his breakfast and resting as his morning medications take effect. If I’m very lucky, he’ll be 16 in December — if I can manage his arthritis pain and somehow keep his mysterious neurological disabilities at bay. I touch his soft shoulder and he flicks an ear, not ready to get up, but acknowledging my presence, our connection. Every day he gives me reasons to try to deserve his presence in my life. Reasons to be grateful for a life among animals who have loved me, no matter how often or how badly I let them down.

Old dogs, old friends, old world. How merciful that we can still, imperfectly and with our usual mixture of motives, love them. By receiving our care, they heal a sickness in our souls, even if it may be — but we can’t know that — too late for a cure.

Laurie Raymond owns High Tails Dog & Cat Outfitters in Glenwood Springs.

Prescribed burns near Rifle starting Sept. 21

With ideal conditions expected this weekend, crews from the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire and Aviation Management Unit plan to ignite two prescribed fires on the Roan Plateau near Rifle.

On Saturday, crews are planning to burn up to 846 acres of aspen understory on the Roan Plateau near First and Second Anvil creeks in Garfield County.

The burn on Bureau of Land Management-administered land should improve big-game habitat and promote new aspen growth.

The burn areas are near the rim of the plateau, and smoke will be visible from Rifle and the Interstate 70 corridor between Parachute and Silt.

On Sunday, crews are planning to burn up to 500 acres in the U.S. Forest Service Rifle Ranger District 18 miles south of New Castle in eastern Mesa County.

The burn area is in the West Divide Creek drainage near Mosquito Lake. The burn will target mountain shrub to improve big- game habitat and reduce fuel for large wildfires. Smoke will be visible from Silt and New Castle and potentially the Roaring Fork Valley.

“We will only ignite these prescribed fires if conditions are conducive for safe, effective burns, as well as for good smoke dispersal away from nearby communities,” said Lathan Johnson, fuels specialist for the fire unit.

Fire managers carefully monitor weather and vegetation moisture for optimal conditions that meet the requirements of detailed burn plans.

With the highly variable Colorado autumn weather, windows with ideal condition are rare or may not even occur in a given year.

“These burns will bring benefits to wildlife habitat and land health that will last for years,” Johnson said. “We know there may be local impact to some hunters and other people recreating near these areas this weekend, but we need to take advantage of the windows when we get them.”

Fire managers have developed a detailed prescribed fire plan and obtained smoke permits from the State of Colorado for each planned burn. Please contact Lathan Johnson at 970-640-9165 for additional information.

Power outage in Glenwood Springs temporarily snarls traffic

Electricity went out for thousands of residents of Glenwood Springs and New Castle Friday afternoon, but was back on for Glenwood by 5:30 p.m.

A issue with the transmission line leading into Glenwood Springs cut power to around 10,000 people Friday afternoon.

The exact cause was unclear, but the initial problem occurred on transmission lines, according to Xcel spokesperson Michelle Aguayo.

 “Our crews had it repaired, but then the repair didn’t hold,” she said. “They continue to work as safely and quickly as possible to resolve the outage.”

The initial outage on the transmission line lasted for about 10 minutes, Aguayo said.

New Castle also reported loss of power, but it’s unclear whether that is related to the same issue.

Glenwood Springs Police said that many power lights were not working properly during the outage. If a light isn’t working, drivers should treat it as a four-way stop and avoid blocking the intersection, the police department said.

New 27th Street Bridge opens to traffic Friday evening

The new 27th Street traffic bridge is open to automobiles once again, according to project officials with the city of Glenwood Springs.

The new pedestrian bridge is also open, with temporary connections, the city said in a Friday afternoon news release.

The connection over the Roaring Fork River between South Grand Avenue and Midland Avenue has been closed since Sept. 12 as the newly constructed bridge was slid into place.

“With the completion of the new traffic bridge we are going from one of the worst-rated bridges in the state to a completely new bridge,” Jessica Bowser, assistant city engineer, said in the release.

“This would not be possible without the patience of our community, project neighbors and our funding partners,” she added.

The roughly $10 million project was funded by the Federal Highway Administration’s Off System Bridge Funding, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, Garfield County Federal Mineral Lease District, Garfield County, and the city’s Acquisitions and Improvement Tax.”

“This bridge will serve Glenwood Springs for years to come,” Bryce Jaynes, Colorado Division Manager for Ralph L. Wadsworth Construction, said in the release. “This is an important milestone for the project and the community and we still have a lot of work ahead.”

For those using the new pedestrian bridge, cyclists should dismount for safe use until final connections are complete next week, project officials also advised.

The north leg of the 27th Street and South Grand Avenue intersection remains closed as crews make progress on roundabout construction, according to the release.

On Tuesday, pedestrian and bike access will be closed all day as crews work on additional connections, with the final connections being completed this fall.

Pedestrians and bicyclists can use the Old Cardiff Bridge or 14th Street bridges as alternate routes.

Colorado’s economy still strong, risks still there

DENVER (AP) — High employment and consumer spending are keeping Colorado’s economy strong, but government economists said Friday they’re still watching for slower growth or even a recession in years ahead due to a weakening global economy and trade disputes.

Both legislative and executive branch economists presented their quarterly economic forecasts to the Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee, charged with crafting the state’s annual budget.

Colorado Politics reported that legislative analysts expect growth to slow in a few years and that current growth is restrained by a tight labor market. Uncertainties over U.S. trade policy and global slowdowns also are factors, they said.

“We’re not forecasting a recession, but risks are elevated,” said economist Meredith Moon.

Gov. Jared Polis’ Office of State Planning and Budgeting estimated that general fund revenue grew by 7.3% in the fiscal year that ended June 30 and would grow 4.1% in fiscal year 2019-20, which began July 1.

State revenues are expected to exceed spending limits set by the constitutional Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights by $428 million in 2018-19, by $348 million in 2019-20, and by $552 million the following fiscal year, the office said. The legislative forecast put the 2019-20 surplus at $428 million.

Under TABOR, the 2018-19 surplus is to be refunded by reimbursing municipalities for the state’s senior homestead property tax exemption and by reductions in the state income tax.

TABOR sets an annual income limit that can trigger tax refunds based on a formula that involves population and inflation. Critics say that limit has hurt education and transportation investment. Supporters credit it for the state’s strong economy.

In November, voters will decide whether to allow the state to keep excess revenues permanently. Proposition CC was referred to the ballot by the Democrat-controlled Legislature. A companion measure would direct the state to spend excess revenue on education and roads.

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Information from: The Gazette, http://www.gazette.com

Downtown Aspen’s jazz center ready to rock it

When Jim Horowitz got the go-ahead earlier this month from Aspen’s elected officials to create a jazz performance center in the heart of downtown, he looked over his shoulder in City Council chambers wondering what just happened.

“I thought, ‘Did a mosquito just bite me?’” the president and CEO of Jazz Aspen Snowmass said this week. “It happened so quickly … it was one of the funnier moments.”

In a town where land-use approvals are hard to come by without a lot of controversy and public opinion, Horowitz and developer Mark Hunt’s plans sailed through the city approval process.

Under the purview of the city’s all-citizen, seven-member historic preservation commission, which gave unanimous approval in August, the project was subject to “call up” by City Council if it chose to question certain elements of the plan.

But council members Sept. 9 chose not to do that, effectively granting JAS and Hunt a clear path to develop a performing arts center next to and above the historic Red Onion on the Cooper Avenue Mall.

“I tried to have no expectations but was prepared” for questioning from the council and the public at the Sept. 9 meeting, Horowitz said. “You think of what could have happened because there is always uncertainty when you develop in the downtown core.”

The approval came within a year of JAS announcing that it was under contract to purchase the space, located at 416, 420 and 422 E. Cooper Ave. from Hunt for $15 million.

As part of the contract, Hunt will build out the spaces to suit JAS’ needs. The deal closes when the space is complete.

Development next to the Red Onion could have looked much different. Hunt bought the property with the rights to build second and third stories to accommodate a free-market penthouse at a maximum height of 38 feet.

That approval came in before the city banned free-market residential in the core and limited building heights to 28 feet.

With those development rights in hand, Hunt was in a position to make tens of millions of dollars.

But he had a different vision: a live music venue, rehearsal space and educational programming, as well as a gathering area for community organizations and nonprofits.

Hunt has said in the past his “ultimate goal is to connect the town with the people who live here.”

Horowitz said finding a permanent home for JAS has been part of the strategic plan for years but only until recently has the nonprofit organization started to look at downtown properties.

“The Crystal Palace was the original object for our dream,” he said, adding that then the recession hit in 2008 and the building subsequently was sold to Hunt, who is now developing it into a boutique hotel. “We thought there would never be anything like this again.”

In the past couple of years, Horowitz had been shopping different properties in the commercial core but hadn’t found the ideal location.

“We had luck in Mark Hunt calling us,” Horowitz said. “We fell into the right property.”

Hunt, who also owns the Bidwell Building at 434 E. Cooper Ave., which is located next to the property that will serve as the JAS Center’s entrance and photo gallery, envisions connecting the two to support the performance space’s food service.

Home furnishings retailer Restoration Hardware, the future anchor tenant for the redeveloped Bidwell Building, introduced restaurants to its operations four years ago.

Horowitz said the future eatery in Aspen’s Restoration Hardware will offer the food and catering for the JAS Center menu.

This past spring, Horowitz and Hunt’s team worked on the floor plan of the new JAS Center with the Bidwell building in mind.

There will be a shared corridor between 434 and 422 E. Cooper, the latter of which is a former vintage poster shop and will be occupied this winter by Gwyneth Paltrow’s pop-up store, goop.

That building will serve as the entrance to the JAS Center, which will lead to a second-floor lobby and photo gallery.

That space will connect to the second floor of the Red Onion, which will have a lounge and bar that has sightlines to the stage in the adjoining building.

The JAS Center’s main venue area and stage will be in the building located 416 E. Cooper Ave., which currently houses a retail store on the mall level and office on the second floor.

The center will utilize the building’s second floor outdoor terrace that will be open so that people on the mall can enjoy the sounds from above.

Hunt will deliver a shell in the building and it will be up to JAS to finish the interior.

Also in the 9,000-square-foot space is a green room, wine locker, catering kitchen and hangout areas.

The plan is to break ground in April and be open in June 2021.

Horowitz said there are many exciting aspects of the new JAS Center, not the least of which is the photo gallery on the second floor of the entrance.

With more than 45,000 photographs in the JAS archive, plus more from other photographers over the nonprofit’s 29 years, Horowitz said there will be rotating exhibitions focusing on different genres and artists who have performed here, whether it’s blues, funk or rock ’n’ roll, to name a few.

And by digitizing video from some of the more recent stage productions with high-tech light shows, there will be a video wall displaying different concerts.

“It’s an interactive opportunity just like you’d go to a museum and put on headphones,” Horowitz said. “When this gets legs we can really get this off the ground.”

csackariason@aspentimes.com

Former Basalt town manager Mike Scanlon alleges defamation in pending lawsuit

A long-running feud between former Basalt town manager Mike Scanlon and the town government flared up again this month over allegations of a smear campaign.

An attorney for Scanlon sent a “notice of claim” to Basalt Mayor Jacque Whitsitt and the six council members Sept. 10 that informs them he intends to file a lawsuit. Colorado law requires advance notice by a party when it plans to sue a governmental entity.

Scanlon claimed he has suffered damages from “defamation, intentional interference with contract and prospective business advantage, emotional distress, and for breach of the settlement agreement that was reached with the Town of Basalt.”

He will seek an unspecified amount of money as well as legal fees and costs.

The Aspen Times acquired the letter from the town through a Colorado Open Records Act request. It was sent on Scanlon’s behalf by the Denver law firm of Benezra & Culver.

Scanlon departed abruptly in August 2016 after a feud erupted with several members of the council in office at the time. He terminated his contract because, he said at the time, council members in office violated the agreement by discussing his performance in public.

The final straw for both sides was Scanlon’s use of a special fund to assist town employees with the purchase of a home. Some council members were angry that Scanlon tapped the fund for $35,000 without their approval. Scanlon didn’t sign a promissory note or arrange terms for repayment, according to officials at the time. Scanlon contended he used the program appropriately.

The town and Scanlon worked on a severance package after he quit. Negotiations turned sour when Scanlon claimed the town was retaliating against him. He threatened to sue. They eventually negotiated a $250,000 settlement.

After leaving Basalt and returning to Kansas, Scanlon resurfaced in the Roaring Fork Valley as an executive with Habitat For Humanity Roaring Fork. His notice suggested he is being groomed as the successor for chapter president and CEO Scott Gilbert.

But Scanlon claims Basalt officials or their associates have made disparaging or defamatory comments about him to other officials connected to Habitat For Humanity in an effort to prevent him from being promoted by the organization.

“Basalt Mayor Whitsitt’s husband, Tim Whitsitt — who we believe we will be able to show was acting at the direction and with the knowledge of his wife — and Basalt Council Member Jennifer Riffle have launched a campaign of defamation against Mr. Scanlon in retaliation for his vindicating his legal rights,” Scanlon’s notice said. “They have defamed Mr. Scanlon to his new employer, Habitat For Humanity for Roaring Fork Valley in an obvious effort to interfere with his existing employment and his prospective employment as (Habitat’s) new CEO.”

Jacque Whitsitt declined comment on the matter. Scanlon’s notice didn’t provide any details on how Jacque Whitsitt allegedly directed Tim Whitsitt’s actions.

Tim Whitsitt, an attorney, acknowledged that he voiced concerns about Scanlon to Gilbert and Eric Musselman, a member of Habitat’s board of directors. Whitsitt was a founding member of Habitat For Humanity Roaring Fork and served as its first president. He said he strongly supports the nonprofit organization’s mission and cares about its success. Whitsitt said he feels it would be detrimental to the organization’s success to have Scanlon at the helm.

“When I found out they were contemplating Scanlon, I was appalled,” he said.

He said he acted on his own and his wife “never requested or directed” any of his actions in the matter.

“It’s absolutely untrue,” he said. “It never happened.”

Scanlon’s notice of claim said Tim Whitsitt told Gilbert that, “Mike is poison. He is toxic. Mike will ruin your fine organization. Mike extorted money from Basalt.”

The notice also claimed Whitsitt allegedly told Musselman that Scanlon “stole” town money for a downpayment on a house. Hiring Scanlon, Whitsitt allegedly said, would hurt Habitat’s reputation, according to the notice.

Whitsitt said he is “looking forward to confronting (Scanlon)” if the case ends up in litigation. He said he would use public information about Scanlon’s performance with the town of Basalt to back his claims that Scanlon would harm Habitat’s standing.

“I’m ready to defend what I said in court,” Whitsitt said.

Scanlon’s notice to the town also claimed Riffle made defamatory comments about Scanlon to a Habitat For Humanity Roaring Fork staff member on a day when town employees and council members volunteered to work on a housing the organization is constructing.

“Riffle told (the employee) that if Habitat hired Scanlon for the CEO position, Basalt would lose all respect for HHRFV,” the notice said. “She went on to disparage Scanlon’s character and conduct during his employment with Basalt.”

Riffle declined comment and referred questions to the town manager and town attorney.

Basalt Town Manager Ryan Mahoney declined comment about the matter. The council is scheduled to discuss Scanlon’s notice in a closed session at its next regular meeting on Tuesday.

Scanlon didn’t respond to a voicemail or text from The Aspen Times.

scondon@aspentimes.com

Leaf peepers will have to be patient in Aspen, elsewhere this fall

The U.S. Forest Service is preparing for the annual invasion of the leaf peepers at the Maroon Bells, but anyone venturing into the high country around Aspen right now will just see lots of green.

While timing of fall colors always varies from year to year, nature seems stuck on summer in 2019.

“As of now, we’re just noticing a lot of green everywhere,” said Shelly Grail, recreation staff manager for the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District. She spends a lot of time in the field and has been in Maroon Creek Valley, the Crystal River Valley and Independence Pass within the past week.

“I imagine we’re at least a week behind and our peak would likely be more at the end of September and beginning of October instead of the middle of September,” Grail said Thursday.

Leaf peepers already have been checking out the Maroon Bells Scenic Area, one of the most popular destinations in Colorado for fall colors.

“What we heard from people last weekend (at Maroon Lake) was, ‘We’re here, it’s not yellow yet, we’ll be back,’” Grail said.

On paper it’s shaping up to be great for fall colors. The Colorado State Forest Service website says: “According to the United States National Arboretum, a wetter growing season followed by a dry, sunny autumn with cool but frost-free nights results in the brightest fall colors.”

The Aspen area checks off all those boxes. It had an abundant snowpack that lingered well into spring, delaying the greening up of vegetation. Wildflowers in the high country bloomed late and lasted into August. The fall has been extremely dry, with August recording its sixth-lowest amount of precipitation in 68 years.

Many local residents have observed that the scrub brush, oak, serviceberry and chokecherry are curing later than usual. There is just a hint of color on hillsides covered in brush.

Some observers also have noted that there are areas where aspen leaves are turning brown, dying and falling off the trees rather than transforming into a vibrant yellow or rust color. Various observers have noted similar conditions in Maroon Creek Valley, Fryingpan Valley, Kebler Pass near Crested Butte and Trapper’s Lake on the Flat Tops.

Grail said she has seen pockets of aspen trees in Maroon Creek Valley where the color of the leaves is a dull brown that is “more drab than vibrant.” The hope is the drabness won’t be widespread as fall progresses.

The state forest service website said the health of aspen stands is critical for the display of strong colors and retention of leaves in fall.

“Unhealthy aspen stands are less likely to have vibrant colors, and the more robust an aspen stand is, the more attractive the colors will be,” the site said.

Based on past timing of peak colors, the Forest Service and Roaring Fork Transportation Authority made plans to expand weekend service for the Maroon Bells shuttle starting this weekend.

scondon@aspentimes.com