| PostIndependent.com

Sunday Profile: ‘Thank you for your service’

Garfield County Veterans Service Officer Lisa Reed-Scott had a busy day Tuesday.

She, along with members of the Western Slope Veterans Coalition, celebrated the third anniversary of the Jesse Beckius/Casey Owens Veterans Resource Center in downtown Glenwood Springs with an open house to the community.

The location is named after two local veterans who died by suicide in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

The alarming rate of suicides among veterans is one of the many challenges Reed-Scott hopes to combat by raising awareness.

Reed-Scott was named Garfield County Veterans Service Officer (VSO) in February, after working at the Colorado Veterans Community Living Center in Rifle for 11 years.

Although the Rifle resident is still settling in to her new position, helping local veterans in need has been a longtime mission of hers.

“I’m here for them,” she says. “I need to make sure that I listen to every veteran that comes through this door and help them in any way I can.”

Some of the veteran services Reed-Scott provides include assistance with paperwork for disability claims, education benefits, health care, and Veterans Administration appointments.

“When you go on the military, they train you to be a soldier, but no one trains you to be a civilian,” said Charles Hopton, Board President of the Western Slope Veterans Coalition. “Our job is to provide that information and help.”

Reed-Scott and the Western Slope Veterans Coalition share offices and efforts at the Resource Center building located at 803 Colorado Ave. in Glenwood Springs.

She also works part-time from the Garfield County office in Rifle.

Something Bigger Than Herself

The sole woman to serve in a family with three generations of veterans before her, Reed-Scott enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1991 at age 20.

“People thought I was crazy.”

“I wanted to do something bigger than myself,” she said. “Because of Desert Storm, the Marine Corps was the only branch allowing women to go in at the time.”

The Marine Corps has the lowest ratio of women among all of the U.S military branches. Even though that didn’t stop Reed-Scott from enlisting, it was a constant challenge throughout her service years.

“There were not a lot of women,” she said. “I had to do it better because it was so difficult to gain their respect.”

Reed-Scott served as a communications operator, MOS 2542. She was stationed in Japan and California and was close to being deployed to Somalia.

“I was on-call 24 hours a day,” she recalled. “We were preparing, that’s what our job was.”

The Michigan native got emotional when remembering her time in service.

“My favorite part was the camaraderie with the other Marines,” she said. “You learn not to take life for granted.

“It’s a tough experience, but it’s worthwhile. You are doing something bigger than yourself.”

After being honorably discharged in 1995, Reed-Scott moved to Parachute before settling in in Rifle — a city she hopes will be her forever home.

“I wanted to raise my kids here.”

No One Left Behind

According to Reed-Scott, the majority of veterans who seek help from the Garfield County Veterans Services are Vietnam veterans, followed by those who served in the Korean and Gulf Wars.

She continues to point out that female veterans are a rarity.

“Getting through to a woman can be 10 times harder than getting through a man,” she says. “They just put their walls up.”

She affirmed that until recently there were no services or groups focused on women veterans in the Western Slope, which made it difficult for those seeking specialized assistance.

“If a woman was assaulted in service, do you think she would want to discuss that with a group of men?” Reed-Scott said. “It makes it harder for them to reach out for help.”

Housing, substance abuse, homelessness, mental health and suicide are the main issues affecting Garfield County veterans of all ages, the VSO reports. 

But she believes everyone can find their own way to help, and a simple way to start is by showing appreciation.

From making financial donations to the Coalition, which Alpine Bank will match up to $5,000, to more local businesses providing special military discounts — Reed-Scott said just listening to veterans or offering a simple “thank you for your service” can go a long way.

“These men and women are fascinating and have so many amazing stories to share.”

For more information on veteran services provided by Garfield County, contact the VSO Lisa Reed-Scott at 970-948-6767 or garfield.vso@outlook.com.

“The first step is contacting us, we can get help,” she says. “I’m a Marine and I don’t leave anybody behind.”

Video

The Tuesday event also celebrated the United States Marine Corps’ 244th birthday with a cake-cutting ceremony led by Lt. Col. Dick Merritt.

https://youtu.be/Dvb80pKc4xk

nolen@postindependent.com

Sunlight snowmaking is in full swing, in anticipation of possible early opening

Ross Terry can remember starting snowmaking operations in October maybe only once in his long tenure with Sunlight Mountain Resort outside of Glenwood Springs. 

But nothing quite like last week, when the area received 6 inches of natural snow Tuesday, followed by frigid temperatures that allowed for a 36-hour stretch of continuous snowmaking Tuesday night through Wednesday.

During a normal 24-hour period when temperatures are right, Sunlight can put close to 2 acre-feet of crystalized water on the ground, according to Terry, the assistant general manager and operations director for the resort. 

That translates to about 4 acre-feet of snow, or enough to cover 4 acres with a foot of snow depth, Terry explained.

“If this is not the earliest, it ties the earliest,” Terry said of the October start. “This is definitely the coldest I’ve seen it get in October.”

Snowmaking operations continued at Sunlight during the colder nighttime and morning hours late in the week and through the weekend, and the ski area is on its way to a possible early opening — if the weather continues to cooperate.

So, what does it entail to build that all-important early-season snow base at Sunlight?

Sunlight has enough water rights on Four Mile Creek to pump about 450 gallons per minute of water into the snowmaking system, according to Mountain Manager and head snowmaker Mike Baumli.

Sunlight Mountain Manager and head snowmaker Mike Baumli talks about the process the mountain goes through to get the ski resort ready for the upcoming season. (Kyle Mills / Post Independent)
SunlightSnowmaking-gpi-110419-2
Buy Photo

That system includes a series of three containment ponds, two in adjacent Babbish Gulch and another just off upper Four Mile Road.

Water is regulated from those ponds and piped into Sunlight’s pumping station.

The pump house is loud, as water is pushed through and into the large hoses that feed the eight snow guns on the mountain.

“I come in here periodically to check the flow and make sure the pumps are running good, and that we’re not taking more water than we’re supposed to,” Baumli said.

Last week, operating off of just one of two available compressors, Baumli said they were able to pump 385 gallons of water per minute through the system.

Video

The more-efficient HKD snow guns in use now allow Sunlight to operate with less air and less water per gun.

“A big part of the ski business these days is sustainability, which means being efficient with power and water usage,” Baumli said. “We can run three of these [guns] on the same air that used to run one gun, and flow a little less water per gun.

With the below-freezing temperatures, water turns to snow as it shoots out the nozzles on the snowmaking gun at Sunlight Mountain.
SunlightSnowmaking-gpi-110419-3
Buy Photo

“As the technology gets better, it helps us to be more efficient … which is good not only for the environment but for us as a business.”

Sunlight limits its snowmaking to the lower part of the mountain, on the Midway run and parts of lower Joslin where ski races take place during the winter.

Even if the daytime temperatures rise back into the mid-40s at Sunlight’s 8,300-foot base elevation, as they are expected to this week, the snow already on the ground in large piles should remain intact, Baumli said 

“Once it’s on the ground, we leave it in piles and the snow tends to insulate itself,” he said. “With the temperatures warming back up, we’ll keep it in piles as long as we can.”

Sunlight has a scheduled opening day of Dec. 13, but if favorable conditions continue the area might open as early as the weekend after Thanksgiving, according to Sunlight Marketing and Sales Director Troy Hawks.

Snow begins to pile up at the base of Sunlight Mountain on Friday as the ski area prepares for the upcoming season.
SunlightSnowmaking-gpi-110419-4
Buy Photo

In the meantime, Sunlight is closed for all activities while snowmaking operations are underway. 

“We advise hikers, snowshoers and cross country skiers to utilize the Babbish Gulch backcountry trails until snowmaking is complete,” Hawks said.

jstroud@postindependent.com

Video: Halloween pumpkin carving with CT editor Kyle Mills

This Halloween we challenged our Citizen Telegram editor and western Garfield County reporter Kyle Mills to show us his pumpkin carving skills at the CT office in downtown Rifle.

Mills did not disappoint and created a Star Wars-inspired carving while he talked about his new role as an editor and why Halloween is one of his favorite holidays.

Video

Video: Glenwood Springs spookiest outdoor Halloween decorations

This week we went on a hunt for the spookiest outdoor Halloween decorations across Glenwood Springs and were not disappointed.

Video

Dozens turn out for Carbondale’s first indigenous peoples’ celebration

Around 40 people gathered in Sopris Park Monday to participate in Carbondale’s first Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebration.

Ute tribal members came to lead traditional dances and drumming, sharing their culture with those gathered.

Ute elder Roland McCook noted that similar celebrations in rural towns have hundreds of people in attendance.

“This is the least amount of people that I’ve seen at a gathering in a rural area,” McCook said.

“In Buena Vista, I had 200 people show up. In Salida, (the crowd was) out the door; in Paonia, out the door,” McCook said.

The event wasn’t announced until early October, shortly after Carbondale trustees passed a resolution Sept. 24 recognizing the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

McCook didn’t assign blame, but said that those who have roots in rural life are more likely to be interested in the native history of the land than people who recently arrived, McCook said.

McCook talked for an hour and answered questions about Native American history and Ute culture.

Video

The Nuche

The term “Ute” comes from Spanish sources, but it is not the word Ute tribes use to describe themselves. 

“Our name for ourselves is Nuche,” pronounced ‘nooch,’ McCook said.

“We have different interpretations for what that means, but generally, it means people. It refers to us as people of dignity, people of feelings, those mysterious feelings that come, the same as you, from the heart,” McCook said.

Several native dancers and two musicians led the group in songs and dances.

“You’re listening to music and drum beats that are original,” McCook said, introducing singers and dancers who led the group in traditional songs.

“When we sing, it’s like when you hum. When you hum your song and leave the words out, that’s what we do,” McCook said.

The pattern the singers use mirrors the mountains, starting high, and moving down in pitch like streams into the valleys, McCook said.

Celebrating the Nuche

Carbondale residents John Hoffman and Rita Marsh hope that in years to come, the town will celebrate Nuche Day.

“If Carbondale carries it forward, we’ll look at it as Nuche Day along with Potato Day and Dandelion Day. It will help us think in those terms of the indigenous relationship with the planet,” Hoffman said in an interview.

Marsh and Hoffman petitioned the town of Carbondale to recognize Indigenous Peoples Day. Boulder, Denver and Durango declared the second Monday in October Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 2016, and Aspen recognized it in 2017.

That date has significance as the time when the U.S. traditionally celebrates Christopher Columbus, the first Spanish colonialist who arrived in the Americas in the late 15th century.

For Hoffman and Marsh, celebrating indigenous peoples also has an environmental purpose.

“The planet is going through some really radical changes right now,” Hoffman said.

“We treat our planet like our slave, and figure it can take anything we can throw at it. And it is affected by that. One thing indigenous peoples do is feel gratitude for the planet. They live their lives around sustainable parameters that would carry the planet along as a healthy, living being,” he said.

Marsh and Hoffman also run the Roaring Fork Circle, a loosely organized group that meets during full moons to celebrate nature. They were instrumental in naming Nuche Park south of town to honor the Ute tribes, and hope to announce further development of the park later this year.

McCook expressed his support for increasing gratitude for the natural world.

“It takes community strength, community awareness, and I will be right in the middle of it if you give me a chance,” McCook said.

Carbondale trustee Marty Silverstein, who attended the celebration, said it was good to recognize the history of the Nuche in the valley and their environmental message regardless of the number of people who came to the lightly-publicized event.

“I think we did the right thing, and if we continue to do it, the turnout will grow,” Silverstein said. “Sometimes you do something because it’s the right thing to do, whether the turnout is 100 people or 30 people.”

tphippen@postindependent.com

Colorado Center of Excellence unveils new Technodrome at Rifle Garfield County Airport

The sounds of drones on hand weren’t the only buzz filling the new Colorado Center of Excellence for Advanced Technology Aerial Firefighting (CoE) Technodrome on Tuesday at Rifle Garfield County Airport.

More than 70 people had an up-close look at the new 7,000-square-foot indoor facility that allows the center to safely test and evaluate different types of technology for public safety in an enclosed environment.

Center of Excellence Director Ben Miller spoke of the bright future of the center as the afternoon sun lent the fabric-covered structure a glowing yellow. 

“The big advantage of the facility is that we can test new things that aren’t quite allowed or contemplated by the FFA because we are indoors,” Miller said.

“We shut the doors and do all the flying we want to in here. We fly big drones that aren’t allowed outside yet, which exceed the current rules, and if we are successful in here, it shows promise and momentum to approach the FAA. 

The Technodrome was filled with city, county and state public officials including Garfield Board of County Commissioners John Martin, Mike Samson and Tom Jankovsky.

Video

Also on hand were Colorado Department of Public Safety Executive Director Stan Hilkey, and Division of Fire Prevention and Control Director Mike Morgan, the former chief of Colorado River Fire Rescue.

“When the decision was made to build the Center of Excellence at the airport I was the local fire chief, working with the city and commissioners to try and convince the state this was the right place to put the center,” Morgan said. “To be here today and see it moving forward really brings a smile to my face.”

The center is currently working on a handful of projects including aerial application of water enhancer studies, unmanned aerial systems, unmanned aerial systems detection, geospatial mapping and more.

“The drone piece is one of our major projects, we manage all drone operations for the entire Colorado Department of Public Safety. This process began as an internal certification process where we take our staff within Colorado Department of Public Safety to that next level beyond just the FAA certificate,” Miller said.

Located at the Rifle Garfield County Airport, the Center of Excellence employs eight staff members. Employees include firefighters, PhD electrical engineers and attorneys.

Miller said it is a dynamic team, with the ability to look at a lot of stuff and go very in-depth into new technology.

“At the Center of Excellence, we are looking at advanced technologies in public safety. We have a lot of projects, looking at what’s next were looking to track public safety members in the field — firefighters, police officers and etc. to provide them real-time geospatial information about who’s where, what team are they on, and wants their mission.” Miller said.

“We can relate critical things to them, and move it around the incident in real-time.”

Garrett Seddon, Unmanned Systems Project Manager, reiterated why the work done at the facility in south Rifle is so important.

“After the wake of the fires of 2014, their destructive nature, the state government wanted to look at the way we do firefighting. One of those was aerial firefighting and they wanted to put in place a detection for fires to prevent devastating fires,” Seddon said.

The center looks at advanced technologies and gets it into the hands of public safety officials or practitioners on the ground, so they can use these tools to make life-saving decisions.

With the new Technodrome, the Center of Excellence has a multiuse facility at its disposal.

“Our main focus is on public service agencies, we are here if the general public ever has any questions we can help them answer those questions,” Seddon said. “But our training efforts and initiatives are all focused toward public safety agencies.”

The Colorado Center of Excellence for Advanced Technology Aerial Firefighting unveiled the new Technodrome facility Tuesday at the Rifle Garfield County Airport. The 7,000-square-foot structure will be used for testing and evaluation of new technology and drone testing. Kyle Mills / Citizen Telegram
CoETechnodrome-rct-101019-1
Buy Photo
A variety of drones of different shapes, sizes, and uses were on display during Tuesday’s event. The 7,000 square foot indoor structure will be instrumental in testing new drone technology to aid the public service sector. Kyle Mills / Citizen Telegram
CoETechnodrome-rct-101019-3
Buy Photo

kmills@postindependent.com

Mountain lion on the highway highlights dangers of autumn driving (VIDEO)

Rural Colorado residents know wildlife on the road is always a possibility.

Around 7 a.m. Wednesday morning, a mountain lion crossing southbound Colorado Highway 82 near Glenwood Springs was apparently hit by a car and stumbled awkwardly through rush hour traffic.

Video posted on a popular online Facebook group shows the mountain lion seemingly dazed on the highway.

“I think he was hit…. He seemed super disoriented and out of it,” said Jenna Bontempo when she posted the video to the group.

Matt Yamashita, area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said in a statement that his office didn’t receive any calls about that mountain lion.

But Yamashita saw the Facebook post, and went out to check for the big cat later.

“I drove by the area about 90 minutes after it occurred and did not observe anything,” Yamashita said.

“Based on the comments it appears that the lion was supposedly hit by a car crossing Highway 82, which explains the lethargic and carefree behavior. All witnesses reported that it jumped the guardrail and left the Highway shortly after the video ended,” Yamashita said.

Parks and Wildlife reminds drivers to be aware that wildlife often cross roadways.

“There is always the possibility of colliding with a wild animal,” Mike Porras of CPW said.

As the days get shorter, and temperatures cool, the chances of seeing wildlife on the road may increase.

“Wildlife is active especially at dusk and dawn. As we’re getting into part of the year when it gets darker earlier, people are going to be commuting at the times when wildlife start to ramp up their activities,” Porras said.

Also, during the fall season as temperatures cool, animals migrate to lower elevations. The constricting wildlife corridors often intersect busy roads, Porras said.

Porras said Gov. Jared Polis’ recent executive order to study wildlife corridors is a step in the right direction to protecting both drivers and wildlife.

“We want to make sure that drivers are safe, and wildlife is protected,” Porras said.

Driving with the risk of wildlife on the roadways comes down to awareness and knowing how to respond when deer, elk, bears, lions or even moose cross the road, according to Porras.

“You want to be able to slow down without losing control of the vehicle. In many cases, people are injured by trying to avoid the collision than they are by colliding with the animal,” Porras said.

tphippen@postindependent.com

The true magic of Costa Rica

When the whales began breaching the surface of the water at Costa Rica’s Marino Ballena National Park less than 100 feet from our tour boat, we, along with the other 17 “tourists” on board, gasped in unison.

The sight of 50-foot-long, 30-ton giants hurling themselves skyward, then splashing down in a massive belly-flop left us shaking like Ahab on the Pequod.

But to say that was the highlight of our two-week, self-guided adventure in Costa Rica would be to diminish the unspoiled beauty of the beaches in Guanacaste, the lofty grandeur of the volcanoes in the Central Valley, and the charm of the Costa Rican people who greeted us with smiles and helping hands on our travels up and down the Pacific coast.

At Playa Hermosa we watched the liquid sun seem to melt into the ocean while lighting our whole world with hues of orange and red.

At Arenal Volcano we ziplined above and through the rain forest canopy, walked across wobbly hanging bridges 200 feet above the forest floor, and swam both in the cool river flowing from 230-foot-high La Fortuna Waterfall, and the hot river downstream from Tabacon Hot Springs.

Then there was Playa Conchal, a beach literally made of millions of tiny, crushed shells that stretches over a mile long, where we bathed in the sun and the warm, crystal clear waters.

Costa Rica is the kind of place where howler monkeys and three-toed sloths hang out in neighborhood trees, and rural roads display “Iguana Crossing” signs.

The insects we worried would infest us never did. They were too busy being eaten by the reptiles, amphibians, birds and bats.

The rainforests of Costa Rica are in balance, and that is the magic of a country where an ecologically conscious government has preserved a quarter of its land in national parks and reserves, and 98.5% of its energy comes from renewable sources.

If it’s not the garden of Eden, it does a pretty good imitation.

Watch

Big donation boosts STEM learning at Glenwood’s St. Stephen School

Sixth grader Alice Cleaver likes the more hands-on, and less eyes-on approach to science learning at St. Stephen School in Glenwood Springs.

That’s because the new STEM lab microscopes — purchased out of a $50,000 donation from a longtime school supporter — have computerized screens, instead of an eyepiece to view what’s under the lens. 

“I like how the microscopes have actual screens so we don’t have to put our eye on it,” Cleaver said during a Tuesday science experiment day using the new lab equipment.

“I always have fun in science, because you can learn about animals and other new stuff,” she said.

Classmate Elijah Kelley agreed.

“I like that you can learn about space, and animals, and genetics, and DNA, and just how things work,” he said. “I really like the robots, because you can choose between coding it or just driving it around with your fingers, or drawing a path on your iPad and it will do that path.”

Watch

The new middle school science lab at the pre-kindergarten-through-eighth grade Catholic school was made possible through a grant from longtime Glenwood Springs resident Chris McGovern.

“The school has benefitted from receiving some master teachers, and I wanted to help build on that,” said McGovern, whose now-adult children attended St. Stephen School in the 1980s and who has supported the school in different ways over the years.

When she inquired about making a charitable donation, the school’s leaders said a modern STEM lab would be of benefit to the school.

“We had a window of opportunity to get it done before the school year started, and I really wanted to make sure the students had a proper room and the equipment to go with it, as part of rounding out their education.”

Jenna Payne, the middle school science teacher at St. Stephen, said the new lab equipment fits her teaching style.

“Since we’re such a small school, it’s great to have all this new equipment,” she said. “I’ve always taught science hands-on, so to be able to have access to whatever I need is pretty fantastic.”

After introducing the new equipment to the students last week, she used Tuesday to introduce some new concepts to her students.

“It’s nice to take a little break from the unit we’re studying and learn something new,” Payne said.

St. Stephen Principal Glenda Oliver said the new lab equipment helps forward the school’s STEM initiative at the same time that the school is raising money for a new gymnasium and school remodel.

“It’s really allowing the kids a hands-on experience with STEM, and they’re also learning how to do some coding with applied math,” Oliver said. 

“It gets to where we see the future jobs are for these kids, where they’re going to have to be able to solve problems and work in groups. Obviously, having computer, math and applied science skills is going to benefit them down the road.”

St. Stephen now serves around 160 students, and has seen a big change in its student population in recent years as the school has begun offering more tuition assistance. That’s also come with the help of donations, grants and foundation support, Oliver said.

As one result, the school now has a student population that is about 66% Latino. About 0.05% of the students are classified as English Language Learners, she said.

“We think that the population of our student body more closely reflects that of our community than it did in the past,” Oliver said. “Another thing that is different is that we have students coming to St. Stephen’s from Basalt, Carbondale, New Castle, Silt and Rifle.”

jstroud@postindependent.com

Watch: Running of the Balls in Carbondale with PI reporter John Stroud

We sat down with Post Independent Senior Reporter and Rotary Club of Carbondale President John Stroud during the second annual ‘Running of the Balls event that took place at Carbondale’s First Friday on Sept. 6.

Stroud talked about his journey as a community reporter in the Roaring Fork Valley and his love for the town of Carbondale, Colorado.

Watch

nolen@postindependent.com