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PHOTOS: Garfield County Fair and Rodeo winds down

The Garfield County Fair and Rodeo was filled with colorful sights and sounds Friday and Saturday.

A rainbow soared over the fairgrounds just before Big & Rich took center stage in front of a packed house on Friday.

A hot and muggy Saturday morning was ushered in by a horse-drawn stagecoach clopping down Railroad Avenue during the parade.

The Fair continues Sunday with the Monster Truck Insanity Tour at 1 p.m., and an after fair screening of the film “My Garden of a Thousand Bees” at River Stop.

Here are a few scenes from the weekend festivities:

A couple dances to live music during the Garfield County Fair in Rifle on Friday.| Ray K. Erku/Post Independent
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent
A couple dances to live music during the Garfield County Fair on Friday.| Ray K. Erku/Post Independent
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent
Big Kenny of Big & Rich performs live at the Garfield County Fair in Rifle on Friday.| Ray K. Erku/Post Independent
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent
A stagecoach rolls down East Third Street in downtown Rifle during the Garfield County Fair parade on Saturday.| Ray K. Erku/Post Independent
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent
Cheerleaders raise pom-poms above their heads during the Garfield County Fair in Rifle on Saturday.| Ray K. Erku/Post Independent
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent
A fire truck sprays water into the air during the Garfield County Fair parade on Saturday.| Ray K. Erku/Post Independent
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent
A tie down roper competes at the PRCA ProRodeo night at the 2022 Garfield County Fair and Rodeo on Thursday.| Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A bull rider is thrown head over heels during the PRCA ProRodeo night at the 2022 Garfield County Fair and Rodeo on Thursday.| Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

PHOTOS: 2022 Garfield County Fair lamb and goat shows

Tilden Bevan shows his medium weight market lamb during the 2022 Garfield County Fair lamb show on Thursday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Chance Valezquez stands with his goat during the 2022 Garfield County Fair goat show on Thursday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Colton Jewell (right) and Mia McCullough stand with their goats during the goat show at the 2022 Garfield County Fair on Thursday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A 4-H boy hangs out with his lamb in between shows at the 2022 Garfield County Fair on Thursday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Gracin Casaus walks around the arena with his goat during the 2022 Garfield County Fair goat show on Thursday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Aleah Herrick stands with her goat during the goat show at the 2022 Garfield County Fair on Thursday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Allyson Sandidge is congratulated by friends and family after winning Grand Champion Market Lamb at the 2022 Garfield County Fair on Thursday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Two 4-H girls stand with their market lambs during the lamb show at the 2022 Garield County Fair on Thursday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Low water levels prompt Rifle Gap State Park to close boat ramps beginning Aug. 15

Declining water levels at Rifle Gap Reservoir have prompted Colorado Parks and Wildlife to close boat ramps at the park starting Aug. 15, six weeks earlier than last year and two-and-a-half months earlier than the normal closure date of Oct. 31, parks officials announced.

“Rifle Gap Reservoir is used primarily for irrigation, and it is typical for water levels to drop dramatically throughout the year,” Rifle State Parks Complex Manager Brian Palcer said in a Thursday news release. “We are still feeling the effects of the unusually dry weather and low reservoir levels from 2021.

“Our hope was that the late season snow would have increased runoff and reservoir water levels this year. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough.”

The final day for inspections and access to the reservoir for trailered watercraft will be Aug. 14. The inspection station will be closed the following day and barriers will be in place.

While the boat ramp will be closed, the reservoir is still open to paddleboards, canoes and kayaks. The campground and picnic area will also remain open, and there’s access to multiple hiking trails and shoreline fishing.

The boat ramp at Harvey Gap Reservoir remains open, however boaters using that facility are reminded that motorized boats are limited to a motor size of 20 horsepower or less. 

For more information, visit CPW’s websites for Rifle Gap State Park and Harvey Gap State Park

PHOTOS: Xtreme Bull Riding night at the 2022 Garfield County Fair and Rodeo

A bull rider tapes up his wrists before the start of Wednesday night’s Xtreme Bull Riding portion of the 2022 Garfield County Fair and Rodeo.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A bull rider stretches and gears up behind the chutes before the start of the Xtreme Bull Riding night at the 2022 Garfield County Fair and Rodeo on Wednesday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A bull rider prepares behind the chutes before the start of Wednesday’s Xtreme Bull Riding portion of the 2022 Garfield County Fair and Rodeo.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A bull rider laces up his boots behind the chutes before the start of Wednesday’s Xtreme Bull Riding portion of the 2022 Garfield County Fair and Rodeo.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A bull rider hangs out behind the chutes before the start of the Xtreme Bull Riding portion of the 2022 Garfield County Fair and Rodeo on Wednesday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Cowboys hangout behind the chutes before the start of Wednesday’s Xtreme Bull Riding portion of the 2022 Garfield County Fair and Rodeo.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Cowboys hangout behind the chutes before the start of Wednesday’s Xtreme Bull Riding portion of the 2022 Garfield County Fair and Rodeo.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Bull riders bow their heads in prayer before the start of the 2022 Garfield County Fair and Rodeo Xtreme Bull Riding on Wednesday evening.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A cowboy gears up for some bull riding at the 2022 Garfield County Fair and Rodeo Xtreme Bull Riding night on Wednesday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A bull rider hangs on in hopes of making the eight seconds at the Xtreme Bull Riding portion of the 2022 Garfield County Fair and Rodeo on Wednesday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A cowboy gears up for some bull riding at the 2022 Garfield County Fair and Rodeo Xtreme Bull Riding night on Wednesday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A bull rider hits the ground after being throw off at Wednesday’s Xtreme Bull Riding portion of the 2022 Garfield County Fair and Rodeo.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A bull rider hangs on in hopes of making the eight seconds at the Xtreme Bull Riding portion of the 2022 Garfield County Fair and Rodeo on Wednesday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A bull rider hangs on in hopes of making the eight seconds at the Xtreme Bull Riding portion of the 2022 Garfield County Fair and Rodeo on Wednesday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Garfield County Community Corrections workers to see COVID bonus pay

About two dozen employees at the Garfield County Community Corrections Center outside Rifle are due for a one-time pay bonus, using leftover COVID-19 relief funds.

But the 2-1 decision by the county commissioners Monday to use the restricted funds in that way didn’t come without some concerns around equity.

Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, who voted against the bonus, noted that all county employees were impacted by the pandemic in some way, and said it could be seen as unfair that just one department gets a bonus.

The commissioners also just approved a 5% mid-year across-the-board pay raise for county workers, he noted. And that was on top of a 5% raise to start the year.

But the pot of money being tapped for the community corrections workers is designated for COVID-related purposes within the county’s criminal justice programs. 

If left unused, it must go back to the state, Community Corrections Administrator Rodney Hollandsworth said during the Monday Board of County Commissioners meeting.

The Community Corrections Center, which provides a work-release alternative to jail time for low-level, low-risk offenders, was hit with multiple COVID-19 outbreaks over the past two years.

That resulted in staffing shortages and extra stress on the staff, coupled with hiring challenges since that time, facility Supervisor Travis Horton said during the meeting.  

The remaining $113,000 can only be used for COVID impacts within the criminal justice programs, Hollandsworth said, and the recommendation was made to use it for the community corrections worker bonuses.

Commissioners Mike Samson and John Martin said they shared some of Jankovsky’s concerns, but approved the request since the money couldn’t be used elsewhere.

Garfield County presses point in reevaluation of oil and gas leasing policies

Decisions whether to lease federal lands for oil and gas production should equally weigh economic and environmental impacts, an energy economics consultant working with Garfield County says in recent comments to area Bureau of Land Management officials.

County commissioners this week submitted a letter to BLM Upper Colorado District officials in Grand Junction offering comment on some of the alternatives under consideration in a court-ordered review of the Resource Management Plans (RMPs) for the BLM’s Colorado River Valley and Grand Junction field offices.

Among them is a preliminary alternative that could ultimately close up to 80% of area BLM lands to future leasing, based on 2012 production potential estimates.

The RMPs were approved in 2015 with significant input from Garfield County. In them, lands determined 10 years ago to have low, medium or unknown oil and gas production potential could be closed to leasing.

But much has changed in that time, commissioners said in their comments, which are part of the court-ordered Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) revisions for the two field offices.

“There have been significant advances in the understanding of the area geology as well as the technologies available to produce Piceance Basin oil and gas since 2012, to the degree we question the validity of using what may be outdated and erroneous production potential ratings without at least some reevaluation of more up-to-date information,” the county says in its written comments.

Potentially closing off 80%, or even 50% of the area BLM lands to future leasing “would represent a significant loss to Garfield County, and our economy,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said during the Monday Board of County Commissioners meeting when the letter was ratified on a 3-0 vote.

The ongoing BLM SEIS for oil and gas leasing is slated to be the main top of discussion at Thursday’s monthly Garfield County Energy Advisory Board meeting in Rifle, at 6 p.m. at the Garfield County Rifle Administration Building, 195 W. 14th St., second floor.

Larry Sandoval, field manager for the BLM’s Colorado River Valley Field Office, has been invited to discuss the ongoing court-ordered reevaluation of lands allocated as open or closed to oil and gas leasing.

The court orders also mandate that leasing decisions include an analysis of post-production greenhouse gas emissions that could result from combustion of fluid minerals extracted from federal lands.

Commissioners, in their comments to the BLM, said there’s a bigger picture that needs to be given equal weight.

“We believe a component of that analysis should include careful evaluation of the importance of natural gas production as a fuel for power generation and heating purposes, as well as to support development of the wide range of natural-gas-derived products that are critically needed to support general quality of life and the local and national economy,” the county writes.

Commissioners refer to a recent study done on behalf of the county by University of Wyoming energy economist Tim Considine outlining economic losses in Garfield County totaling hundreds of millions of dollars related to new oil and gas regulations from the state and federal government. 

Considine was also asked to provide his own comments related to six areas under review in the SEIS and the potential adverse economic impacts on Garfield and neighboring gas-producing counties.

“Producing oil and gas from federal lands involves striking a balance between environmental quality and economic development,” Considine writes in his comments summary. “The single most important challenge for BLM in complying with this order is to recognize that if leasing is restricted in western Colorado, prices will increase and production will shift to other regions.”

Because Colorado has some of the more stringent air quality standards and other new regulations around oil and gas activity, that shift could end up having greater environmental impacts, Considine also surmised.

“An economic impact analysis of more restrictive leasing policies should be conducted to identify their costs in terms of lost employment, income and tax revenues,” he wrote.

jstroud@postindependent.com

Rifle municipal court adding drug possession to city ordinance could help deter missed court dates

Rifle City Council aims to prevent people from missing court dates by adding a possession clause to its existing municipal drug law. The proposal was approved unanimously July 20.

Rifle Municipal Court Administrator Kathy Pototsky told City Council that, until recently, people were oftentimes having to attend separate courts over drug offenses.

Anyone charged with both possession and use of a controlled substance was summoned to Rifle municipal court for the use charge while the possession charge had to be resolved in county court.

The dual court dates caused confusion, sometimes leading people to miss court appearances.  

“The mix-up happens all the time regardless of case type because sometimes individuals just know that they need to appear in Rifle and don’t realize that there are two courts here,” Pototsky told the Citizen Telegram on July 25. “By adding the minor drug cases here we are simply hoping to be able to handle the entire case in municipal court, which prevents our citizens from being required to appear in multiple courts.”

Pototsky said the amendment helps prevents cases being split between courts. She’s confident the city’s current judge and prosecutor are able to meet these extra needs. 

“Throughout the country, drug offenses are becoming less severe, and our state legislature followed suit and reduced the severity of most of the drug cases from felonies to misdemeanors,” she said. 

In March 2020, Colorado dropped possession of 4 grams of methamphetamine, cocaine, ecstasy or heroin from a felony to a misdemeanor offense. And in lieu of a typical 6- to 18-month jail sentence, courts now often impose misdemeanor probation sentences. 

According to the newly amended Rifle city ordinance, anyone caught in possession of a substance — excluding any offenses concerning marijuana or marijuana concentrates — not prescribed or dispensed under a licensed fashion faces Class A misdemeanor.

In addition, anyone caught using a controlled substance — excluding any offenses concerning marijuana or marijuana concentrates — not prescribed or dispensed under a licensed fashion faces a Class B misdemeanor.

“We have a case, maybe, where you have someone who’s picked up for shoplifting or trespass, and they also have drugs on them,” Pototsky said. “Right now that trespass could be written into municipal court with the drug part of it being written in county court. This way, you can charge them all within our city.”

City documents state the former municipal code led to missed court dates and appearances in the wrong location. Pototsky said there’s no telling just exactly how many people have missed court dates based on this circumstance alone because “it’s almost always discovered that day when county court notices someone sitting there who isn’t on their docket or vice versa.”

“This also puts us in a better position to tailor dispositions to individual needs without involving different prosecutors, judges and attorneys,” she said.

Rifle City Council Member Alicia Gresley said on July 20 the city expanding their drug ordinance could also help police’s role easier.

“I’m sure it does get confusing with somebody’s issue (over) the summons for two different courts,” she said.

Community profile: Western Garfield County teens use online gaming to publish children’s book

Luana Poston and Sophia Wilson didn’t expect an online game would lead to them writing a children’s book.

It was 2020, and Wilson and Poston were playing a Roblox role-playing game that allows users to create their own characters. The two middle schoolers and friends, now 13, developed one of their characters as a spider.

Family friend Brett Lark, a book publisher, YouTuber/producer and an Aspen High School graduate, one day suggested Poston consider writing a book.

“I guess the spider thing that me and Sophia did just came to my mind, so that’s how it kind of started,” Poston said.

Lark’s publishing company, Brett Lark LLC, started in 2018 and has so far put out a handful of works, including a life-coaching book written by Poston’s mother, Andreia. All are available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

“I think it’s really cool,” Wilson said. “I mean, we’re still young, and you don’t see a lot of young people publishing things.”

Wilson and Poston’s book — “Spider Friend” — is about two sisters (Poston and Wilson pretend they’re sisters in real life). The sisters’ task for the day was to clean, and while they were cleaning they encountered a spider, which they would eventually befriend.

“I guess the moral is to understand that we don’t have to kill all the bugs, because some of them are necessary,” Poston said. “Especially in the summer, spiders can be really helpful.” 

The twist comes when the reader is told the spider was actually a human boy that a witch turned into a spider for being disrespectful.

“We kind of got the idea from ‘Beauty and the Beast,’” Wilson said.

Wilson and Poston grew up together in western Garfield County, with Wilson attending Rifle Middle School and Poston going to Two Rivers Community School in Glenwood Springs.

When Lark originally suggested Poston write a children’s book, the first person who came to mind was Wilson. She needed help writing and editing the story.

“That’s when I came into the picture,” Wilson said. “At first it was nothing, so we started adding a little bit of things on to it, which is where some of the other characters came into the book.”

Poston said they are a good mix.

“Because I love writing,” she said. “It’s just, when (Wilson) comes into the picture, she’s really good at peer editing. I think after that is when everything really tied together.”

Writing a children’s book sounds difficult. Developing a storyline in itself is a tall order, but Andreia Poston was surprised by just how quickly it took when Luana and Wilson told her they were exercising their literary prose for a publisher.

“I left to work, and when I came back, ‘Mom, I wrote a book,’” Andreia Poston recalled.

She also spoke of Lark providing what’s turned into an indelible opportunity for Luana and Wilson.

“It’s amazing that they’re going to have something to show for the rest of their lives,” she said. 

Being 13 years old and already having their names across the front cover of a book available for purchase on Amazon is a feat few have accomplished.

That’s why Garfield County Libraries are publicly highlighting their work. The two are slated to be featured at the Silt Branch Library at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 18. In addition to meeting with the public, Wilson and Luana are entering a children’s writing competition being offered by Lark. Lark is currently accepting children’s book writers to enter by messaging him on Instagram, @brettlark.

Writing a story is hard, the young authors agreed. In order to write more, they need all the confidence and convincing they can get. 

“To do a continuous story, we’d have to think of a whole new kind of genre,” Luana said. “I think that definitely takes some work, and I feel like if this gets a lot more recognition is when we’ll really start thinking about it.”

If you go…

What: Meet the authors of “Spider Friend,” Sophia Wilson and Luana Poston

Where: Silt Branch Library, 680 Home Ave.

When: 6:30 p.m. Aug. 18

How much: free

Academic summer camp at Rifle Middle School provides free services to 160 students

Some parents living in Western Garfield County who commute upvalley to Aspen every morning face a challenging dilemma of having to find affordable day care for their children.

BoostCamp, a free holistic youth engagement program offered by Carbondale-based nonprofit Access AfterSchool, had 160 kids enroll this year in its summer session. The program serves students entering first through fifth grades. 

The six-week program was based out of Rifle Middle School and ran five days a week 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. from June 13 through July 22. From 20-25 staff, including teachers and counselors, oversee the program, and it is one of six programs Access AfterSchool has offered throughout the valley since 2009.

Access AfterSchool Program Manager Sheila Maurer said each morning kids are given academic lessons before spending afternoons engaging in more hands-on activities.

Students participate in activities ranging from cooking and sewing to learning math and science. 

“We have really fun enrichment classes in the afternoon like cooking and science, and they do PE stuff and fun water stuff, and they go to the pool,” she said. “We take them on field trips every Friday.”

Field trips are diverse, and include the Eureka! McConnell Science Museum, Rifle Falls State Park or even a dip at the Rifle Metro Pool. 

Dr. Laurie Michaels sits on the Access AfterSchool board of directors. An advocate for youth from Aspen to Parachute, she wanted to begin a program for kids who were perhaps left at home when their parents went to work in summertime.

Michaels said, in the past, there were no summer programs for Rifle students. In the Rifle program’s first year alone, 60 students enrolled. That number has since increased, with 75 kids on this summer’s wait list.

“I think kids down there should have the same opportunity parents give their kids in the Upper Roaring Fork Valley,” she said.

Many of the teachers used for BoostCamp come from the Garfield School District Re-2. The district also provides facilities at Rifle Middle School.

Meanwhile, through a partnership with American Red Cross organization Totes for Hope, BoostCamp offers free breakfast, lunch and afternoon snacks.

“It’s a fairness issue. A kid is a kid,” Michaels said. “You don’t want to be stuck indoors on a beautiful, sunny day because there’s no one to chaperone you.”

Access AfterSchool Executive Director Deb Rice said BoostCamp relies on substantial grant funding offered through the Colorado Health Foundation. The organization partners with nonprofits to better bolster mental and physical health across the state.

“I’ve been the executive director for 14 years, and it’s all about building communities,” she said. “When our youth are taken care of and our families are supported, you just create this community that thrives and kids are socially and emotionally supported, and it helps support the schools.”

“It’s a win-win for everyone.” 

For more information about BoostCamp and Access AfterSchool, visit https://www.accessafterschool.org

Construction coming to West Second Street in Rifle

Rifle City Council unanimously awarded a bid July 20 to undergo constructive rehabilitation efforts on West Second Street. Work includes improving drainage, revamping roadway and beautification efforts.

The bid — $569,226 — was awarded to Rifle-based Frontier Paving Inc. and came in $56,923 less than the estimate offered by the second bidder.

Rifle Civil Engineer Craig Spaulding also told the council Frontier’s bid came in within 3% of the original engineer estimate.

“That estimate was done early this year, so I was actually concerned that they were going to be much more than 3% over my estimate,” he said. “But we were very pleased with the number.”

Spaulding told council construction will begin after the city receives an asphalt shipment. This could happen within three weeks, with project completion anticipated for the end of October.

Spaulding also said traffic flaggers will be deployed to orchestrate single-lane traffic on West Second Street. The street will also temporarily close down during excavation and paving periods.

“There are impacts expected, but we’ll have to talk to businesses there to make sure we coordinate,” he said.

The city originally began project designs for West Second Street in 2014. But the project was tabled due to budget constraints, according to city documents.

In May, however, the city received a $150,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Transportation, which helps fund 24% of total project cost.

Rifle Public Works Director Brian Prunty said since the project was originally conceived eight years ago, “it fits within the scope” of the city budget and wasn’t an effort thrown around at the last moment.

“I think it definitely enhances our downtown area and will encourage development there,” he said.

West Second Street, considered a prime development space, has sat unimproved for some time now. The downtown Rifle roadway is occupied by just one business to its north and a dirt parking lot to its south.

Meanwhile, a laundry service used to operate on West Second Street but closed down in the mid 2000s, city documents state.

But this part of Second Street has also recently received interest to develop. Namely, Chicago-based Evergreen Real Estate Group proposed in January developing a 50-unit affordable housing complex that, per city code, would also include commercial units on the first floor. Nothing so far has come of that proposed development since then.

City staff said there’s potential to attract more prospective developers to West Second Street if infrastructure is improved and the block is beautified.