The Flume is fortunate to have had a diverse range of news and feature stories to share with readers in recent weeks. 

From traditional, fun-filled local happenings like the Park County Fair and World Championship Pack Burro races, to more serious ongoing news stories such as CDOT’s planned improvements to U.S. Highway 285 and strategies for reopening Park County schools this fall, there has been an abundance of intriguing topics to cover and discuss on these pages.

We have also been pleased to receive so many thought-provoking entries written by you, our readers, for inclusion on our editorial pages. It is an honor to have so many community-minded citizens choosing to make their voices heard via The Flume. We encourage and welcome your submissions, as always.

An extended news cycle

One story in particular that has been, and will continue to be a priority for The Flume and its readers, is CDOT’s planned improvements to U.S. Highway 285. 

I covered a meeting sponsored by CDOT in October of 2019 where citizens were invited to discuss improvements to what has become one of the state’s deadliest highways. That meeting ended with the understanding that no major changes, especially the removal of the traffic light at the intersection of CR 43A and U.S. Highway 285, would occur without additional community input.

I recently covered a July 9 meeting whereby CDOT representatives unveiled detailed plans to relieve traffic congestion and reduce accidents along U.S. Highway 285 through Bailey, and near the intersection of U.S. Highway 285 and CR 43A, at the cost of $1.35 million. And to the dismay of many local residents, the plan called for the removal of the traffic light at that intersection.

The unveiling of CDOT’s plans seemed premature, and even underhanded to many local citizens who were still awaiting their opportunity to provide collective and individual input on the subject, as was promised to them in October of 2019. 

The July 9 meeting predictably sparked community-wide criticism for a variety of reasons that were enumerated in my story published July 17, as well as a story co-authored by contributors Mark R. Linné and Katherine Molieri published July 31. 

The July 31 story, in fact, entitled “Community rallies against CDOT plan for U.S. Highway 285,” covered a pair of public meetings held by local residents and CR 43A-area business owners to organize opposition to CDOT’s proposed plans.

It is not the intent here to argue for or against CDOT’s proposed improvements. I don’t have enough information to do so, and frankly, traffic management is well outside the bounds of my expertise. 

Many stakeholders clearly do not believe their voices are being heard by CDOT, and in all fairness, that too seems a serious but difficult accusation to prove even though there might be considerable circumstantial evidence to support their claim. 

I would, however, offer the following observation: If local citizens don’t genuinely believe their wishes and concerns are being considered, then selling them on this CDOT project, or any other CDOT project, will be a difficult task at best. 

Perception, as they say, is reality, and many local stakeholders currently perceive themselves to be entirely locked out of the decision-making process. 

Those local stakeholders also risk their personal safety daily on the underdeveloped, overused and always-chaotic confines U.S. Highway 285. With that in mind, it might be advisable for CDOT to offer them a meaningful place at the table and to draw upon their vast local knowledge during the months and years ahead.

Just an observation …

On the lighter side

Back in April it looked as though COVID-19 concerns might prompt the outright cancellation of both the 100th Park County Fair, as well as the 72nd running of the World Pack Burro Championships in Fairplay.

Park County Fair organizers, however, as well as the Western Pack Burro Association, found a way to satisfy and enforce social distancing measures and salvage the events after all. 

The end result was a pair of vastly modified, but extremely successful events. The Park County Fair occurred July 14-19, and the annual burro races went off without a hitch July 25. 

In an article dated July 24, Park County Manager Tom Eisenman recounted the Herculean effort required by county employees and fair volunteers in order to bring the 2020 Park County Fair to fruition under extremely challenging circumstances. 

Eisenman said he knew abiding by COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions would make the execution of the Park County Fair extraordinarily challenging, but that a core of capable individuals and entities worked overtime to ensure the event’s ultimate success. 

The planning and execution of burro races was no less difficult, but race director Brad Wann and his staff were determined to see the event through while maintaining and enforcing social distancing measures from start to finish.

“I’m really proud of all the members who volunteered,” Wann said. “They showed you can still have fun in a responsible, healthy way, even in these difficult times.”

Anything less than a Herculean effort would not have sufficed to bring these events to fruition, and Park County residents owe a tip of the hat to all parties involved for their creativity and determination. 

They could have just as easily thrown in the proverbial towel and opted to cancel these events altogether. Thank goodness they didn’t.

Great folks make great stories 

When thinking about some of July’s most memorable feature stories, I can’t help but marvel at the one-of-a kind personalities that made each of them possible. 

Mark Lyons and his countless contributions to the mountain biking community, Iretta Bell and her memorable burro racing victory in 1959, Roger Pedretti and his dogged determination to continue racing in honor of his brother and a group of pickleball enthusiasts at Warm Springs Ranch provided a wealth of compelling subjects for feature stories published in The Flume throughout the month of July.

Much of our news in recent months has revolved around a worldwide viral pandemic and civil unrest across the nation – not the cheeriest of topics, to say the least. But the previously mentioned entities and individuals provided a much-needed diversion from the gloomier, more serious topics that have dominated our news cycle in recent months.

Thanks to all of these remarkable people for sharing their personal stories with The Flume and its readers. Their willingness to do so provided positivity and inspiration on these pages during a time when it was badly needed.

Here’s looking ahead to another eventful month in August. We look forward to delivering Park County news as only The Flume can, and as always, we thank you for reading.

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