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Federal grant awarded to fund transportation infrastructure projects in Rifle, Glenwood Springs

Glenwood Springs and Rifle just received a federal grant to improve infrastructure on transportation in Glenwood Springs and Rifle.

“It’s huge for the region, for the Western Slope,” said Jonathan Godes, Glenwood Springs mayor. “We can’t thank our senators enough, who strongly advocated on our behalf. We really appreciate their support and advocacy.”

A press release went out from Sen. Michael Bennet, Sen. John Hickenlooper and Gov. Jared Polis to welcome nearly $46 Million for Colorado transportation projects. 

“The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is the biggest investment in America’s roads, bridges, and transportation since Eisenhower,” Bennet said in the release.

One large part of the project is the Westward Three project, a $24.2 million grant called the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity grant. It allows the federal government to invest directly in road and transit projects for Glenwood Springs, Rifle and Grand Junction.

“This is a huge win for our workforce, pedestrians, bicyclists and the city’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Godes said. “We can now make significant strides in transit connectivity and address critical safety issues at one of our busiest intersections.”  

The Westward Three will update multiple transportation hubs in Garfield County, redeveloping the one in West Glenwood, expanding and relocating the one in Rifle and creating a pedestrian and bicycle underpass for 27th Street and SH82.

The grant also secures funding for RFTA workforce housing and replacing 12 full-size buses.

There will be an underpass under both 27th Street for the Rio Grande trail, and then another underpass under Grand Avenue/Colorado Highway 82 to get to that BRT station, Godes said.

“That’s going to be important because we’re going to have, I think, 90 parking spaces on the northwest corner of 27th and Grand Avenue,” he said. “Being able to expand, really triple the size of the parking right now, and then get those people who drive there safely across that intersection, that’s a really dangerous intersection.”

The West Glenwood transportation hub, or West Glenwood Transit Plaza will be redeveloped to have a customer service center with expanded parking space and a pedestrian island.

A Roaring Fork Transportation Authority park and ride bus station in Rifle on Thursday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

“We’ll have a bike share program in the next couple of years in Glenwood, and that will be a large hub for bike sharing E bikes, traditional bikes, micro transit, little shuttle buses that can deliver people to different locations,” Godes said. “All that is envisioned out of this West Glenwood mobility hub.”

Funding can support multi-modal, multi-jurisdictional projects that are more difficult to fund through traditional Division of Transportation grant programs. 

“Proceeds from the grant will support the relocation and construction of a new Park-n-Ride in Rifle which will double the parking capacity of our current facility,” said Tommy Klein, Rifle city manager in the release. “This project will afford Rifle residents greater opportunity to rideshare and utilize RFTA and Bustang buses for transportation.” 

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law was created to invest $550 billion in roads, bridges, mass transit and more for the next five years. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law created the RAISE grant which will provide $7.5 billion for transportation with $1.5 billion for this year.

Re-2 Board President Meriya Stickler announces plans to step down

Garfield Re-2 School Board President Meriya Stickler announced plans to soon step down from her position.

Stickler told school board members on Wednesday that she’s accepting a corporate compliance position and will eventually set an exact date of her resignation from the Re-2 board.

“It is bitter-sweet for me,” she said. “I love our district. It’s been the hardest volunteer job but the most rewarding, no doubt.”

Once Stickler officially resigns, the board will have 60 days to appoint a local resident who lives within District D. Much of District D stretches north and south between an eastern portion of Silt to a western portion of New Castle.

All remaining school board members — Jason Shoup, Tony May, Britton Fletchall and Christina Maness — will thoroughly discuss and vote to decide who is appointed to Stickler’s upcoming vacancy.

Stickler was elected to represent District D in 2019, with the term ending in 2023. In addition to her position with Garfield Re-2, she is also a sitting member of the Colorado Association of School Boards — a position in which she’s resigning from.

Stickler’s resignation marks the second time a Garfield Re-2 School Board member has resigned within about a year. Former board member Katie Mackley stepped down from the board during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, when a universal mask mandate was in effect for all staff and students in fall 2021.

“It’s the hardest position you will ever do,” she said. “It will also provide a wonderful opportunity to pass the torch to a citizen in District D.”

Glenwood Springs’ canopy will need some work

Glenwood Springs hired a city arborist in March and she already has suggestions for improving the health of the city’s canopy.

Beetle prevention, planting and diversifying are the three priorities Heather Listermann, downtown supervisor and arborist, is focusing on. 

The beetles the city is concerned with are called Piñon Ips Bark Beetles (Ips confusus) and they do not only go for Piñon Pines. Listerman said they attack both pine and spruce species of trees.

“It’s important to get a certified arborist involved if they suspect that there’s some die back from beetle kill in a pine tree,” Listerman said. 

Ips beetles are native to Colorado and spread rapidly during environmental changes. They are typically attracted to trees under stress like with drought, transplanting, root damage and over or underwatering.

Ips beetles can go for healthy trees in the right circumstances. Leaving cut firewood or even wood chips next to healthy trees in the yard can attract them. 

“Don’t cut pine and spruce wood and pile it, because once you cut down one of those healthy trees it sends out a signal to the beetles, it’s like party time for them,” Listerman said.

Recently cut material over 1 inch in diameter, such as green firewood or piles of branches left on the ground after pruning or cutting live piñon trees. Paying attention to how wood is stored is important when considering beetle life cycles and mitigating risk.

“Don’t be that guy, don’t DIY,” Listerman said. “Please don’t try to just handle this yourself, and cut down your tree and leave wood in your yard. Please just contact a certified arborist to handle it for you.”

Pitch tubes on tree. Photo: Kamie Long, supervisory forester

Signs to look for include: 

  • Fading needles, much like how most beetle kill looks, the needles will fade to straw or rust color.
  • Entry holes are usually accompanied by saw dust or pitch tubes. 
  • Exit holes are the size of a pinhead and usually mean the mature beetles have left for another tree.  
  • Pitching tube are small, thumbnail-sized clumps of sap that appear on the bark after a tree tries to flush the beetles out
  • Galleries are tunnels are made by Ips adults and larvae underneath the bark, and usually form a Y or H shape

When bark is cracking and splitting from the wood, the tree is dry and beetles have already left. Preventative spraying from a certified arborist is the best option to save non infested trees. If you think your tree is infested, please report it to the city arborist to keep track of spread. 

“If you suspect something, reach out to either Heather and the city or a certified arborist with a tree care company,” said Bryana Starbuck, the city public information officer.

Piñon Ips start the season early when the day temperatures reach 50 degrees and higher. They create tunnels in the wood, under the bark. Ips beetles can produce up to four generations a year. The larvae create small galleries where they take all of the nutrients and water from the tree.

Other trees in the city’s urban canopy are nearing the end of their life and Listerman is looking to diversify the next generation of trees to prevent infestations or disease from killing large amounts of the canopy at a time. 

“Planting trees this upcoming fall is going to be really important to helping to restore our Urban Canopy and we are going to be celebrating Arbor Day and Glenwood Springs on Oct. 20 this year,” Listerman said.

Here is a list of trees that will help diversify the canopy and will also do well in the high altitude high desert climate.

Scientists continue work to navigate intricate web of water sources feeding Hanging Lake

Tracing the source waters of Glenwood Canyon’s iconic Hanging Lake is a little like a game of whack-a-mole.

Last weekend, scientists from the Ozark Underground Laboratories, based in the little town of Protem, Missouri, just a few miles north of the Arkansas state line, spent five days high in the Flat Tops introducing special dye into four headwater sources above the north rim of the canyon.

Some of that water stays on the surface, including in the east fork of Deadhorse Creek — a known source of the water that pours through Spouting Rock and over Bridal Veil Falls into Hanging Lake, then spills over the cliffs below into the lower reaches of West Deadhorse Creek.

What’s not fully known is how much of that water leaves the stream channels descending into Glenwood Canyon and flows underground into the massive karst (cave) system below the surface. 

There’s also the question of where it goes from there, and how long it takes to come back to the surface.

Last fall, Dave Woods and his team of groundwater scientists from Ozark Laboratories came to Colorado after record rainfall triggered extensive mud and debris flows into the canyon when it saturated the 2020 Grizzly Creek Fire burn scar.

The group is working with the U.S. Forest Service, National Forest Foundation and other organizations, using part of the Glenwood Canyon restoration funds that were raised, to try to trace Hanging Lake’s source waters.

Forest Service interns Lorraine Negrón and Neil Hooker work together to collect samples and data from Deadhorse Creek at the Hanging Lake Trailhead. Scientists from the Ozark Underground Laboratories spent five days high in the Flat Tops introducing special dye into four headwater sources above the north rim of the canyon.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

“The goal of this study is to be able to inform managers with the Forest Service in particular where the water is coming from that ends up in Hanging Lake,” Woods said. “That will give them an idea of the impacts of wildfires and different management strategies to protect resources like Hanging Lake.”

The unique travertine lake formation itself was spared from the fire and the ensuing flood damage, though the trail leading to the lake was covered with several feet of mud, rocks and tree branches in spots. 

Forest Service intern Lorraine Negrón jots down information while collecting samples and data from Deadhorse Creek at the Hanging Lake Trailhead. Scientists from the Ozark Underground Laboratories spent five days high in the Flat Tops introducing special dye into four headwater sources above the north rim of the canyon.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

A primitive trail reopened to hikers in late June under the Forest Service’s fee-based permit system to regulate public access into the area. 

Winding waters

Nontoxic fluorescent tracer dye was placed in East Deadhorse Creek early last October, and researchers expected to see traces show up in the carbon samplers they had located in and around Hanging Lake because of that direct surface flow.

Surprise, surprise.

“We didn’t get that particular dye in Hanging Lake,” Woods said of the return trip this spring to check the samplers.

“The dye went into the ground before it ever got to Hanging Lake,” he said. 

Scientists are aware of the many “losing stretches” of surface streams that come into the canyon, where water goes underground and sometimes emerges a drainage or two over. 

In this instance, the dye placed into East Deadhorse wound up in French Creek to the east of Hanging Lake.

Yet, “we put dye in the headwaters of French Creek, and we haven’t found that anywhere,” Woods said. “We’re not sampling east of French Creek, so we don’t know where that dye went.”

On Tuesday, Woods and his senior hydrogeologist Trevor Osorno were back on the Hanging Lake Trail to do it all over again. They were joined by Forest Service interns Lorraine Negrón and Neil Hooker, and Colleen Pennington, Glenwood Canyon recreation manager for the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District of the White River National Forest.

“This year, the goal is to get a better handle on the western and northern boundaries of the recharge area, and to do some introductions in areas that were highly impacted by the wildfire,” Woods said. “That will help us better narrow down where the water is coming from, and since we don’t have to wait for snow melt to get the results, maybe get a better idea of travel times.”

Another hike up to Hanging Lake this week involved the placement of carbon tracer cartridges at strategic points along the creek, at the lake and at Spouting Rock.

The samplers are tied onto rocks, downed trees or exposed roots and wouldn’t even be noticed by a hiker passing by, Osorno said.

The dye itself is nontoxic and also wouldn’t be very visible by the naked eye, he explained.

Ozark Laboratories’ analytical equipment can measure dye in the parts per trillion, so it doesn’t have to be seen in the water for it to be detected in the field lab.

A water sample taken from Hanging Lake. Scientists from the Ozark Underground Laboratories spent five days high in the Flat Tops introducing special dye into four headwater sources above the north rim of the canyon.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

“It’s very rewarding to do studies on some of these prominent natural landmarks,” Osorno said. “A lot of the other stuff we do is what pays the bills … remedial projects where they need to know where the water is going and designing systems for cleanup of mine sites and stuff like that.

“That then affords us to do these kinds of conservation work projects that I think the staff ultimately feels is high value work,” said Osorno, who has a master’s degree in geology and is finishing his doctoral work through the University of Kansas, specializing in how contaminants are transported through underground aquifers.

Underground connections

A potential threat to Hanging Lake would be if the various underground water channels that feed the lake were to be cut off or altered by a major debris flow or another fire event.

“If you go up on the plateau and you look at, say, Grizzly Creek or Deep Creek, there are very well-defined stream channels,” Woods said. “That’s characteristic of a basin that carries the majority of surface flow.

“But the creek channels in the east and west parts of Deadhorse are not very well defined,” he said. “It’s a lot of grassy basins, and there’s really no good channel until you get well into the canyon.”

That’s indicative of the karst landscape where water is going underground rather than flowing on the surface.

Hanging Lake was formed by travertine (calcium carbonate) dams that built up through geologic time from the constant flow of mineral-rich spring waters. It’s a unique chemical process that’s common in caves, but it is quite rare for it to form on the surface, Woods said.

There are two main concerns with Hanging Lake, he said.

One is the potential physical threat to the lake from a debris flow.

The other has to do with water chemistry, and maintaining the water chemistry that promotes the travertine deposition, he explained.

“We’re not looking at water chemistry with this phase of the study, but before anybody can look at water chemistry, you have to know what water to look at and where the water is coming from. So that’s our job here,” Woods said.

The earlier experiment did detect water coming into Hanging Lake from West Deadhorse Creek. But it had to have traveled underground to get there.

West Deadhorse runs dry on the surface this late in the season, except for below Hanging Lake. And there’s not a direct surface connection to the lake from that side.

Forest Service interns Lorraine Negrón and Neil Hooker work together to collect samples and data from Deadhorse Creek at the Hanging Lake Trailhead. Scientists from the Ozark Underground Laboratories spent five days high in the Flat Tops introducing special dye into four headwater sources above the north rim of the canyon.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

“We know we’re getting water from the west fork, so that has to be groundwater flow,” he said. “If we get anything from our samples today, that will indicate a really fast travel time, but we’re not sure what to expect.”

The water coming through Spouting Rock, a quartzite formation, is also groundwater.

By comparing that flow that’s coming into the lake to the known surface flow, researchers can also begin to estimate the proportion of groundwater versus surface water that’s feeding the lake, he said.

Woods said the Forest Service staff assistance has been crucial in running the samples locally. He also credited the Colorado Cave Survey for helping point out areas on the plateau where the dye introductions would be most effective.

“Our practice has been doing projects like this since the 1970s,” he said. “We’ve done work in every state in the U.S. and on all of the continents, except Antarctica.”

Much of that work involves delineating recharge areas for sensitive karst features or for rare, threatened and endangered species.

“We also do a lot of remedial work and monitoring of wastewater plants, landfills, things like that,” he said. “But we really enjoy doing conservation-related projects like this, and the protection of natural resources.”

jstroud@postindependent.com

Grand Valley Days returns to Parachute

Grand Valley Days is next weekend with some new touches to an old tradition.

Parachute will be celebrating its 114th Anniversary with the theme Small Town Throw Down. This year, they’ll be bringing back some of the old events like the post-rodeo concert. 

“After last year’s event, we had people say they missed it,” said Amy Beasley. “I always look forward to dancing after the rodeo.”

Friday, Aug. 19

The festivities will start off with a Cornhole Tournament and Beer Garden at 5 p.m. at Cottonwood Park.

A free Mexican Cowboy Rope Show and a Mexican folklore dance group is slated for 5:30 p.m. on the Rodeo Grounds.

The evening ends with a free concert from the local group Basement Brothers opening for Sundy Best at 7 p.m. in Cottonwood Park next to the rodeo grounds. Sundy Best is a country, Appalachian folk, bluegrass and rock band from Kentucky. Bring chairs or a blanket to sit on, and show up early to get a good view. 

Saturday, Aug. 20

Start Saturday morning with a pancake breakfast from 7-10 a.m. at the Grand Valley United Methodist Church, 123 N. Parachute Ave. Breakfast costs $7, and proceeds will go to the church.

The Hell or High-Water Parade will be at 10 a.m. on Second Street. The name is specific to the parade, since there will be a wet side and a dry side during the parade. Make sure to pay attention to the signs so you don’t unexpectedly end up getting splashed. 

Live music by Alpine Echo and vendors with games sponsored by Grand Valley Residential Team at the Early Learning Center follow from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Grand Valley Fire Protection District Colorado guard marches down Parachute Avenue in the Grand Valley Days parade.
Ryan Hoffman / Citizen Telegram |

A new and unique event that fits perfectly with this year’s theme of “Small Town Throw Down” is a Classic/Sports car vs. 4×4 Car Show from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at The Shops at Village Center, 73 Sipprelle Drive.

There will also be free laser tag games from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Rocky Mountain Combat, 68 Cardinal Way.

The Rodeo Slack will start at 4 p.m. at the Rodeo Grounds, with the Rodeo at 7 p.m. followed by the concert. Meanwhile there will be vendors and a beer garden during the rodeo.

The band will be announced in the next few days.

Sunday, Aug. 21

The weekend will end on a sweet note with the pie and ice cream social and Noodle Soup, a Dixieland band, at the historical Battlement Mesa Schoolhouse from 1-3 p.m. 

The event will be free, but cash donations are accepted. 

The website with the full schedule is here.

Cactus Valley renovation delays first day of school by two days

The first day of school for an elementary school in Silt is being delayed two days to allow contractors to place the finishing touches on a major renovation project that started earlier this year.

With the first day of school for all Garfield Re-2 schools slated for Aug. 15, students at Cactus Valley Elementary School won’t begin their first day until Aug. 17, Garfield Re-2 Director of Facilities John Oldham reported to the Garfield Re-2 School Board on Wednesday.

The school is to receive 450 students this year — including 85 kindergartners.

“I don’t feel that we’re giving (students) a completely safe, confident and secure place until Wednesday,” he said. “It’s not one thing. Everybody’s working as hard as they can work.”

Following ground floor settlement issues, Cactus Valley — built in 2007 — had to undergo a $5.65 million project to replace its slab and renovate many other areas of the structure. The project, which is also supported by a $2.15 million grant through the Colorado Department of Education, was contracted to FCI Constructors Inc. of Grand Junction. 

When approving the contract, the Re-2 board had the option of either spanning the project out over two summers or get everything completed this summer. Board president Meriya Stickler said doing the project over two summers would have caused additional move outs and move ins.

“It would be way too much impact on staff and families to be two summers, because it prolonged us having a great, solid foundational school,” she said. 

When Cactus Valley renovation approval came earlier this year, Oldham said it was originally going to be a six- to eight-month project, giving FCI 180-240 calendar days to work. Instead, the project was condensed and began May 2.

“It’s amazing how much you guys got done,” Re-2 board member Britton Fletchall told FCI representatives.

Oldham said the project, among other small things to tie up, still needs to pass its water test between this week and Aug. 17 — the new first day of school for Cactus Valley. But Oldham said he’s very confident the project will pass all required inspections, including a certificate of completion, before then.

Troy Reynolds of FCI said the school will be safe and ready for all the students to come back.

“We didn’t want parents to get slammed on the weekend with, ‘Oh, my gosh, now what do we do?’” he said. “To provide them with this buffer we felt was the fairest way to treat it.”

Garfield Re-2 Director of Communications Theresa Hamilton said the district has now made 871 phone calls and sent 577 emails to notify Cactus Valley parents of the delay.

Side track keeps Air Force recruit Ella Johnson on the home front as assistant Demons XC coach

Ella Johnson gave thought to the risk when she decided to close out her senior year at Glenwood Springs High School playing soccer and making a bid for another shot at a 4A state track meet podium finish.

Johnson, who was recruited last fall to run track and cross country for the Air Force Academy, was right on track in late April, having qualified to race in the 3200 meters and as a member of the Lady Demons’ 4×800 relay team at the May 19-21 Colorado High School Track and Field Championships.

She would have been a top contender, having placed fourth at state in the 3200 her junior year and helping that year’s 4×800 relay team to a third-place medal.

Johnson was just returning from a backpacking trip with her outdoor education class on April 26, when she made the decision to meet up with her dad, Erik Johnson, in Fruita so they could drive to a soccer game in Montrose that had major playoff implications.

“I wasn’t even supposed to play,” she recalls. “But we made it just before halftime, and I got into the game.”

With about 2 minutes left to play, Johnson was dribbling the ball downfield when it rolled a little too far in front of her.

“I stepped with my left leg to try to maintain control, and my knee hyperextended,” she said.

An MRI a couple of days later confirmed her worst fear — a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

“I was a little bit worried, just with the craziness of the schedule, and also the risk of being injured,” Johnson said of her decision to continue as a dual-sport athlete, which she had done in her previous spring seasons at GSHS.

“When I talked to my coach at the Air Force Academy, he said that I’ll never get another chance to play soccer again, and so he encouraged it,” she said. “And I wasn’t ready to let it go yet, either. So I was happy that I got to play one last time.”

She navigated having to miss track practices by running and training on her own so she could stay in top track form.

When she hurt her knee, her immediate thought was not being able to go to the Air Force Academy as planned, where she had already been accepted. The injury was an automatic medical disqualification for her cross country and track commitment, at least for the coming year, so she decided to wait a year and reapply for admission to the military academy starting in 2023-24.

“When it all began to settle in, that’s when I was worried that my soccer team wouldn’t be able to make it to the playoffs, and that I wouldn’t be able to end my soccer career on a good note, and that I wouldn’t get to go to state for track,” she said. “That was a bummer, but long term it was more about the future.”

Johnson is now planning to take a part-time load of online classes through Brigham Young University so she gets a jump on her academic credits but doesn’t lose a year of athletics eligibility, while keeping an eye toward being readmitted to the AFA.

She’s also undergoing intensive physical therapy so she can resume her commitment to the Falcons cross country and track teams.

In the meantime, she approached GSHS head cross country coach Aidan Goldie about helping to coach the Demons this fall and was added to the roster of assistant coaches.

“I thought it would be a good way to stay involved,” Johnson said. “My dad has been a soccer coach since I was little, so coaching has been in the family, and I always thought I would want to do it at some point. So this is just a little introduction to that.”

Goldie was happy to have her continue as part of the team.

“Even when I was coaching Ella, she was already like the fourth coach on our team just based on her leadership skills and the respect she had among her teammates,” Goldie said.

Since she’s not too far removed from her own preps experience, she figures she may have some advice for those who might want to consider running in college — and whether it’s a good idea to double-up with two sports in a season. 

“I would still do it over again,” Johnson said. “I just love both sports too much to not do them both. 

“But it is critical that (student-athletes) have good time management and know that your injury risk might increase because you’re doing a lot of training all the time. A lot of it is just making sure that you’re recovering properly and doing all that you can to prevent any injuries from coming up.”

Goldie agreed with that approach.

“From a coaches’ perspective, I always look at it as I’m coaching the human first, the student second and the runner third,” he said. “Whatever makes them happiest; I just want to be able to support their goals and dreams the best I can.”

Johnson said she also looks forward to coaching some of the athletes she helped mentor the past few seasons as a teammate. 

Practices for most fall sports officially began this week, as school is set to start Aug. 17 for the Roaring Fork Schools. The Demons boys and girls cross country teams open the season at the Grand Junction Central Warrior Invitational on Aug. 20.

The Glenwood Demon XC Invitational also returns this season, set for Sept. 17 at the CMC-Spring Valley Gates Soccer Fields complex. And Glenwood Springs is due to host the 4A Regionals on Oct. 20 at a location to be determined.

jstroud@postindependent.com

PHOTOS: A look back at the Grizzly Creek Fire and subsequent debris slides

This week marks the second anniversary of the Grizzly Creek Fire‘s eruption in Glenwood Canyon near mile marker 120 around 1:30 p.m. on the afternoon of Monday, Aug. 10, 2020. The fire burned until it was 100% contained on Dec. 18 and spread to 32,631 acres.

By Aug. 12, the fire had crossed both Interstate 70 and the Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon. The power plant at the Shoshone Generating Station was evacuated, along with the communities of No Name, Lookout Mountain and Coulter Creek. Due to the fire’s location and the closure of I-70, the Grizzly Creek Fire became the nation’s top fire priority and was taken over by Type I crews.

Smoke from the Grizzly Creek Fire billows behind the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool in Glenwood Canyon after the fire blew up again in No Name Creek on the afternoon of Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
A man watches from the Grand Avenue pedestrian bridge as smoke billows from the Grizzly Creek Fire in Glenwood Canyon on the afternoon of Monday, Aug. 10, 2020.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
A small engine air tanker flies around the smoke plume billowing from the Grizzly Creek Fire as it explodes on the south side of the Colorado River above Glenwood Canyon in August 2020.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
Embers from the Grizzly Creek Fire illuminate the mountains above Glenwood Springs on the evening of Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. The Grizzly Creek Fire initially broke out along interstate 70 at mile marker 120 in Glenwood Canyon just east of Glenwood Springs.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
Smoke lifts from the cliffs of Glenwood Canyon after the Grizzly Creek Fire tore through the area and continues to burn in spot fires along the canyon walls in 2020.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
The Grizzly Creek Fire continues to burn up the ridgelines from Glenwood Canyon as seen from the air during a flyover with EcoFlight in August 2020.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
Smoke hangs low in the cliffs near the Hanging Lake rest area due to the Grizzly Creek Fire on the afternoon of Sunday, Aug. 16, 2020.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams and other forest personnel stop at the Hanging Lake rest area to assess progress of the Grizzly Creek Fire on the afternoon of Sunday, Aug. 16, 2020.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
Smoke hangs low in the cliffs near the Hanging Lake rest area due to the Grizzly Creek Fire on the afternoon of Sunday, Aug. 16, 2020.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
Fire crews work to battle the Grizzly Creek Fire as it shoots down the ridge into No Name Canyon after the fire initially started on Interstate 70 on Monday, Aug. 10, 2020 at mile marker 120.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

2021 debris slides

Glenwood Canyon and the burn scar experienced near daily heavy rain events the following summer in late July and early August leading to massive debris slides all throughout the canyon.

Burned logs float in a dammed portion of the Colorado River after a flash flood swept a major debris slide down the Devil’s Hole drainage in Glenwood Canyon near mile marker 124, bringing rocks, mud and debris into the river.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
Crews work to clean the dirt and remaining mud from the roadways in Glenwood Canyon on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Colorado Department of Transportation crews work to unclog a box culvert that filled with mud and debris after a flash flood in Glenwood Canyon in late summer 2021.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Evidence of a debris slide in a drainage in Glenwood Canyon near mile marker 125 in late summer 2021.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Construction crews work on the lower deck of Interstate 70 as seen from the damaged portion of the upper westbound deck near mile marker 123.5 in late summer 2021.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A massive debris flow sits in the Colorado River after washing down the Devils Hole drainage in Glenwood Canyon near mile marker 125 in late summer 2021.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Rocks and debris cover what used to be the trail to Hanging Lake after flash flooding in Glenwood Canyon in summer 2021.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Rocks and debris cover what used to be the trail to Hanging Lake after recent flash flooding in Glenwood Canyon in summer 2021.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Rocks and debris cover bridge number five along the trail to Hanging Lake after flash flooding in Glenwood Canyon in summer 2021.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Wheels continue to turn for Grand Hogback bike trail development

Avid mountain bikers say right around 20 miles is when a Colorado trail reaches “destination status.” A current project creating a massive singletrack bike trail at Rifle Arch is one rock garden closer to joining the club, according to a Rifle official.

“Everyone’s coming to Rifle,” Rifle City Attorney Jim Neu said. “But it’s the same amount of riding as it is driving.”

Rifle City Council on Aug. 3 unanimously approved $265,006 in construction services to build out what will eventually be an additional 8.31 miles for the Grand Hogback Trail System. The system some 9 miles north of Rifle on Colorado Highway 13 will establish 18 miles of ridable trail, which also allows use of Class 1 E-bikes.

The eventual build-out includes new toilets, which will be maintained by the Bureau of Land Management.

Rifle has budgeted $80,000 from its conservation trust fund for the project, city documents show. The city has also budgeted additional support from Alpine Bank, Rifle Area Mountain Bike Organization, private funding and a $160,000 grant recently awarded by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

But the purchase order has 2.51 miles of trail pending for construction. Rifle-based Gumption Trail Works has so far overseen construction of the Grand Hogback and submitted the only bid for complete build-out of the trail. The bid came in at $360,095 — at least $90,095 more than estimated.

Because of this, the city opted to decrease the scope of construction. The city anticipates securing additional project funding through its partners, and only then will the project be fully built out.

Meanwhile, Gumption Trail Works Owner Aaron Mattix has agreed to ensure costs don’t exceed the $360,095 bid, Rifle Planning Director Patrick Waller said. City staff is set to provide a funding update for council with the hopes that final completion occurs spring 2023.

“The plan is that (Mattix’s) rates he provides in his bid will hold with the hopes we can get some funding next year for the full build-out of the trail at that time,” Waller said.

The Grand Hogback Trail System itself has so far extended miles and miles up and down bristly terrain, where the desert landscapes of the Grand Valley essentially meet Western Slope mountain country. It formerly used to be about a 2.8-mile, there-and-back hiking trail to Rifle Arch.

Construction has so far not only extended the trail system, but Garfield County expanded the parking lot, while the new system lured in more mountain bikers who would formerly use nearby Hubbard Mesa.

“One of the main reasons for pursuing this area was to try and reduce some of the amount of conflict we’ve had in Hubbard Mesa,” Mattix said. “Focusing one group of users out of that area into another area has alleviated some of those problems.”

Garfield Re-2 employee base grows for upcoming school year

Garfield School District Re-2 is heading into the upcoming school with an additional 165 positions filled, a spokesperson said Tuesday.

Garfield Re-2 Director of Communications Theresa Hamilton said 65 of those filled vacancies are certified teachers, with the rest being a conglomeration of administration, paraprofessionals and other support staff.

Of the district’s 365 certified teaching positions, just eight remain unfilled. An additional seven certified staff members are also still needed.

“The salary schedule improvements definitely helped,” Hamilton said. “We definitely improved our marketing efforts in terms of where we were advertising positions.”

The district is also using alternative licensing programs available through Colorado Mountain College and Colorado River Board of Cooperation Education Services, which offers employees the necessary skills to become certified instructors.

Wamsley Elementary School First Grade Teacher Sydney DeGrave arranges a book bin Wednesday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

Last school year saw a 28% turnover rate for all employees at Re-2, and many times this caused employees across the district to take on extra responsibilities, Hamilton said. 

“We’ve been short-staffed, so teachers have picked up extra classes. We’ve been short staffed on custodial, so our custodians have picked up other shifts,” she said. “We’ve been short staffed in nutrition services, so other people have pitched in to help serve lunches. We’ve been short staffed in transportation, and the director and the mechanics have had to run routes.” 

To help mitigate shortages, the Garfield Re-2 School Board on May 11 passed base salary and pay schedule increases while absorbing out-of-pocket expenses incurred by employees insured on family plans.

Starting base salaries for teachers, counselors and academic coaches alone increased from $36,896 to $43,011. A 6.8% increase in insurance premiums were taken on by district coffers, thus decreasing out-of-pocket expenses by $300 to $800, depending on the plan.

The first day of school for Garfield Re-2 is Aug. 15, and right now staff and administration are working behind the scenes to prepare for Monday. And with about 15 certified staff — including those eight teachers — still needed, Hamilton said principals are working with staff to align schedules accordingly.

“I know that the principals are continuing to work with staff, readjusting schedules, readjusting class offerings to make sure that our students have all of the classes that they need to meet graduation requirements and that kids are safe and cared for,” she said. “If there are gaps in buildings, I know that’s what teachers are doing right now. And we’ll continue to keep those positions advertised and, hopefully, get them filled.”