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Guides: Best part of local rafting season starting this week

Glenwood Springs commercial rafting companies continue to receive calls from concerned residents and tourists about whether or not they should still plan a trip.

“‘Am I going to return from this trip? I have seen some really bad press,’” Whitewater Rafting LLC partner Phoebe Larsson said of what those phone calls sound like. “Many of our phone calls are talking people off the ledge.”

With headlines across the state calling 2019 “one of Colorado’s deadliest rafting years,” local rafting companies hope to set their own safety records straight.

“Fortunately, in this section of the Colorado, Glenwood is that wonderful destination for the family-friendly rafting even when the Arkansas and Clear Creek and other rivers are running really intensely,” Larsson explained.


During the summer, Whitewater Rafting takes as many as 400 rafters daily onto the Colorado River and remains in constant communication with other local commercial rafting companies.

Fourteen rafting companies hold permits with the U.S. Forest Service for the Shoshone and Grizzly Creek sections. Known collectively as the Shoshone Partnership, the cooperative allows local rafting companies to connect about water levels and potential hazards.

“Through that cooperation, but also directly company-to-company, we are able to quickly adapt or adjust trips,” Blue Sky Adventures co-owner Patrick Drake said. “It is a daily routine watching water pretty consistently and then being able to make an appropriate decision for where we can offer that family-oriented trip.

Typically, those family-oriented trips include Class II and Class III rapids.

The International Scale of River Difficulty describes Class II rapids as novice and “straightforward” with “wide, clear channels.” The American Whitewater Association, which developed the scale, designates Class III rapids as intermediate with “moderate, irregular waves.”

Six classifications of rapids exist with Class I featuring “riffles and small waves,” and Class VI being “almost never attempted” due to “unpredictability,” “danger” and rescue being in many cases impossible.

“People do respect water levels, and they should,” Drake explained. “Now that we are at a time of year where waters are receding and hitting those more average flows we expect the best part of our season to start this week and really run through late August.”

Defiance Rafting Co. co-owner Gregory Cowan said that context was key when discussing river conditions as it pertained to whitewater rafting.

“There is kind of a tendency to lump an instance or a particular stretch of whitewater and make it applicable to all,” Cowan said. “We are very fortunate where we are to have a really accessible stretch of whitewater.”

From a bucket list experience to a multi-generational family rafting trip, the three local companies agreed that they could provide both — and above all else — safely.

“What’s nice is we can do these things, we can get playful out there and do so in a way that is still safe,” Cowan said.

Added Larsson, “We all work together. And once you’re on the river it’s one river community. If one person needs help, we are all there to help one another.”


Property values up, especially in west Garfield

Western Garfield County residents have seen big property value increases in the past year, according to the county assessor’s biennial valuation.

“Carbondale, Glenwood, even New Castle hovered around an average 10 percent increase” in home value, said Jim Yellico, Garfield County assessor.

“Silt down to Parachute, it was closer to 20 percent increase in their value,” Yellico said.

Such dramatic increases in value haven’t been seen in that part of the county since the recession, Yellico said.

Between the higher residential value and voter-approved property taxes, the total property tax bill will also likely increase.

Yellico and his staff of 17 have been working on value assessments for the past two years — and many have already started working on the 2021 cycle.

Property owners received updated valuations in May, and had until June 3 to file a protest. Yellico is pleased at the low number of protests his office received.

“We had between 27,000 and 28,000 parcels to send notice of valuations out to. From all those new values, we had 774 protests sent back; that’s less than 3 percent,” Yellico told the Garfield County commissioners Monday.

The total preliminary value of the property in Garfield County — including residential, industrial, commercial, agricultural and oil and gas lands — comes to $2.5 billion.

A big part of the increase was from the real property, everything besides oil and gas, which increased 10 percent, from $931 million to $1.27 this year.

Property value is measured by approved home sales — which excludes things like foreclosure auctions and transfer of homes within families.

Residential property value increases alone doesn’t mean higher property taxes.

But when combined with mill levy overrides and a small decrease in the state-determined assessment rate, many areas could see a higher property tax bill.

This year, the state is likely to lower the assessment rate slightly, from 7.2 to 7.15 percent, which is not a dramatic amount.

The Gallagher Amendment to the Colorado constitution fixed all the rates except for residential, which is updated by the state every other year.

Late in 2018, the Colorado Legislative Council said it anticipated the assessment rate to drop to 6.11 percent, but that was before oil and gas companies delivered their valuations, Yellico said.

The negligible 0.05 percent reduction to the assessment rate is likely due to oil and gas miniboom on the Front Range.

“The increase in oil and gas valuations, mostly in the Weld County area, kept the assessment rate from going down much,” Yellico said.

Commercial assessment rates are fixed at 29 percent, but the residential rate changes to keep the percentage of property taxes homeowners pay even with what businesses contribute.

As housing in Colorado boomed, however, the assessment rate dropped dramatically, and many expected the 2019 reassessment to drop again, which could have decreased property tax bills and, consequently, reduced revenue for some taxing entities.


Personal Finance column: Motivation can change on a dime

We looked at the weather app and saw a three-hour window to get our bike ride in with only a 20% chance of rain. With the early summer weather being less than conducive for weekend riding, we enthusiastically grabbed the opportunity. Exercise, enjoying the beautiful day, some time at Strawberry Days, running into friends all sounded like good motivation to get out on our bikes.

Enjoying the ride

Mark and I geared up and headed toward Glenwood Canyon, knowing we would have to turn around where the Colorado was up and over the bike path. A light sprinkle greeted us at Grizzly Creek, refreshing as we pressed on up toward Shoshone. Rain clouds and blue moved quickly across the sky. We stopped to look at familiar boating territory raging with this season’s snow melt. We watched a hard-working marmot with a mouth full of nest fodder. A guiding mantra in my life is: “It’s what you make of the journey, not the destination.” Yes, we were getting exercise, but really enjoying the ride.

Coming back towards town, a sheet of rain was visibly coming up through the canyon, and we were headed straight toward it. Should we turn around and hold up at the Grizzly rest stop? Will it dissipate before we get to it? Questions ran through my head to discern a decision as I pedaled. I was ahead, and I thought, “Maybe it won’t be too rough; let’s press on.”

As the downpour started, we rode on alongside the kayakers in the water. I thought, “Well, a little more water doesn’t matter much to them.” The cold pellets of water hit hard. While my sunglasses protected my eyes, my vision was blurred as water covered the lenses.

We decided to take refuge. Jumping off the path, we carried the bikes and traipsed through the mud to get under the l-70 overhang. The wall of water subsided in about seven minutes, and the sun followed. We spent a few minutes walking through some big puddles to get the mud off our shoes and bikes.

I peeled a wet layer of clothing off, and we headed towards town enjoying the warmth of the sun. Stomachs growling, we were anticipating some well-earned “fair food” as we got close to Sayre Park. Then we looked west. We pulled out the weather app, and the rain potential had increased to 40%. The ominous black clouds were making their way towards town. I did not see any sun peeking through them.

Shifting gears

After what we had just experienced in the canyon, we decided to head towards home, knowing it would take another half hour to get up valley.

My motivation for the ride had changed. What started out as enjoying the beauty of this place we call home, getting some exercise, spending time with my husband and savoring fun food, shifted dramatically. Now, I wanted to get home, to the safety of a roof over my head before we got drenched to the bone. I didn’t want to ride and deal with dangerous conditions.

The wind picked up as a strong headwind instead of tailwind. The bike path was wet from a previous downpour. We rode hard. My husband is a stronger rider, and I pushed myself to keep up. Occasionally looking over to the west, the whole sky was consumed with dark, pregnant clouds.

We pulled into our driveway, put the bikes away in the garage, and before I could pour a glass of water, to ebb my thirst, the hail storm started. Followed by about a half hour of hard rain and wind, I was so grateful to be home.

What motivates you?

Can you see the analogies of my changing motivation on this simple bike ride to your financial journey heading toward or into retirement? What is your motivation for looking at the tools, techniques and temperaments that you will utilize during your fall season of life? What joys do you want to experience? What clouds do you see on the horizon that may impact your experience? What do you want to do to navigate the terrain as best possible, knowing there are things both within and outside of your control?

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

Hotels, housing float into confluence conversation

The 12.2 acres of land located at the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers has attracted local and national developers.

In February, the city of Glenwood Springs put out a request for qualifications (RFQ) for a confluence master developer that garnered seven responses.

Additional vetting from the city’s Community Development, Engineering and Parks and Recreation Departments as well as the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) narrowed the search to three prospective teams— The Confluence Development Group, Development Partners and Trailbreak Partners.

Earlier this week, all three gave presentations to, and were interviewed by Glenwood Springs City Council.

“To have the opportunity to be involved in a project which will create such a dramatic change to an area occupied by an old wastewater sewer plant site and an old abandoned railroad wye, right at the confluence of our two rivers is the number one reason I chose to serve on council for an additional four years,” Councilman Steve Davis said.

“I hope every citizen will also take the opportunity to engage in this transformation, which will dramatically impact Glenwood for generations to come,” he said.

Comprised of a partnership between ABA Hospitality out of Snowmass Village and Oak City Development from Raleigh, North Carolina, the Confluence Development Group in its submittal stated that its, “relationship with the Hyatt Corporation has resulted in receiving preliminary interest for the development of a hotel and conference center on the confluence area site.”

The group has also proposed a performing arts center, senior housing and dedicated restaurant, retail and mixed-use residential space.

The Confluence Development Group stated that it was “presently negotiating the purchase” of the Farnum Holt Funeral Home property near the confluence. However, funeral home owner Trey Holt said Wednesday that he was not currently involved in any negotiation with any prospective buyers.

As developers eye the confluence area, recently elected Councilman Tony Hershey expressed his concerns that the city should focus less on any new development and more on fixing existing infrastructure.

“We have not addressed the street issue … it is ridiculous,” Hershey said. “We do not have the resources or the time to be doing all of these other projects, and frankly I think it is empire building on behalf of the city — the bigger we are the better — and I am not doing it anymore.”

Featuring Chaffin Light Management and Independence Ventures, both out of Basalt, as well as Design Workshop from Aspen and Roaring Fork Engineering based in Carbondale, the Development Partners team zeroed in on the development of the Vogelaar Park site located at 915 School St., just above the confluence.

The city does not yet own what is to become its portion of the Vogelaar Park land. Assistant City Manager Jennifer Ooton said, “The land swap between the city and the school district is still pending.”

A few years ago, the city agreed to swap land south of the newly remodeled Glenwood Springs Elementary School for a share of the Vogelaar Park site north of the school.

In its proposal, Development Partners stated, “We propose to purchase and develop the Vogelaar property with multi-income and multi-generational residential and, if appropriate, some civic uses.”

Additionally, the Development Partners team proposed a river park connection to Seventh Street businesses, as well as mixed-use areas along Eighth Street near City Hall.

The preliminary plan also calls for a transit hub by way of a partnership between RFTA and the city.

“We might not do anything — the option might be that we push pause and wait to see where this community is,” Mayor Jonathan Godes said, suggesting any decisions concerning the confluence’s redevelopment were still a ways out.

“The point of engaging a master developer is so that they can do these public outreach meetings and they can help us identify where the community is,” Godes said.

The third team being interviewed — Trailbreak Partners — includes the Denver-based firm by the same name, as well as Van Meter Williams Pollack out of Denver and San Francisco, and NV5, which has over 100 offices nationwide and abroad. NV5 was the contract project manager for the Roaring Fork School District’s GSES renovation and addition that was completed in 2017.

Trailbreak Partners presented two alternative concepts, one of which proposed up to 25,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, 25,000 square feet of commercial office space in mixed-use buildings and 410 residential units “in the form of townhome, apartment and condominiums.”

The concept would also enable a central transit station at Seventh Street and what would become Defiance Avenue west of City Hall.

“Council sat through five hours of interviews with three separate development teams, and I must say I was very impressed with the respondents,” Councilor Davis said. “There was immense talent with broad national experience being interviewed.

“It was quite impressive, and there was no clear front runner in the process.”


Sunlight begins 100-acre expansion project; new East Ridge lift in the works

Sunlight Mountain Resort is starting a $4 million expansion project to add new routes, about 100 acres of expert skiing terrain, and eventually a new chair lift to its East Ridge.

The first phase of the three-year project is currently under way with Sunlight’s trail maintenance crew performing extensive glade work to the ski area’s existing Aligator Alleys, Deception, Defiance, Perry’s Plunge and other double-black diamond terrain.

“This is a multi-year effort, and while glading work is already under way, we are in the very early stages of a process that includes building a capital fund, negotiating additional financing, permitting processes with the county and Forest Service, mapping, planning, and shopping for lifts,” said Tom Hays, general manager at Sunlight.

This fall, Sunlight will offer a special promotion for an exclusive opportunity to be one of the first 25 skiers or riders to experience the new terrain.

But it will take a few years before the new chair lift is added.

The new terrain, located on private land, will be hike-out only until phase three of the project is complete. Trees will also be cleared to make way for a new fixed-grip lift that will be installed in phase three.

Phase two will begin next summer, and involves glading nearly 100 additional acres of forest to the east of Perry’s Plunge that currently marks Sunlight’s eastern-most boundary. Midland Traverse will be expanded to the East, and more runs will be added below Midland Traverse ending just above Four Mile Creek.

“The first step in adding a new lift to East Ridge is building the reserve fund. We anticipate that with another solid ski season we can set aside enough capital to put us in a good position when it comes time to negotiate funding for the project,” Hays said.

More than 203 inches of snow this past season helped Sunlight beat its previous best season ever in terms of revenue set in 2016-17, according to Troy Hawks, marketing and sales director at Sunlight.

Skier and snowboarder visits to Sunlight this past season were up 16 percent above its 10-year average, he said.

The new East Ridge expansion will add more intermediate and advanced terrain to the east, and also lengthen existing runs farther downhill near Four Mile Creek.

While plans are still being drawn, the new lift loading station will be below Perry’s Plunge near Four Mile Creek and the top unloading station will be placed above Beaujolais and Rebel, providing access to beginner, intermediate, and expert runs west of East Ridge.

“We’re excited to expand skiing and riding on the already legendary East Ridge,” Hawks said. “These new runs mean our local skiers and riders have even more powder to explore and exploit.”

A dedicated East Ridge Expansion Project webpage will be added to Sunlight’s website in the weeks to come. Follow Sunlight on Facebook for updates on the project.

Inside the Chamber: Glenwood Springs Visitor Information Center is the first stop for summer fun

Wearing sweaters and watching it rain, sleet, hail, then rain again out the windows of the Glenwood Springs Visitor Center up until just a couple weeks ago, has made it feel like summer has barely begun. But here we are, post July 4th and halfway through already. Numbers of guests popping in to pick up brochures and maps and ask questions went steadily upward as spring became summer, despite the odd weather this year, and the changes to Glenwood’s tourist-driven queries have been apparent.

All that is Hanging Lake has certainly been the biggest adjustment for visitors and therefore for the Glenwood Springs Visitor Center, since April. Our staff is the front line for assisting folks with this transition. The responses from guests and locals alike to the new Hanging Lake reservation system have varied greatly. Transferring phone calls to the Hanging Lake Welcome Center has become muscle memory at this point for all of us at the front desk, as is tracing the route to the shuttle pickup on our site specific, simplified city maps. No question though, we at the Chamber and Glenwood Springs Visitor Center are happy to see our lovely Hanging Lake preserved through this new system.

The week of the Strawberry Days Festival brought a real increase in out-of-town visitors from all over the state and many stopped into the Glenwood Springs Visitors Center with questions on practically all of the activities the area has to offer. Most were staying for the entire week and inquired about activities ranging from paragliding to ziplining to paddle boarding and even horseback riding.

Following our geothermal amenities, though, hiking and biking seem to be the most sought after attractions for visitors to our lovely hometown. Whether in regards to Hanging Lake permits or alternatives, or the ever-changing status of the Glenwood Canyon trails, we are kept on our toes trying to stay up to date with trail conditions. The snow finally melted, but the rivers keep rising, along with the numbers of trail seekers. Updates from both guests and local authorities such as CDOT who call in or report back on the conditions are much appreciated.

The Glenwood Canyon Bike Path is a huge draw for out-of-town guests, and our deep winter’s effects on its closure status have forced many an outdoor enthusiast to seek out the Rio Grande Trail or learn about the gorgeous path that follows the Roaring Fork River along the edge of Glenwood Springs.

Two other often-asked questions: “What is at the top of that gondola thing?” and “Where should we eat?” are quite a treat for the staff here to answer. We all love our unique mountain-top theme park, the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, and get excited to tell guests what they can enjoy up there before coming back down to soak in one of the wonderful hot springs. And with Glenwood Springs becoming such a foodie haven, we all enjoy being able to talk about our fabulous restaurants with their unique menus, outdoor seating options, and special brunches or happy hours.

In addition to sharing our knowledge of our attractions and services with locals and folks from around the USA, the staff at the Glenwood Springs Visitor Center were happy to meet and assist international visitors from Australia, England, Ireland, Switzerland, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, France, Jordan and Peru.

Glenwood’s Book Grove stands pat as other bookstores fade

As local books stores sadly come and go here in the Roaring Fork Valley, one has remained as a consistent source for used books for the last 15 years.

The Book Grove, tucked away on the corner of Blake Avenue and Eighth Street in downtown Glenwood Springs, has served as a gathering spot for book lovers, treasure hunters and tourists for 15 years.

With the closing of the Book Train on Grand Avenue in April, a void seemed to open for the reading community. Quietly, the Book Grove continues to thrive, thanks in part to Sheri Scruby owning the building in which she runs her business.

“I’m my own landlord, so I control my own rent,” Scruby said during a recent sit-down in the lounge at Book Grove. “But one of the biggest keys to my success is that I’m an online bookseller. If someone wants a book in Manchester, England, and they found it on my website, I can sell it to them and ship it.”

Scruby opened the Book Grove in May 2004, but for a few years before purchasing the building and opening up the store, she sold books out of her home after getting involved with a reading program at her kids’ school.

From there, the well-traveled book lover started scouring for books throughout her travels, developing a serious passion for used books, leading to her success with the Book Grove.

While it may seem easy to find used books to add to her collection to sell, it wasn’t easy at first for Scruby. But through her experiences she’s developed a knack for finding those rare books.

To hear Scruby talk about it, she points to the German word das Fingerspitzengefühl.

To have Fingerspitzengefühl means to have an intuitive instinct about any given situation, and to know how to react to it without having to deliberate. It also suggests a certain tact or sensitivity that comes with experience.

“Searching for used books is definitely like treasure hunting,” Scruby said. “The valley is abundant when it comes to books, but it’s definitely challenging. It’s that German word [Fingerspitzengefühl] — I just have a sixth sense for finding those rare books and those signed books.”

She said she can look at a pile of used books and just know what’s worth it and what’s not.

“That just comes with experience,” she said. “I have a really good memory, so I know if I’ve seen a book or not. That’s just intuition. We all have intuition, but it’s important to listen to it and develop it, and I feel that’s what I’ve done during my time searching for used books.”

Aside from providing the community with used books, Scruby takes pride in the Book Grove serving as a gathering place for the community. One wouldn’t think of a book store being a gathering place for people to visit and catch up, but that’s part of the Book Grove’s atmosphere.

“A lot of valuable exchanges have taken place here,” Scruby said. “Often, customers who don’t know each other will strike up meaningful conversations in the store.

“There’s a lot of serendipity and synergy that goes on here. I actually wanted to call the store Serendipity Book Store, but that name was taken when I first opened. So I came up with the Book Grove since I adore trees.

“Groves are a community of trees, and the Book Grove is a community for book lovers,” she said. “I really appreciate that, and I believe in what this store has become for the community.”

For now, the Book Grove is the lone bookstore in town. Scruby continues to add best-sellers to her inventory, as well as local books about the area, and perennial favorites over the years, like Hunter S. Thompson books.

Scruby also has a large collection of children’s books, CDs, vinyl, audio books, DVDs, handmade greetings cards, local trail maps, postcards and many other products.

Despite the number of book stores that have closed in the area, Scruby believes independent bookstores will bounce back.

“We posted an article online [the store’s Facebook page] recently about the resurgence of bookstores in America, which pleases me,” Scruby said. “I always tell people, when you shop for something new, you go out and find what you want; in a used bookstore, often something finds you.”


The Scoop: ‘Sundae’ ice cream shop to open in former Book Train location

When Kent Beidel had the opportunity to take over two ice cream franchise installments in Vail and Edwards, the Colorado entrepreneur respectfully declined.

Instead, the self proclaimed, “ski bum” transformed two Marble Slab Creamery stores into his own ice cream shop known simply as Sundae.

“It’s easy to become a franchise. It’s harder to create your own brand,” the Sundae owner said of how he did not want to follow the franchise model’s strict rules, recipes and marketing requirements.

Instead, Beidel rolled the dice and evidently the risky business decision paid off as the small business owner now plans on opening another Sundae in the space formerly housed by Book Train at 723 Grand Ave. in downtown Glenwood Springs.

After four decades in business, Book Train announced earlier this year that its last day in operation would be April 26.

A few months later, a “coming soon” Sundae artisan ice cream poster appeared and provided at least a semblance of life to the vacant property nestled in the bustling downtown area.

According to Beidel, Sundae has no plans of reinventing the wheel but instead will continue to focus on preparing classic ice cream flavors like vanilla, chocolate, strawberry and many more in house with fresh ingredients.

“Everything we do is scoopable ice cream; traditional, classic American style ice cream but done really well,” Beidel explained. “We want to make the best chocolate ice cream that you’ve ever had. We want to blow your mind away when you have our chocolate ice cream.”

Sundae’s menu does not include soft-serve or frozen yogurt, but does offer sorbet and vegan-friendly options like its avocado coconut flavor, in addition to its wide ice cream selection.

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, before getting into the ice cream business, Beidel previously opened and ran for 14 years Loaded Joe’s, which to this day still combines coffee, food, beer and wine in a community gathering atmosphere in Avon and Vail.

“That’s where I got my start in entrepreneurship in the mountains in Colorado,” Beidel said of Loaded Joe’s.

However, wanting a business that afforded him a living but also the ability to give back to the communities it served, Beidel settled on his own favorite dessert — ice cream.

“Based on the premise alone that 98 percent of the world loves ice cream. …I can give it away to nonprofits that are doing something great in our community,” Beidel said.

Currently, Sundae partners with Eagle County schools to offer “Smart Scoops,” which provides students with a free scoop of ice cream after they finish reading assignments.

At this point, Sundae’s Glenwood location does not have an official opening date. However, according to Beidel, September — although “an optimistic goal” — is not out of the question.

“There is certainly a chance, though, that it will be later than that … once we start to firm up all of the details,” Beidel said.

When Sundae does open, however, Beidel looked forward to preparing and serving all of the classic flavors, but said patrons could expect a few curveballs, too.

“Of course, I love the classics, but my favorite is to take our salted cookies and cream and combine that with our cheesecake ice cream. It’s exceptional,” Beidel said.

Ahead of the formal store opening, residents and tourists alike may get a taste of Sundae’s ice cream at the Glenwood Springs Downtown Farmer’s Market, Tuesdays in Centennial Park.

“We hope to be apart of the community in a positive way. That is our goal,” Beidel said.


Rifle gym works with underprivileged, at-risk kids

After losing his job, Rifle’s Billy Williams was at a crossroads.

Not knowing what to do next, Williams turned to his two children for what to do next, asking them what they wanted to do.

“My daughter wanted to do gymnastics, and my son wanted to start doing MMA [mixed martial arts],” Williams said. “From there, I just had an idea to open up a gym for kids and families to come and train. There was nothing in the valley in terms of MMA training, so we decided to just open up our own place.”

That idea led to the opening of Flex Family Fitness in Rifle, right across the street from the Brenden Rifle Theater on West Second Street.

There, Williams’ main focus is on teaching and working with at-risk kids, through Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He, along with coach Thomas Uylenbroek — a jiu-jitsu instructor that Williams hired from the Netherlands — has helped morph the gym from a small, family-oriented operation into a valleywide gym that works with a number of at-risk and underprivileged kids through MMA.

“We didn’t have this sort of thing when I was a kid,” Williams said. “I was an at-risk kid who found himself in a lot of tough spots, so I wanted to work with kids like that in the valley.”

While growing up, Williams said he had gyms in the area that he couldn’t attend because they didn’t have the money and his didn’t wouldn’t sign the waiver to let him in.

“But I’d sit outside and watch through the window,” he said. “That’s where my mentality comes from. I’m not doing this for the money, I’m doing this for the kids. I want to give them an opportunity to be part of something — help build them up and give them something productive to do.”

While giving them something to do, Williams and Uylenbroek have been able to expand through the school system, bringing in kids from Parachute, Rifle and Glenwood Springs, as well as Silt and New Castle. Williams added that the gym has also recently started working with special needs children, with a class expected to open next month.

“We’re going to teach them how to use a speed bag and other things like that,” Williams said. “Again, we just want to help build them up.”

Additionally, Williams and Uylenbroek are partnering with Garfield District 16 during the school year, working with a group of at-risk middle school kids in the Well Springs program.

The sport of MMA can be considered violent, especially from the fighting seen on television, but there’s much more to the age-old sport, they said.

It can teach discipline, most of all, which is a huge help to at-risk children, giving them a sense of purpose and structure. That alone can really turn an at-risk child’s life around. That’s been the aim for Williams and Uylenbroek.

“It’s been great so far,” said Uylenbroek, who moved from the Netherlands to Rifle after his home washed away in a flood. “I’ve seen these kids go from not knowing anything about the sport at all, to being really good at it. But with some of the kids, I’ve seen them go from being really shy and hiding in the corner, to going to the top of the class. It’s been great to see them really open up.

“This sport is my passion; I’m so happy to be able to spread this passion and make an impact in this community.”

The gym hosts jiu-jitsu classes for kids from 4:30–5:45 p.m. every day. Soon, they’ll expand into family classes in MMA, Zumba, and many other fitness classes.

For now, though, Williams and Uylenbroek are focused on making an impact one child at a time through the growing sport.


Business: Keeping up with EV growth

With the novelty days for all-electric vehicles in the rearview mirror, the industry now is tasked with keeping up with the demand while at the same giving motorists the confidence they won’t get stranded in the middle of nowhere with an uncharged car.

“Previously, all you had to know about a vehicle’s ecosystem was whether it was gas or diesel, and what was the octane rating,” Cody Thacker, the head of electrification at Audi of America, told an Aspen Ideas Festival audience during a June 24 panel discussion. “And we didn’t have to worry about anything else. Clearly for the consumer, if we’re going to make electric-vehicle ownership a practical reality, we have to think about the ecosystem in much broader terms.”

Between Aspen and Snowmass Village, electric vehicles are growing in presence. The website plugshare.com most recently showed six public spots to charge electric vehicles. Among those are the city-owned Rio Grande Parking Garage, for example, which has seven charging stations.

Farther down the Roaring Fork Valley and in Garfield County, plugshare shows three charging stations in Basalt, two at El Jebel, six in Carbondale, one at CMC Spring Valley, five in Glenwood Springs (including both CMC locations and the Ninth and Cooper parking garage), two in New Castle, one at CMC-Rifle, one in Rifle, and one in Parachute.

Free test drives of the Audi e-tron also were provided at Aspen’s Gondola Plaza from June 12 through Sunday. Host Aspen Skiing Co. also had Thacker speak about Audi’s innovations in the electric-vehicle world. Similar test-drive events have taken place in Glenwood Springs, as well.

Large metropolitan cities are addressing the logistical challenges that come with the booming industry. Atlanta, for instance, passed a law in 2017 that 20% of parking spaces at new commercial and residential developments have the necessary infrastructure for charging stations.

The industry’s rapid expansion puts pressure on the automakers to keep up with the demand of consumers. In turn, the makers and installers of charging-station must keep up with automakers’ production level. And utilities must be a partner in having the infrastructure to support the charging stations.

“It’s an exciting time,” said Chris Womack, executive vice president and president of external affairs at Atlanta-based Southern Co., a gas and electric utility. “It’s coming, so we know it’s coming,” he said, adding that “we just have to be there to support the evolution.”

Jonathan Levy, vice president of strategic initiatives at EVgo, a public network of fast chargers for electric vehicles, said players in the EV industry must keep pace with each other.

“If we could leave you with one message today,” he said, “my biased one is, this is here now. EVs are here. EV infrastructure is here. It’s growing; it’s got a lot more to do. And we have to work together to do that.”

The road to growth has had its bumps with consumers, including not having charging stations compatible with all EVs. Thacker liked it to the VHS/Betamax confusion of the 1970s and ’80s.

Most drivers, about 80 to 9%, charge their vehicles at home. But when they stray too far from home, there’s the chance no charging stations are in vicinity.

Audi plans to make 22 million vehicles in the next 10 years, according to Thacker, and “over the next five years we’re putting in $36 billion in electric vehicle development. … We’re not waiting for anybody else to come along.”

That’s where company’s like Southern Co. come in.

“For us, we want to make sure we’re integrating and enabling, so that is not a barrier for you in making that decision,” Womack said.


Post Independent Editor John Stroud contributed to this report with the Garfield County charging station information.